Oowee Diner, known for its deliciously dirty burgers and fries, recently opened a vegan version of its diner in the city center. I went to check it out, and here’s my thoughts…..
If you’ve been anywhere in Bristol, other than hiding in a cave, you may have noticed several new restaurants popping up, many of which are vegan. I’m not a vegan myself, but being raised in California, I’m no stranger to the concept. Long before the vegan bandwagon rolled into Bristol, plant-based eaters and the practice of veganism existed; they were, and some still are, called hippies. Now I’m not old enough to have experienced the “hippy movement”, but my parents are, and things they have described to me from that era can certainly be defined as vegan/veganism. I also lived in Portland Oregon for nearly 10 years, and let me tell you, Portland certainly is a paradise for all things vegan (if you don’t believe me, just watch Portlandia, it’s very accurate). I’m not arrogant enough to claim that Americans ‘invented’ vegan eating (we just perfected it ;-)), I know that plant-based eating has existed in some form or another for thousands of years throghout the Indian subcontinent. While I’m not a vegan, I AM a lover of food, and I’ll try almost anything at least once. So I decided that I would go see what all the fuss was about and try Oowee Vegan.
Highly anticipated Oowee Vegan recently opened on Baldwin Street in the city center. Desiring to avoid the crowds that inevitably go along with most new openings in Bristol, I decided to go for lunch during the middle of the week. When I first entered the white and green clad front, I was immediately confronted with a multitude of delivery drivers awaiting their orders (n.b. if you’ve been to either of Oowee’s other sites, you will have no doubt experienced this as well). The diner was suitably busy for a Wednesday at lunchtime, but not heaving. After perusing the menu for a few minutes, I approached the counter to place my order only to be ignored for several minutes while the staff prepared all of the delivery orders. I will say here that this is something that is common to Oowee, at least when I’ve been there; it seems there is a mismatch in prioritising delivery orders over physicallly present customers. Maybe they need to decide if they want to be a diner or a takeaway?? Anyway, after the delivery orders were filled, the very friendly staff member took my order.
I went for the Smokin’ Hot Cluck and Garlic Butter Fries. The “burger” consisted of a crispy seitan patty covered in hot sauce, smoked gouda cheese, mayo and slaw. I’ve had seitan before, but never in a “burger”, so I was curious how it would stand up to a real chicken burger. From an appearance point of view, I don’t think you’d be able to tell the difference between a real chicken burger and the hot cluck; it looked like a real burger, shinny bun and all. Taste wise, it was very similar to actual chicken, however, the seitan patty had an odd texture/consistency to me. It seemed a bit mushy or squidgy, for lack of a better term. It was quite a large “burger”, so I had trouble finishing it. The garlic butter fries were also a very large portion, so I ended up taking most of them home. The few fries I did try were quite garlic-y and a bit soggy, but good; you could easily share 1 order of dirty fries between 2 people. All in all, a very filling lunch; I felt like I needed a nap after finishing.
Overall verdict: If you’re looking for healthy vegan food, Oowee Vegan is not it! However, if you’re looking for vegan junk food, then this is the place. Who doesn’t love a good burger and fries? And now vegans don’t have to be left out. Everything here is vegan (clue’s in the name really), even the milkshakes, which are a mixture of powdered soy, oat milk and flavorings. From the “burger’ I tried, the food is similar in taste to the real thing, however the texture is a bit different. I would go so far as to say that a non-vegan on a night out who stumbled into Oowee Vegan wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Would I go back? Probably not, as I begrudge paying £8.50 for something made from wheat gluten and water. The cheapest “burger” on the menu is £7.00, which I think is a bit expensive for a plant based product. In comparison, I can get a double steak patty burger with cheese for £7.80 from the other Oowee Diners. I realise that’s not necessarily the point, but last I checked, vegetables and wheat are cheaper than meat. Why should vegans have to “dig deep” just because their eating choice happens to be the “it” thing at the moment in Bristol?
So there you have it, this girl’s guide to Oowee Vegan, which I am now calling Oovee. True to the Oowee style, the “burgers” and fries are suitably dirty. I know Bristol vegans are rejoicing that a vegan junk food diner has opened, I hope for them that it lasts the bandwagon.