No one expects a Katz’s reuben on rye, dripping in pastrami fat and creamy Thousand Island dressing to be considered healthy by any means, yet labeling any sandwich vegan (even the fast-food-style veggie burger at by CHLOE.) seems to easily convince many that it’s a more nutritious choice. Still though, without meat and dairy products, a vegan sandwich is still a sandwich, loaded with high-calorie ingredients between two slices of bread.
“We don’t want to give the false impression that we’re healthy, but we’re definitely healthier,” Erica says. “Healthy-ish.”
Because Orchard Grocer is a small business, all the products are small-batch, made fresh, mostly organic, mostly local, and palm oil-free, making the menu offerings healthier than bigger businesses producing vegan food en masse, like by CHLOE.
To develop the recipes, Carlton tested various vegetables and other ingredients that would not only re-create the appearance and texture of their animal-made counterparts (smoked salmon’s spongy texture was eventually made from carrots soaked in aquafaba, the juice drained from chickpeas), but would also evoke the feelings associated with standby comfort foods.
“There’s a reason why lox and bagels and pastrami are so popular,” Carlton says. “It’s the feeling. I know that our lox doesn’t taste like salmon, but it has a lot of the same textures and looks, and it gives you the experience of eating a bagel with lox.”
At first glance, the Marlowe reuben could easily pass for non-vegan: The beet-brined seitan looks like cured beef, and the vegan Thousand Island dribbling down the rye doesn’t hint at being made from chickpea juice. And at first bite, though it’s obvious there’s no meat on this sandwich, the pickled sauerkraut and salty, red-hued seitan combined between bread truly mimic the original.
Carlton wouldn’t know that though; she didn’t conduct any taste tests with the non-vegan original sandwiches. “No, no, gross!” she laughs at the thought of trying beef. Still, she thinks her beef-like creations may help recent veggie converts acclimate to their new meat-free life.
“Particularly for new vegans, this is the place,” Carlton emphasizes. “You can see that being a vegan isn’t that hard!”
The Kubersky sisters believe New Yorkers aren’t as timid about eating vegetarian, vegan food, and imitation meats as they once were, even as old veggie-fueled stalwarts like Angelica Kitchen leave town. “[Vegan options] are definitely getting fancier,” Erica says. “It’s going in a more gourmet direction, which is great, but we want to be a place where you can eat everyday.”
Sign up here for our daily NYC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun New York has to offer.