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Hail Seitan! New food truck serves up vegan versions of classic sandwiches

Mitch Hooper

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Juicy and tender, full of protein, and cut perfectly on a deli slicer—these are not the typical descriptions you think of when talking about a vegan eatery. Usually, what comes to mind are green plates featuring an array of vegetables, or some sort of play on tofu to resemble a meat counterpart. And while tofu and tempeh have carved out an audience of eaters for various dishes, a new wheat gluten-based alternative is on the market and it’s giving those two previous options a run for their money. It’s seitan, and a new vegan food truck, Seitan’s Realm, is changing the way meat-eaters and vegans alike go about getting their protein.

For the record, yes, you read that correctly. It’s Seitan’s Realm, not Satan. And the offerings here should be sinful considering how delicious they are. Options include a Philly cheesesteak complete with vegan cheese sauce, onions, and peppers on a soft hoagie, or a gyro piled high with lettuce, tomato, and an addictive tzatziki sauce in a fresh pita. And the loaded curly fries? Don’t even get me started. While all these dishes are vegan and made with fresh ingredients, the true star of the meal is the seitan.

Photos: Brian Kaiser

What is seitan? I thought you’d never ask. Seitan comes from China. A loaf of seitan is made by laboriously kneading wheat our and water together to form a dough. The starch is then rinsed away, leaving behind a stringy mass of gluten which can then be flavored and cooked to your liking. And if it’s up to Kevin Ridenbaugh, co-founder of Seitan’s Realm, he’s making vegan bites that will entice even the staunchest of meat eaters with tempting recreations of gyro lamb meat, cheesesteak steak, and even smoky bacon with chewy and crispy bits.

The food truck started for Kevin, and his wife and co- founder Amber, in mid-May 2019 where they quickly found success in the parking lot at Virtue Salon in Clintonville. But, it didn’t all begin there for Kevin and Amber. Three years prior to starting the food truck, Kevin said he began experimenting with recipes featuring seitan. Through a trial-and-error process, he said he finally perfected his craft and his first “a-ha!” moment came after making his now popular gyro.

Since then, the menu has expanded with the aforementioned cheesesteak, but also a take on Arby’s beef n’ cheddar, as well as a reuben complete with vegan thousand island dressing and sauerkraut.

“We’ve got things to about as good as we can possibly get it,” Kevin explained. “We can always tweak a couple things here and there, but for the most part I’m really proud of everything we’re putting out.”

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And rightfully so. A cursory glance at the Instagram page and website shows just how well the sandwiches stack up to their meat inspiration. The sandwiches are large, stacked high, and topped with all the fixings we know and love on these dishes. While the flavor is the most important part, getting people to break away from their traditional meat-eating habits is an uphill battle, and having eye- catching dishes helps in the long-run.

“It’s like people look at our menu and they see gyros or reubens and they know what that is, so they order it without knowing that we’re vegan,” Kevin said. “We toyed back and forth on if we should actually put that we are vegan on [the truck].” The verdict was to skip the label, and let people’s tastes, rather than their “preconceived notions” of vegan food guide them instead.

A large reason for this decision is because what Kevin and Amber ate before going vegan. He said his diet mostly consisted of what he calls junk food and making the switch to vegan was difficult since he couldn’t chow down on some of his favorite foods. He was craving things like gyros, but didn’t have anywhere to go to get such a dish. So he did what he could: started making it on his own.

“It took me about three years to really perfect the menu to have what we have now,” Kevin explained. “What we’re putting out now is the best possible thing we can put out.”

Now, Seitan’s Realm stays busy with its food truck. From continuing to grow its popularity at Virtue Salon, serving up vegan bites on Thursdays at Nocterra Brewing, and most recently becoming the follow up to Woodhouse Vegan at Oddfellows on Monday, business is boomin’. And the connection to Oddfellows is largely thanks to Woodhouse Vegan. Now with Woodhouse finalizing its opening date at the new brick-and-mortar location, the owners made sure that the vegan Mondays lived on at the Short North bar.

“It was kind of funny, I got a call from Matt, and he was telling me that Woodhouse was moving out and they wanted to do a pop-up and I was just like, ‘Dude, there’s no way Oddfellows is calling! We’ve only been doing this for a month.’ ” Kevin recalled.

