Despite having been to TownHall a little over a week ago on a Saturday, I knew I had to come in again to try their new Vegan Night menu (which is only available on Mondays). I noticed the menu on Instagram two weeks ago and some of the featured items include the Cool Garbanzo Bean Salad Sandwich ($9) and the Spirulina Pistachio Pesto and Brown Rice Penne ($9). The upper half of the menu displays items only available on Monday nights, while the restaurant still manages to keep some classic favorites like the Vegan Chili ($5) and Bibb Lettuce Wraps with Tofu ($12) towards the bottom.
When I hear about events such as this in Cleveland, I try to make it a priority to attend them even if I have to venture out alone. It’s always hard to find a friend or family member who is willing to eat at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant with me but thankfully, I was lucky enough to invite my friend Grace last night to this event.
We arrived around 6:30pm and were seated immediately thanks to accommodations made by the General Manager, Ryan Hartzell. Our waitress arrived at our table within seconds of us sitting down, giving us the Vegan Night menu, a drink menu filled with juices and smoothies, and a regular menu. While I decided to build my own juice ($5) consisting of kale, celery, cucumber, parsley and lemon, Grace opted for the Green Thumb ($4.5) with kale, celery, lemon, ginger and apple. As her first juicing experience, she admitted she loved it (even if it was filled with greens).
Right after our juices arrived, Hartzell came by to say hello and discuss the menu with us. Before coming in, I expected to have a quick conversation and ask about the favorites of past customers. However, we ended up chatting about a bit more; ranging from his vegan journey, vegan spots we had both been to in Chicago (and how great The Chicago Diner’s Radical Reuben is) and how people are always Instagramming their food (case in point: myself). Our discussion made our experience better than just a boring night of my friend and I talking amongst ourselves. Hartzell was extremely hospitable and wanted to make sure we got a taste of each item that appealed to us.
Of course Grace and I wanted to sample every dish on the Vegan menu but we knew our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. As starters, we decided on the Garbanzo Bean Sandwich, Spirulina Pesto Pasta, Power Salad 2.0 ($9.5) and the Beer Battered Avocado Tacos ($9). As the entrees came out, we were in shock of how appealing their presentations were. I told Hartzell I was highly anticipating the sandwich due to the fact I’ve made garbanzo bean sandwiches at home before (but with avocado instead of vegan mayonnaise). As I predicted, I loved it. The bread was toasted just right where it was not too crunchy and not too soft and the mayo wasn’t too excessive.
Grace had the second half of the sandwich and enjoyed it but not as much as the avocado tacos. Three were presented to us and when only one was left in the middle, Grace threw me a look with her eyes telling me she wanted to take it home. The Power Salad 2.0 which was doused in balsamic vinaigrette, almonds, apples, quinoa and beets was definitely worth the price. Since I had ordered the salad in the past, Grace ate most and ended up with the rest for leftovers.
Then there was the Spirulina Pistachio Pasta. No words to describe it. Never would I imagine to put spirulina into a pasta sauce and think it would turn out exquisite. I’ve tried spirulina before and if you use too much of it, it does have a strong, bland taste. Shockingly, the pesto took over the taste of any spirulina I would have noticed. Topped with nutritional yeast and roasted tomatoes, I wanted to consume the whole bowl. I was quite impressed with how the brown rice noodles were cooked. Every time I cook them at home I never can get them to that perfect squishy noodle texture but these fit right under that category.
As we received boxes to take home what we couldn’t finish and after more discussion, we ordered our last two dishes: the Crispy Tofu Wings ($8) and the Vegan Chili ($5). The wings can be ordered with either a soy chili glaze or a garlic buffalo sauce. We opted for the garlic buffalo. As for the chili, we requested the one order to be split between the two of us. When it arrived at our table, we were shocked to see we had received two normal sized portions of it. As I snagged the first bite of the wings, Grace tested out the chili. I could smell the spiciness radiating off of her bowl and was nervous that it would be too much for me to handle. Once I tried it, I enjoyed the taste more than the smell. A bit on the spicy side for me but delivered a great texture, similar to the stuffed peppers appetizer. The crumbly seitan resembled the look of real beef chili.
Unfortunately, the tofu wings were not a huge hit with either of us the moment we ate them. Probably due to the fact that we could not taste the buffalo sauce through the spices of the chili. We each took one out of the five plated and I took the leftover three home to try later on. When the spiciness from the chili wore off and I tried one earlier today, I ended up eating all three in the span of five minutes. That’s how good they were. It was nice to know that the wings actually WERE well prepared, they just weren’t the best paired with the chili.
While sampling our wings and chili, our waitress was kind enough to bring out the last two cake pops of the night which were the special Vegan Night dessert. Hartzell had told us earlier that every Monday, TownHall receives a different dessert from Vegan Sweet Tooth (located in Woodmere, Ohio) ranging from cupcakes to cookies. Last night’s feature cake pop was double chocolate. Since I’m not a huge fan of cake pops, I let Grace have both of mine. She claimed they tasted just like a non-vegan Oreo cake pop and were just as good made without any dairy. When I asked her how she felt about the vegan cheese on the tacos and the seitan in the chili, she said, “I didn’t taste a difference in the cheese until I tried it separately but even then I still enjoyed it. I was nervous at first but ended up loving everything we tried.”
Before we left, Hartzell came to our table to make sure we were satisfied with what we ordered and if we needed anything else. If only our stomachs could have handled more, we would have tried the Black Bean and Quinoa Falafel Steam Buns ($7.5) but hey, there’s always next Monday! And the Monday after that.
Without a doubt, my first Vegan Night experience at TownHall was better than I planned and I look forward to going back. Not only to try different items but also to show other friends and family members how good vegan food really can be. With such great hospitality coming from Hartzell, fellow workers and our waitress – our service was over the top. I hope to see TownHall expand their creative options on their Vegan Night menu as the year goes on. By offering Vegan Nights along with meat and gluten-free options, TownHall gives great flexibility to those with dietary restrictions, which is so important these days.
TownHall is open Monday through Friday: 11am to 2:30am and Saturday + Sunday: 9am to 2:30am located at 1909 West 25th Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44113. Vegan Night is only on Mondays, although Vegan options are available daily.