Vegan, Vegetarian Delights at Urban Beets
Warm, inviting vibe and a menu containing multitudes
I’ve been married to a (wonderful!) vegan for more than two years now, and scanning menus online to ensure there’s at least one dish she can eat before we go out has become common practice in our household. Consequently, it’s a real treat to be able to go somewhere with a solely vegetarian and vegan menu like Urban Beets (1401 N. Martin Luther King Drive) without any research or pre-planning.
Dawn Balistreri and Jason Massman opened Urban Beets around the beginning of 2016 to provide healthy and eco-friendly options to local diners. Their cozy shop, which seats a little more than a dozen people, was surprisingly boisterous when we visited it—laughter and excited conversation from patrons rang across the shop, giving it a warm vibe.
The menu itself is at once inviting and imposing: scrawled with excellent penmanship and suspended above the counter, it contains multitudes: breakfast items, entreés, smoothies and juices are all available. We missed breakfast and settled on two sandwiches to share: the U.B. Avocado Reuben and Cranberry Walnut Chickpea ($7.45 each). That day, we were offered lime-flavored tortilla chips or grapes as a side, but I was told they often make fresh cold salads for sides.
The U.B. Reuben has a drippy messiness that recalls a traditional Reuben. I was most pleased at the vegan cheese, which doesn’t taste like wet cardboard, unlike some other vegan cheeses. There is an excellent jalapeño kraut with a nice spicy bite to it and a hefty serving of avocado makes up for the lack of a fatty presence, given the absence of beef. It’s served, of course, on some well-toasted rye bread. Overall, this is an excellent sandwich for someone who has given up meat and dairy but still craves the general experience of eating a Reuben in all its sloppy glory.
The Cranberry Walnut Chickpea sandwich is a vegan take on cold salad sandwiches like egg salad or chicken salad. It has an enjoyable crunch from the chickpeas, cucumber and onion; the crunch is a welcome agent in the usually too-chewy realm of cold salad sandwiches.
Urban Beets also offers excellent smoothies and juices, the difference between the two being in thickness and serving temperature: the former has a thicker texture, while the latter is much easier to sip on and served a bit closer to room temperature. They offer eight different types of both; we landed on the Be Better Beet ($6.50/16 ounce) and the Greens 3 ($5.50/12 ounce; 6.95/16 ounce), respectively.
The Be Better Beet smoothie is fantastic, with a great consistency and a full earthy and sweet beet flavor complemented by acidic raspberry and a nice textural addition with chia seeds. The Greens 3, which consists of a mix of pineapple, spinach, apple, mint and kale, is fresh and tastes like a garden smells.
Urban Beets is a solid spot for vegans and vegetarians, and they’ll be extending their hours within the next week. They’re also planning on expanding soon, taking out their north wall and beginning to offer dinner items like vegan pizzas and vegan sloppy joes, and opening a cocktail bar featuring libations with fresh juices.