Restaurant Week at Dancing Dog means hearty vegan food: Food and drink: Smile Politely

As a longtime vegetarian and sometimes vegan, Dancing Dog Juicery & Eatery has been a regular stop – or rather, it was before COVID. Fortunately, Restaurant Week 2021 was the perfect opportunity to meet again.

By browsing the Visit Champaign County Restaurant Week site allowed for useful pre-event planning. There were some tempting new options that I couldn’t wait to try. I knew I was going to order way too much food for our party of two, and I was okay with that.

As per the RW website suggestions, I called 217-552-1344 ahead of time to place my order. The staff member I spoke with was friendly and helpful, making sure I knew all of my options and choices before completing my order. We agreed to a pickup time and that I would pay for then.

At the appointed time, I parked a few steps from the entrance and arrived at the pickup table where my order was waiting for me. And yes, Dancing Dog, you got me paw print stamp on my bag. Besides, you spelled my name correctly. Before paying, the staff member thoughtfully reminded me of the daily dessert options that had not been posted on the RW site. Never one to refuse dessert, I opted for the lemon cake with brown sugar icing. But more on that later.

Photo of a brown take-out bag with a paw print and the name Debra on it.  Photo by Debra Domal.
Photo by Debra Domal.

Since Dancing Dog closes at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, I brought my stash home for dinner. I’m happy to report that everything has warmed up nicely, which bodes well for tomorrow’s leftovers.

Photo of the dancing dog's French onion soup.  Photo by Debra Domal
Photo by Debra Domal.

When I saw French onion soup on the menu, I knew I had to order a full bowl. My partner is a fan but rarely gets the chance to enjoy a bowl since being a vegetarian. I opted for the almond mozzarella “cheese” which was definitely the way to go. In the spirit of due diligence, I dug for a taste of his soup. French onion isn’t usually my favorite soup, but the Dancing Dog version definitely won me over. Without the overwhelming beef broth base, this well-seasoned soup was light but satisfying. The perfectly prepared onions were the star of the show, as it should be. The wand and “cheeze” added a satisfying contrast without being overwhelming. That would make a great winter lunch on its own.

Photo of Dancing Dog's Ruben Egg Rolls with Dip.  Photo by Debra Domal
Photo by Debra Domal.

Then our two aperitifs. Out of curiosity, I ordered the Reuben Egg Roll. To be honest, even back when I ate meat, I was more of a fan of spring rolls than of Rubens. But maybe Dancing Dog knew something I didn’t know. This combination of pickled seitan, almond mozzarella, and sauerkraut wrapped in a deliciously fried egg roll wrapper was surprisingly delicate and delicious. The Thousand Islands vegan dip that came with it was a lighter, more nuanced version of its namesake. Once again, my initial skepticism was overcome.

Photo of Dancing Dog's Chili Chz Fries.  Photo by Debra Domal
Photo by Debra Domal.

The chili chz fries order was meant to surprise my partner who takes a ‘more is more’ approach to my favorite minimalism. The part I tried “for research purposes” was a revelation. Lightweight, full of seasoning, and free from the heaviness (and grease) that one associates with such stacks of gooey appetizers. The TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) Chili made from red beans and tomatoes had a nice texture and just the right hit to balance the house cheese sauce and diced yellow onion. My partner said it would be the perfect Super Bowl food, food meat eaters would find satisfying without the fullness and guilt.

Photo of Dancing Dog's Beyond Meat Burger with fresh cut fries.  Photo by Debra Domal
Photo by Debra Domal.

For our starter, we shared the Beyond Beef burger with the classic setup (lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic aioli) that we ordered with fresh cut fries. The tasty burger had the perfect mouth feel and texture – and the combo of greens, onions, tomatoes, and garlic aioli took it to another level. The classic Kaiser bun was a nice compliment that didn’t compete but held up well on all toppings. After months of home-grilled Gardenburgers, this looked truly decadent. Speaking of which, since the whole meal felt like a healthier, tastier version of bar staples, I decided to pull out a bottle of Brut and test out a food theory I had read on the bar. combination of well-salted and freshly cut fries accompanied by a chilled glass of champagne. I’m happy to say the hype is real and if you haven’t tried it you definitely should.

Photo of Dancing Dog's lemon cake with brown sugar frosting.  Photo by Debra Domal
Photo by Debra Domal.

With the leftovers packed for tomorrow, we dove into our dessert. I’m a huge fan of lemon desserts and thought it would give our meal the right finish – which he did. The cake offered a substantial texture and a chewy lemon flavor that paired with the brown sugar frosting, reaching that ideal spot between rich and warm and light and crisp. In other words, it was the perfect way to end a delicious mid-winter meal of comforting vegan dishes,

Dancing Dog Eatery & Juicery
126 Main Street West
Tuesday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Its noon to 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Su 11h00 to 13h00

Top image by Debra Domal.

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Tanya S. Norvell