Small white honeycomb tiles line the entrance with a few cracks along the dark grout. At first sight, the building gives off a speakeasy vibe, with dim Edison bulbs hanging from the ceiling and a lack of light peeking through the small windows stationed just below the ceiling. A vintage neon sign that read “PHARMACY” sat unlit above a smiling worker.
However, this is not a speakeasy nor a pharmacy; this is Lincoln’s newest vegan restaurant, Rutabaga’s Comfort Food.
Stationed a short walk from the Lied Center just off of 12th and Q, the brand new, all vegan restaurant adds freshness to the food scene surrounding the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus.
Upon entering the restaurant, I was immediately greeted by a beaming worker, curious as to how I was doing. She was helpful in answering my questions, and aided my indecisiveness when it came to finally picking from the menu.
The menu flourishes with 100% vegan options as well as mostly gluten free and quite a few soy free choices. Prices range from $10 to $12 for main dishes and $4 for sides.
Although the spot is known for their “Ruta-bangin’ Nachos” — a dish of tortilla chips topped with mushrooms, street corn, black beans, vegan cheese, and pineapple guac — I chose the other namesake on the menu: “The Rutaburger.”
Before taking my seat, I was pointed in the direction of the water dispensers, one plain and one infused with seasonal fruits.
The restaurant is set up in more of a self-serve style. There is no host or server assigned to any specific table. One can roam around the large brick inclosed room, picking between the cushioned half-booths that line the wall or open tables with dark lacquered saloon-style chairs.
After a short wait, the massive, plate-filling burger was laid out in front of me. At first sight, the pile of condiments topping the burger seemed overwhelming, while still beautifully plated.
The bun was toasted to a golden perfection. A few chopped yellow onions and a sliced tomato sat centered upon a slightly melted slice of vegan american “cheese,” all coming together to accentuate the beauty that is the patty of “The Rutaburger.”
“The Rutaburger” patty was incomparable to the typical blackbean or garden veggie patties. The mash of quinoa, rice and mushrooms with a walnut crust made the patty soft but gave it an interesting, crunchy texture.
Unfortunately, unlike a regular burger, the patty crumbled after one bite; almost half of the patty fell apart as it slipped out the back of the thick potato bun.
After playing with the pieces like The King’s Men with Humpty Dumpty, I went in for the second bite. This is where I hit the surprise condiments that lay below the patty: pickles and “Rutti’s Special Sauce” — a combination of vegan mayonnaise, relish and french dressing.
Although the toppings were not cutting-edge, they added flavor and balanced the burger. The fresh twist on the classic “all-American” burger left me satiated without the bloat and exhaust that follows beef patties.
As a whole, Rutabagas Comfort Food left a pleasant taste in my mouth. The combination of kind workers, a calm and inviting atmosphere and a plethora of diverse food options play a big part in calling my feet back to the white honeycomb tiles.