One of the frustrating things about living in a small city with a nascent vegan food scene is seeing veggie-only concepts come and go. (Moxie, I’m watching you.)
But the upside is that there always seems to be another passionate plant-promoter waiting in the wings. Enter The Wayward Onion, a new vegan barbecue food truck. Confession: I don’t get too excited about food trucks. what can I say? My inner diva despises dialogue. But I always queue up for good food. That’s exactly when we learned that Wayward Onion, which has sold out at every show so far, will be serving dinner at Metric Brewing.
Traditional, often wood-smoked, home cooking is the name of the cooking game of self-proclaimed “cooks” Kate Rabinowitz-Higgins (owners) and David Kalker. Kalker is especially drawn to Kansas City barbecue. So, the first thing I ate was a rib sandwich. Made with jackfruit, a fruit native to Indonesia and parts of Asia, and Impossible brand minced meat. Its spiny, sinewy, meaty fruit is the hottest whole food vegan meat sub on restaurant menus. Combined with the crumble, the plant-based meat is ripped apart. Coleslaw and pickles cover sauce-laden ribs on toasted buns for a surprisingly messy handheld.
On the simpler side, Wayward Onion’s seared ‘steak’ sandwich features lion’s mane from local Microvora. Sandwiched between freshly baked cast iron and smoked over a home-made barbecue grill, large mushrooms are served on buns with crispy onions. Smoky, umami-rich and nutritious, steak won’t fool meat eaters, but it will delight the whole plant-based diet.
As with sandwiches, the sides of a food truck can easily be the star. Potato salad has my heart. My mother made cold mayonnaise, and my grandfather made warm German mayonnaise. When I took the first bite of their version of The Wayward Onions, I immediately connected with memories of both foods. Rabinovitz-Higgins puts cream on her potatoes vegan. He combines mayonnaise and vinegar to add sourness. This can be eaten as a snack. But it would have crowded the other side I was about to devour: smokehouse beans. Velvety navy beans (traditional with baked beans) and pintos steamed in a tangy sauce.
We’ll save the standouts for last, so hold onto your hats, cowboys, and cowgirls. Four words: Loaded BBQ Mac Potatoes. Baked potatoes, BBQ soy curls (another version of textured soybeans and rehydrated soy protein), and plenty of gooey mac n cheese. They make cheese sauce from pureed starchy vegetables. All in all, the savory essence of the dish makes your taste buds tantalize, proving that this protein-packed spud is worth lining up for.
Kate and David say they started their culinary adventures as a way to honor their philosophical and ethical stances. . But they also want to honor the memories of family meals. “We want our food to feel like a big hug,” she says. It certainly shines through its saucy creations. I hope our little vegan her community and the wider dining population will embrace and maintain them.