Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Wild Cow

Nashville Restaurants and Food
The Wild Cow
1896 Eastland Ave.
(615) 262-2717

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.

For the second visit we paid $29 with tax and tip for a drink, soup, two sandwiches and an upgrade of two sides. It’s not cheap by sandwich joint standards, but there is a lot of work that goes into this food and it is well worth the money.
The Wild Cow on Urbanspoon


Jeremy B said...

My wife and I went there for our 6 month anniversary and really liked it (I'm the meat eater, she's vegetarian). For me, any review of The Wild Cow would be amiss without mentioning that most dishes can be served gluten free, as my wife has a wheat allergy. Most restaurants she usually ends up with salad and potatoes of some sort - here she can actually get a sandwich.

Eric and Katie said...

That's a really good point Jeremy..only a few places in town even mention gluten issues, let alone have so many menu items.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I usually just leave vegans alone, but the vegan wine on the menu is hilarious. Thank goodness they don't serve wine made from cows.

Eric and Katie said...

Yeah, I know, anon I thought the vegan wine thing was a little over the top too (this is the meat eater speaking). After I had my first taste at The Wild Cow though, I did a little research. Here's the deal for our non-vegan readers:

Wine is clarified, or cleared, after fermentation. Some of the ingredients used include:

- edible gelatins (made from bones)
- isinglass (made from the swim bladders of fish)
- casein and potassium caseinate (milk proteins)
- animal albumin (egg albumin and dried blood powder)

Thus vegan wine is wine which does not use an animal product clarificaiton product.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I guess it makes a bit of sense I suppose. Still kind of amusing. I have seen salads made up of strictly greens referred to as vegan salads in some pretentious places and it just seems to be a little over the top.
Regardless, thanks for the review. Hit up Silly Goose and let us know about that one as well.

Eric and Katie said...

Thanks...yeah, we really enjoyed Silly Goose. We posted a couple of weeks ago. Check it out:

Lannae said...

I like Lesley's post on the "Wild Cow" where she said that the Wild Cow is extinct. When I look at it that way... We are lucky to have one "Wild Cow" in TN.

Holly said...

I'm so excited about this place because my 2 year old has egg and dairy allergies. It'll be so nice not to have to worry about her when eating out!

anuli29 said...

I just went to the Wild Cow for the first time today - had the Buffalo Salad (w/tempeh and the ranch (vegan!) dressing they suggest on the menu). It was excellent! I'm thrilled to have a dedicated restaurant I can eat at, knowing I'll have more than one solitary salad (w/no protein) or standard, bland pasta as options, and offerings with sustenance! Best of all, the entire salad was so very, very tasty! I have a feeling I'm going to become quite a regular..

Anonymous said...

I hate to be negative, especially since i have a great deal of respect for what these folks are doing. And I'm not opposed to vegetarian/vegan food: heck, I am from the West Coast and count several vegetarian restaurants to be my favourite of all time.

That being said, my partner and I went to the Wild Cow for Brunch, and were bitterly disappointed. I had biscuits and gravy with hashbrowns and veggie sausage. Now, if you are going to do a retake on such standard items, you oughtn't to screw it up. The gravy was tasteless and luke warm, the biscuits were uninspired and uninspiring

The hashbrowns. I have rarely had such awful hashbrowns. They amounted to a pile of greasy, undercooked shredded potatoes with little additional flavour other that salt.

The two small pieces of veggie sausage arrived alone, on a white plate. Fried. That was it. I can do that at home, but I don't.

I may go back, after reading what others have had to say. But it wont be in a hurry.

Eva said...

I went to The Wild Cow a few months ago; hopefully they've improved since then. Maybe they have, considering all the positive comments posted here. I found the food to be extremely salty, the asparagus limp, and very expensive prices. Vegetarian food does not have to be expensive.
Also, there are tons of vegetarian and vegan recipes that don't involve some sort of soy product. I wish that more vegetarian restaurants wouldn't rely on soy.