Meeting demand, sans meat
By Lavanya Ramanathan
Friday, December 21, 2012
Artery-straining bar foods, including a cheesesteak and a barbecue sandwich, are still on Galaxy Hut’s new menu. What’s hard to find these days is meat, unless you count the faux kind.
The 22-year-old Arlington watering hole, long a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, has officially replaced bacon, beef and chicken with tofu, tempeh and the beeflike wheat protein seitan. Vegans can go even further and request dairy-free cheese and mayo.
The move, says Lary Hoffman, who owns Galaxy Hut and the nearby Spacebar, allows the restaurant to cook for vegetarians without contamination from meat. A vegetarian for 10 years, Hoffman says it also allowed the restaurant to focus on what it does best. “When people did talk about our food,” he says, “it really was vegetarians and vegans.”
Of the handful of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the area, Galaxy Hut might be the only one serving unabashedly deep-fried, salt-loaded pub fare, the sort that’s best scarfed down after a pint or two.
So why do dishes that should feel like a guilty pleasure more often evoke regret?
The meatloaf, served between thick wedges of toasty white bread, is dry and overseasoned. I expected more from a vegan BLT that should have had a refreshing snap from lettuce and tomato; instead, the soy bacon was too smoky and, worse, too salty. But it was the $8 nachos, which can precisely be described as storebought chips sprinkled with cheese, that left my table feeling as if we would have better luck preparing the dishes at home, in a dorm-room microwave.
In fact, Galaxy Hut uses widely available meat substitutes, including Field Roast brand soy products and Gardein seitan, which can be purchased from most grocery stores. It’s what the restaurant does with them that counts.
For example, the cheesesteak, a sub stuffed with seitan, peppers, onions and American cheese, is a tasty junk food that even carnivores wouldn’t turn down. The bar’s new eggplant fries, too, are a welcome change from spuds.
On the subject of carnivores: Turn to the back of the menu, and you’ll find that it’s actually possible to score beef hot dogs, beef chili and pork bacon as substitutions for vegetarian items (go ahead, just ask the bartender for “dead stuff”). The kitchen prepares the dishes on entirely separate cooktops. As the bar grows into its new worldview, however, Hoffman says he hopes that customers will simply choose to eat meat-free.
When you’re vegetarian, Hoffman says, “you don’t always want to eat curry. Sometimes you want a chili dog. It’s a niche thing.
“We’re not a fancy place. Vegetarian food doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be vegan comfort food.”
The Scene: Galaxy Hut was supplying Arlington with cool beers, live indie rock and a laidback neighborhood hangout long before Whole Foods or Pottery Barn was a twinkle in some developer's eye. The Hut's one room is barely bigger than a studio apartment, and when bands set up on Sunday and Monday nights, booths and chairs have to be moved out of the way to make room for the crowd. (Official capacity: 48.) Most of the week, though, this is a place where locals gather to talk about their bands, play the vintage arcade games, or even hang out and read while sipping a beer. It's the perfect escape from Arlington's khakis-and-sports bar scene, and one of the places we always recommend to single women who want to chill out by themselves.
In Your Glass: One of Arlington's strongest selections of draft beers, with 20 taps ranging from locals to English ales, and another 30 or so bottles. Galaxy Hut doesn't have hard liquor, and the wine list is just okay.
Need to Know: There's a $5 cover for live music nights, which mix local up-and-comers with regional and national touring acts. The Strokes and Godspeed You! Black Emperor are among the bands who played at the Hut before moving on to larger audiences.
Nice to Know: In nice weather, the Hut's patio -- a narrow, alley-width strip of pavement between the bar and an adjacent building -- is a good place to relax.
Price Points: Beers average $5, most bar snacks -- plates of fries, mozzarella sticks or jalapeno poppers -- are $4 to $7, and entrees are $8 to $12. Happy hour is from 5 to 8 daily.
-- Fritz Hahn (Oct. 13, 2008)