Vegan at the Bend: Crooked Ewe does a great job, especially for vegans

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By: Crystal Hallwood

Crystal Hallwood/Vegan at the Bend

Three words: Dedicated vegan menu. Oh, happy dance and clappity hands.

To say I’ve been looking forward to Crooked Ewe opening might be a bit of an understatement. I love independent restaurants and what I really like about Crooked Ewe is the location they picked — lots of upcoming development nearby, it’s on the river, it’s right across from the farmer’s market and it’s in an area that doesn’t already have lots of options immediately nearby and is pretty close to home for me. 

Crooked Ewe is a very cool place for everyone (everyone over 21, it’s a brewery and minors are not allowed). It has great energy, the acoustics are such that it is actually pretty loud and sounds like a party in full swing, there is a very eclectic mix of clientele, it’s a wide-open concept with a bar, regular seating and a community table. There are lots of people drinking a pint and relaxing over great food with friends. This is a big win for our community and they have more in store for us — I hear rumors of a rooftop area — and I am glad they are here.

So I went about a week ago. It was a Friday night and at 6:45, it was standing room only, so we grabbed a pint and put our name in for a table. Two pints run about $9. I was happy to enjoy my stout and review the menu, because there are options. Cool options. 

I started with the wing chokes. These are smoked artichokes, lightly breaded and fried then tossed in a buffalo sauce. Why this dish works so well is the smokiness added to the artichokes. It brings balance and depth of flavor and creates a very savory dish for $11. Yum. 

Next up, I had the vurger, which is an artichoke-based patty that comes fully dressed with lettuce, tomato, avocado and vegan aioli. Plus it comes with a serious mound of fries. The burger was not bad, but, to me, lacked the depth of flavor: that savory note, that little something that makes you want to order it again. 

The fries are delicious. They are the thin and crispy kind that are salty and hot and should be eaten first, so they don’t get cold while you work on the burger. Here’s my tip: start with the fries, although try to show some restraint and not eat them all so you are too full for your entree, not that I am speaking from experience. For my first trip, I was pretty dang happy.

I went back Sunday. I started with the marinated olives. These are little flavor bombs served warm and marinated with olive oil, herbs, vegan feta and lemon. I could eat these alone in a corner with a loaf of bread and glass of wine and be really happy. 

I ordered the seitan small plate next since I was saving room for dessert! This was two slices of seared seitan, peppered with little pieces of melty vegan cheese and crispy edges. It came with a chunk of crusty bread and a little fingerling potato salad. I really enjoyed the seitan flavors and crusty bread.

Next up, Nitro coffee and cashew butter ice cream with strawberry jam (a fun take on PB&J) and a little almond cookie. I love nitro coffee. It’s cold brewed and strong and the nitro infusion makes it seem rich, as if you added creamer.

The dessert was great, because it was simple and not overly sweet, but the ice cream is rich and the texture fantastic. 

I went back again Friday. The staff is starting to recognize me. Back to stout and wing chokes. But at the bartender’s suggestion, I also tried Ewe Tso. This is cauliflower that is lightly battered in tempura, fried and then bathed in General Tso sauce. I am not a cauliflower fan (bad vegan, I know) but I honestly did enjoy them.

I would totally order them again. Who am I kidding? I will totally order them again. I plan to systematically work my way through the entire vegan menu. Hey…I’m already nearly halfway through. 

Long story short, go to Crooked Ewe. You won’t be disappointed — vegan or omnivore.

For more tips and tales of dining vegan in Michiana from Crystal Hallwood and her fellow meatless maven Rama Ganesan, sign up for the Vegan at the Bend email newsletter.
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