The Vegetarian Option: Bangers & Lace
The first time I visited Bangers & Lace, shortly after the Division Street beer bar and restaurant opened in late 2010, I was struck by the amount of vegetarian items on the menu. Let's not overstate the situation, the place is largely sticking to that well-known and proven formula of pairing brews with encased animal meats. (See also: Federal Republic of Germany.) On a recent return visit, I was happy to learn that the menu has remained that way—mostly meats, but also including a stuffed acorn squash here, a truffled grilled cheese there. Just as easily as you could drink your dinner at Bangers & Lace, you can cobble together a decent vegetarian meal, as well. (Or do both simultaneously.)
After you tell your server to hold the pork sausage, the stuffed acorn squash with feta, quinoa and cranberries ($6) is a light, seasonally appropriate non-meat option. The stuffing is very tasty, with the sweet, tart cranberries going well with the nutty, well-cooked quinoa. But the kitchen could do more to bring out flavor from the acorn squash, which was seemingly just cut, cored and roasted as is.
Before indulging in the heavier fare, let's address the pretzel ($4) at Bangers & Lace. I liked its crispy crust, supple crumb and fresh, yeasty flavor. My only complaint—and this seems to be an issue with most of the baked goods coming out of the kitchen—is that the crust was slick with a heavy brushing of melted butter. Some also might find the pretzel's dipping sauce, a housemade chocolate stout mustard, a little sweet when savory flavors are in order. (I asked for some plain stone-ground mustard and enjoyed the rest of my pretzel with that.)
The truffled grilled cheese sandwich ($7) is a standout among the meatless options on the menu. This is not your average grilled cheese. The bread is fluffy and crispy at once, and the flecks of black truffle add an extra decadent dimension to the sandwich's thrice-cheesed middle (taleggio, raclette and Irish white cheddar). If truffles and three cheeses alone don't cross your richness threshold, a side of creamy tomato-basil bisque is included to get you fully across the finish line.
Another big gun among the vegetarian "edibles" at Bangers & Lace is the veggie sausage ($8), which comes topped with ratatouille, aged provolone and shaved fennel. The sausage itself is a Tofurky Sweet Italian with Tomato and Basil sausage. While it may not be made in-house, it is well-chosen; the sausage is juicy and spicy-sweet. I was really digging the (generously heaped-on) toppings, as well. The ratatouille consisted of hearty chunks of vegetables in a savory sauce—kind of a French answer to the chili dog.
All told, for being as encased-meat-centric as it is, Bangers & Lace strikes a close, favorable accord with the vegetarian eater. For every hot dog preparation on the menu, you can sub in a veggie dog for a buck more. And the ratatouille-smothered veggie sausage is delicious...not to mention, it goes great with beer.