Monday, March 28, 2016

Evolution of an Eatery or Everyone Needs a Second Chance

For a college town, we don't have a lot of vegetarian/vegan restaurant options. We only have one 100% vegan full-time restaurant in town, Dancing Dog. The other vegan restaurant, Red Herring, is student run and usually open only when classes are in session for lunch and sometimes for dinner, it depends on the semester. When Dancing Dog opened late 2014 or early 2015, we were pretty excited.  We really wanted a vegan restaurant to succeed in our area. I don't think I've ever blogged about it because initially we were less than impressed. The space is not really family or even bigger group friendly so we could tell right away it wasn't going to be our new go to place to eat. It has a great little hipster feel, which isn't bad, necessarily, and most of the new places downtown have that vibe. We cook some really good food at home so we eat out rarely these days to be healthier and save money. When we eat out at vegan restaurants in Chicago, the food is memorable so we tend to save our restaurant splurge for times when we are in bigger cities. When Dancing Dog first opened  they were serving Gardein and other pre-package vegan convenience foods at a higher price which made no sense for us. Our non-vegan friends seemed to like the place, so we kept our mouths shut. We would try back from time to time and gradually things have gotten better. 

This week was spring break for our town and Rob was working on the sailboat (a topic for a future blog post) so I decided to take the kids to Dancing Dog on a whim. Four is a much more manageable number at this eatery and Dema had some things to celebrate. We were all pleasantly surprised on how things have evolved at Dancing Dog since our first visit.
Dema with his vegan Reuben and fries.
Dema absolutely loves the vegan Reuben at Common Ground Food Co-op so I should have suggested he order something else, but he did enjoy his Dance Dog Reuben and said it was a close second. The sandwich filled him up so he barely touched his fries. I'm not sure what ketchup they use, but it always tastes a little off to us. We buy unsweetened at home so we may just have a different palate, but they don't usually mind ketchup at restaurants. Josie said the ketchup tastes like cinnamon so I wonder if they make it in house or add spices to it. The menu describes the Reuben as "Corned beef style house seitan and sauerkraut sit perfectly on grilled rye with Swiss cheeze and 1,000 Island dressing".
Parker's DD Burger and fries.
Parker thoroughly enjoyed his Dancing Dog burger and again he couldn't finish his fries (but he came closer). It appears the burger is made in house, which is always a plus to me. When we dine out, I want the food to be something I couldn't easily make at home. The menu describes the burger as "fresh avocado and chipotle aioli top our burger made from black beans, roasted sweet potatoes, corn, red bell pepper, red onion, millet, and oats with spices. All of this piled onto a whole-wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, and onion".
My Pesto Grilled Cheeze with Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Corn Salad.
I don't usually go for grilled cheeze sandwiches, but I liked the sound of pesto, what sounded like house made cheeze, and option of adding roasted vegetables. I was not disappointed. I would definitely order this sandwich again and with the quinoa corn salad side, I was full, but not uncomfortably so and I felt like it was a pretty healthy for restaurant fare. The cheeze tasted great, but did get a little clumpy as it cooled and tried to slide out of the sandwich as I would take a bite. This made it a bit messy, but that is my only critique. The roasted veggies really added to the sandwich. I remember seeing eggplant and zucchini, but I was too busy eating to really notice much more. I love quinoa with black beans and corn so I would would add a full entree salad with this as the star, but I'll settle for having it as a side. The menu describes the Pesto Grilled Cheeze as "a blend of our signature cashew and almond cheezes, spinach pesto, 
and fresh tomato slices served on grilled seven-grain bread".
Josie's Pesto Grilled Cheeze with Avocado Slices and Creamy Coleslaw.
Josie ordered the Pesto Grilled Cheeze too, but with the optional avocado slices instead of roasted vegetables. Josie really loves the red cabbage savoy slaw from Common Ground Food Co-op so she went with the creamy coleslaw as her side. Josie raved about the grilled cheese, but the slaw was not her favorite. I ate a few bites, but it was way too sweet for my taste.

All four of us decided we need to eat at Dancing Dog Eatery & Juicery more often. They have come a long way and we look forward to trying other options on their menu and seeing what they come up with next. I feel confident now suggesting Dancing Dog to friends (vegan or not) and I really appreciate having this establishment in our community. They were hosting a clothing swap the day we were there, which is an awesome non-traditional use of their upstairs space. Several local short films have used Dancing Dog as a location and they display local art. I heard one of the employees mention that they compost. Support of culture, bringing people together, and caring about the environment go a long way to making me feel even better about giving this evolving eatery my money.