It tastes like chicken, but it’s actually a gluten-soy-based chicken substitute.
That substitute earned Tempe’s Green New American Vegetarian restaurant recognition from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA listed Green as having the No. 1 faux-chicken sandwich in the U.S. in a top-10 list published on its blog Aug. 17.
One of the reasons for the award was Green’s Secret BBQ Chicken Sandwich, which was not originally listed on the menu but was introduced to friends of the owner, 32-year-old Damon Brasch.
“It was something I introduced and then those people told their friends,” Brasch said. “It just became this phenomenon and just kind of caught on even though it wasn’t on our menu. I think that’s what made it alluring — you kind of had to be in the know to know about it.”
The sandwich features mock chicken, made out of a gluten and soy base, topped with caramelized onions, peppers and a vegan mayo on a Kaiser roll bun. And because of its similar taste and texture to actual chicken, Brasch said he recommends it to everyone.
“It’s one of the sandwiches I recommend to omnivores, or meat eaters that are a little bit weary of what to have here,” he said. “When you put it with something as familiar as BBQ sauce on a Kaiser roll and caramelized unions, it’s just a slam-dunk sandwich. There’s no way around it. I don’t care if you’re vegetarian or not.”
PETA asked for nominations on its blog for the best vegetarian/vegan friendly restaurants, and Green New American Vegetarian was ranked No. 1.
“People from all over the country were raving about the food [at Green],” said Ryan Huling, the college campaign coordinator at PETA. “The fact that Green offered diners all of the flavor and texture of animal-based meals minus the cruelty and environmental devastation and artery clogging is what helped put them over the top.”
Drasch said the restaurant was honored to be recognized by PETA and to be ranked among other top vegetarian restaurants, which he says he looked to for inspiration.
McKenzie Manning, a journalism sophomore and a vegetarian, said she appreciates the atmosphere as well as the food at the Green American Vegetarian restaurant.
“When you walk in, the decorations make it a very welcoming, earthy place,” Manning said.
The restaurant’s brightly colored walls display a variety of artwork, its earthy green ceiling lined with strands of white lights.
At other restaurants, sometimes vegetarians can feel “a little alienated,” Drasch said.
“It was important for me to create an environment that was welcoming to omnivores, meat eaters and vegetarians alike, but have the vegetarian aspect be an after-thought,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to be a vegetarian or vegan to dig it.”
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