Nashville Restaurants and Food
The Wild Cow
1896 Eastland Ave.
Punk rock on the stereo. Cool green paint on the walls. A mellow vibe. All of these things you might expect from a vegetarian restaurant. The bold flavors and daring tastes may be something you don’t expect from a Nashville vegetarian joint. The Wild Cow is indeed a bit wild.
You’d figure that mac and cheese would be an easy vegetarian dish. The Wild Cow takes things a couple of steps further. Everything on the menu is served vegan, which means in addition to no meat, dairy products and eggs are out as well. So, The Wild Cow folks serve up a vegan mac and cheese that bears little resemblance to the southern namesake. The small shells come with a really sticky brown sauce with a taste a little bit Indian and a little hard to define (the Veggie Eater thought perhaps brewers yeast?). It’s a great flavor though, and an interesting departure from the norm. And that sums up much of the cuisine at The Wild Cow. It may sound like something you’ve eaten before, but they take those flavors in a whole new direction. The asparagus soup is a prime example. Usually we think of asparagus puree in a soup heavy with cream. This version features a light, herby broth and crisp pieces of asparagus.
Sure, they try and ground the menu in choices that might be familiar. I find that to be a mistake, because while vegetarians might understand, quite often the complaint of meat eaters is “this tastes nothing like a burger…” A veggie burger shouldn’t taste like a burger. It should taste good. And this version really does. Mock chicken salad doesn’t taste anything like bird. The apple and grape version at The Wild Cow give it a bright, sweet and creamy taste that goes great on the whole grain bread.
The menu has been evolving in the first few opening weeks. There are usually three or four specials for the day, and the menu has been pared down a bit. The Vegan Philly Cheesesteak has been popular enough as a special to make the regular menu. The toasted bun has a little char for smokiness. Seitan has a tangy, savory flavor. Perhaps the only let down is the vegan cheese, it’s kind of boring. You can add real cheese to any dish by just asking.
It’s clear they specialize in creating great tastes with seitan, tempeh and tofu. No matter what negatives you associate with these ingredients The Wild Cow will surprise you with the diverse textures and flavors they can bring out.
The opening night featured a really nice curry. A spicy and bold chili was also a standout on that evening, hopefully to make an appearance on the soup menu on occasion. The bean salad creations are tangy and memorable.
Veggie Eater: Meat Eater suggested this for my birthday lunch this year and it was a lovely way to start my special day. Any place that regularly plays the Talking Heads automatically endears itself to me. I opted for the Buffalo Grinder with tempeh and optional provolone (real). The hoagie roll was both light and crusty. The tempeh was marinated and grilled; giving it smokiness and a wonderful texture (I prefer tempeh to tofu for sandwiches for this reason). Add a zippy ranch sauce, a bit of hot sauce, and lettuce and tomato and you have a great sandwich. I ate the whole thing (unusual for me) and didn’t even feel poorly afterword. My substituted side (sandwiches come with chips) was mashed potatoes in gravy. A bonus was that the potatoes were dirty; skins still on. However, they were a bit dry and under salted. The gravy was thick, but didn’t offer much contrasting flavor. The Meat Eater seemed happy enough on this adventure and I’ll happily return to sample other items.
Meat Eater: They serve vegan wine (pretty good actually) and a variety of juices and organic sodas. The Blue Sky Orange Devine, which features cane sugar, was a nice balance of sweet and bubbly. The cola was too sweet. The service is quick and friendly.
We’ll be back soon to keep up with the latest flavor twist and turns in the kitchen. It’s pretty cool that Nashville can have a vegetarian restaurant willing to take some chances and have so many successes.