By Joseph Winters ’20
March 8th was a sunny day in the Cambridge area. Winds had diminished to just a billowing, and it had warmed up significantly since the frigid weekend. The day before, I had taken not one, not two, but three midterms, back-to-back-to-back.
I felt like vegging out, in the best way possible: with actual veggies.
Luckily for me, a fast-casual New York chain of vegan restaurants called By CHLOE. had just opened on February 23 in the Boston Seaport. A quick Maps search revealed it was a little over four miles away by foot: the perfect distance for a morning jog. I checked out what all the hype was about during lunch that day.
In the diverse world of vegan cuisine, there seem to be two prominent ideologies: one that categorically rejects faux meats and dairy-free “cheeze” products, and one that wholeheartedly adopts them. By CHLOE. is definitely the former, I discovered after examining their extensive menu, boasting lots of “traditional” fast food favorites done without any animal products. They have Mac N’ Cheese, for example, a Classic Burger, or Kale Caesar Salad. The mac n’ cheese has a sweet potato cashew sauce and shiitake bacon, the caesar salad is flavored with almond parmesan, and the burger features a tempeh-lentil-chia-walnut patty. In the to-go display case, they have things like vegan Southwestern Quinoa, Raw Vanilla Bean Chia Pudding, and Matcha Kelp Noodles with cashew cream sauce.
The restaurant’s atmosphere is about as hip as its menu. When I walked in, two friends were lounging around on wiry hanging chairs, and other people dug into salads while sitting around a communal-style table in the middle of the dining area. And since it was lunchtime when I arrived, there was already a substantial line forming behind the pick-up counter. Thankfully, this gave me some time to deliberate over the menu.
Based on an enthusiastic recommendation from the cashier, I ordered the Quinoa Taco bowl (“It’s life-changing,” she had insisted) with a side of Mac N’ Cheese. My food was ready within a few minutes, and I loaded up a couple of dip containers with Beetroot Ketchup and aioli.
“Life-changing” may be an overstatement, but the bowl really was delicious. It was basically a bunch of lettuce with a heaping ball of limey quinoa on top of it, surrounded by little mounds of avocado, tortilla strips, tomatoes, and “chorizo” made from a wheat-based meat alternative called seitan, and then slathered with a mysterious “crèma”. At $12, it was a little pricey, but the serving size was really generous. I left full and very happy. The Mac N’ Cheese was also delicious, although I’ll admit not quite like the real thing. It lacked something—creaminess, maybe?
By CHLOE. is opening a Fenway location sometime soon, and I predict I’ll be a frequent visitor. The cashier who served me told me, talking about the Quinoa Taco Salad, “It’s like, how can this be vegan?!” I think that’s a good way to describe by CHLOE.: it tries to recreate the fast-food experience in a healthier way. With places like b.Good and Clover gaining popularity in recent years, this seems to be a popular trend. It’s about balancing convenience with health. And I am a big fan of the way by CHLOE. tries to accomplish this.