I’m a carnivore. I like meat. It’s in my nature to like meat. I’m like a caveman, walking around, looking for the next herd of bison to run after with my dinner club. Without meat, I would starve (or at least be very hungry), and that would make me a sad man. Vegans interest me. Vegans don’t eat meat, and I have a hard time believing that they don’t have wizard powers or something because of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got immense respect for vegans. They do it for the right reasons. I mean, c’mon, what could be better than reducing our environmental waste and preventing the ill-treatment of adorable, little baby cows? It’s a noble crusade, truly, it’s just not a cross I’m willing to bear.
I tried being a vegetarian once. It was alright. I ate a lot of veggie burger patties, salads, fruit juices, and tofu. It was a manageable diet for a while, but it always nagged me that I never felt like I was getting the right amount of proteins and fats from whatever I was eating. I was a lot younger than I am now when I tried it, so there’s always the chance that I just wasn’t as knowledgeable about meat supplements as I am now. Regardless, I was skeptical of this week’s venue for CT Eats: the Red Fern.
The Red Fern is an all-vegan restaurant located on the corner of Park Avenue and Oxford Street. The place was opened up in 2013 by Andrea Parros, a business owner from Boston who came to Rochester to start another business in 2010. So far, things seems to be going well for the Red Fern, since business was booming the night I went.
Walking into the Red Fern felt a lot like walking into a Hobbit hole, and it’s not just because there were a lot of bearded people with eccentric clothing. The first thing you see when walking through the front door is a set of stairs that lead down into the dining area and front counter. I took along two guests this time, so nabbing a table to sit at was something we were hoping to do. Lo and behold, I was shocked, astonished, and stupefied when I realized that the place was nice enough to require reservations for a table on Friday night. We got lucky though, since the counter seats were open.
Our server was this real hipster-looking dude with long hair who came off as a pretty nice guy. He was polite and got straight to asking us for our orders. I took up the chance to get a loaded lentil burger, a pressed apple juice, and some “sesame sticks,” which I didn’t know anything about, just hoping that they were something similar to French fries.
When my order showed up, I was impressed to see a mass of patty between two perfectly normal looking buns. You had all the burger traditionals: lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, and fake bacon (made from tempeh strips), all piled high on a thick lentil pedestal. The burger was cut in two to present the insides of my patty. The patty may not have been pink on the inside (it’s beans, dude), but it sure did look appetizing. One bite of this thing and I knew why vegans could live the lifestyle they do. It was genuinely good. And that’s about it. There was no magic behind the taste of the burger, no magical meat-like flavor oozing from the lentil and the tempeh. No, it was just a tasty bean burger with a texture that matched that of any other regular burger. Surprising, but not ground-breaking.
The sesame sticks were a bit disappointing. Let me explain in the way I feel I best can. Have you ever been trapped on campus during a snowstorm in one of the buildings with vending machines? You know those little trail-mix packages of Doritos, Cheez-Its, and pretzels that you can get from those machines? You know how the pretzels always end up being the most disappointing part of the package, every time? Boom, that’s what the sesame sticks were like.
Now the apple juice, oh god, the apple juice. When I was a kid, I used to derive most of my sugar highs from apple juice. I was loyal to Mott’s, and I was practically hooked on the stuff throughout my elementary school years. Considering that I’m not eight anymore, I can’t really handle my apple juice as much as I used to. It’s just too sugary, and not friendly to my already terribly yellowed teeth. This apple juice was a completely different story. Without the added sugar of most store-bought apple juices, the pressed apple juice I got was the perfect level of sweet. It was like a non-alcoholic cider with all of the taste and none of the crying in my room, alone, over my stack of failed job applications. This stuff was powerful.
Now that I’ve got everything else out of the way, it’s time to get to the real meal here. For dessert I got cheesecake. Okay, toss every other part of the meal out at this point, because this all you need to know: Come to the Red Fern and get the cheesecake. That’s it, that’s all I want you to do. You don’t need to do anything else. You know why? Because this cheesecake was pretty great, and it’s not even made with cheese. How they did do that? No clue, but it’s kind of magical.
All-in-all, the Red Fern was good. It’s not amazing, but it’s innovating. It’s good. And as a guy who once couldn’t vibe with vegan food, that’s pretty awesome. Go there and eat if you’re a vegan or thinking about coming one. And if you’re not a vegan, go there and try it out and get a feel for what you’re vegan friends might be eating the next time you poke fun at them for lacking in food options.