This support is representative of the larger vegan community growing in the city. It isn’t a competition or a race to the top; rather it’s a chance to give a new business opportunity and make sure great vegan food gets out to hungry people and spreading that plant-based love.

“Without their support, I don’t know if we’d be here right now,” Kevin said.

For Kevin and others in the vegan community, it’s a bigger picture mindset.

“We don’t really look at each other like competition,” Kevin explained. “It’s like, look—the more people we can get to eat this stuff, the more sales everybody will have. We’re not going to be cutthroat, you know? It’s like let’s do this thing together.”

Seitan’s Realm can be found at Oddfellow’s Liquor Bar on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. To find out where the food truck will be next, follow it on Instagram at @seitansrealm, or the website at seitansrealm.com.

millennial | writer | human

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Rye In July

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Rye in July featuring the Algonquin! We teamed up with Brown-Forman, Woodford Reserve, and local bartender Ben Griest from Giuseppe’s Ritrovo for this tasty Rye, perfect for July! Today's Rye is featuring the Algonquin, with notes of spice, tobacco, and fruit balanced throughout this cocktail - it's sure to please!

The Algonquin

**SPONSORED**

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Milestone 229 overcomes 2020 challenges, to reopen soon

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Every industry has taken a hit this year. It’s cliche to generalize it. With that being said, some businesses have taken more damage than others.

Milestone 229, located on the river’s Scioto Mile, was forced to closed in March along with all the other restaurants across Ohio, as the restaurant industry took a hit despite the uptick in carryout orders.

Just as things seemed to be coming back to normal, as restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen, the protests demanding change during the Black Lives Matter movement brought an unexpected rioting component that had devastating effects for Milestone 229.

The downtown, upscale eatery with the playful fountain for kids and adults alike, took an extra hit when rioting, looting, and vandalism broke down the windows of the restaurant on Thursday, May 29. Milestone 229 was supposed to reopen the upcoming Monday.

Photo by Julian Foglietti.

Griggs has tried his best to stay positive through it all, finding some valuable and much-needed help along the way.

“A good friend of the restaurant, Cathy King, executive vice president of Wasserstrom, started a GoFundMe page for Milestone 229. We are using that money to help relaunch the restaurant.  We also had many friends and family come down the morning after the riots to help clean up the broken glass.”

Doug Griggs, co-owner of Milestone 229


Now, recovering once again, Milestone 229 is set to open back up on Wednesday, July 8. The fine-dining establishment will offer patio and dining room seating, as well as a new curbside pickup. Co-owner Doug Griggs said in an email that the restaurant was able to keep the majority of its patio seating and over half of its dining room seating. 

Milestone 229 has a new venue revamped for the summer as well. You can view it here.

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And the winner of the (614) National Ice Cream Month poll is…

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Columbus has been a culinary hotspot for pretty much the entire 21st century. But what if we told you that you, Columbus, were just as obsessed with fine dining as you are with devouring ice cream?

Jeni’s. Whit’s. Greater’s. The list goes on. But out of the everlasting, Willy Wonka-esque fountain of ice cream stores that exist in Columbus, which one is the favorite of (614) readers?

In reverse order, here are the top seven ice cream choices in Columbus!

7. Cream & Sugar – 2185 Sullivant Ave.

6. Velvet Ice Cream – Your favorite grocer

5. United Dairy Farmers – EVERYWHERE

4. Johnson’s Real Ice Cream – 2728 E. Main St.; 55 W. Bridge St., Dublin; 160 W. Main St., New Albany

3. Whit’s Frozen Custard – Find Ohio locations here

2. Jeni’s Ice Cream – Find Columbus locations here

And after 12 rounds, the winner of the (614) ice cream championship belt is…

1. Graeter’s Ice Cream – Find Ohio locations here.

Photo by Julian Foglietti.

And it just so happens that Graeter’s is celebrating its 150th birthday this month! Celebrate in style with them by buying this specialty birthday cake ice cream. In addition to selling the ice cream online and at a Graeter’s near you, you’ll also be able to pick some up at Kroger, Giant Eagle, The Fresh Market, Dorothy Lane Market, or Jungle Jim’s.

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