Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review...Beans and Barley

Beans & Barley
1901 E. North Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 278-7878

As we Vixens began talk of putting our finely honed eating skills to good use, Veggie Vixen suggested we take a field trip to Beans and Barley in Milwaukee to check out their vegetarian/vegan offerings and have our first go of food reviewing instead of just food devouring. Having been there before, she knew of the delight that awaited us, but we, the Pepper and Tomato, had no idea.

First Impression:
Exteriors can be deceiving, as we found with the outside of Beans and Barley. You may miss it on a drive-by as it sits almost unnoticeable on a corner lot, nestled in between a couple of fairly busy streets. Upon parking and walking up to the front, the warmth of what awaits visitors inside hits. The array of choices when entering the front door, was almost more than we could take...Do we start at the grocery/knick-knack area? Or the deli with cases of freshly made salads and bread? Or go straight into the brightly lit dining area to begin our feeding frenzy? In the end, the dining area won out as our stomachs had been waiting, oh so patiently, for an hour and a half to be filled. We were seated, given menus and made our choices within the first five minutes, even with the extensive menu and variety of options. The options reach further than the food. Take a look at the menu (link below) and notice the multitudinous selection of beverages from teas to freshly squeezed juices, including carrot-apple (which was delicious), to smoothies.

We stared with the Black Bean Dip and Cheese Quesadilla appetizer. Wow, not a vegan item, but a vegetarian's delight. We appreciated just the right amount of kick in the beans to offset the sometimes bland taste of a cheese quesadilla. Nice start! Next, the Vixens ordered a trio of items: The marinated Tofu Fajitas, The Walnut Burger and the Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Sandwich. Both the burger and sandwich were served with a side of "citrusy" potato salad that was a perfect match to the crusty sandwich outsides. The Fajitas were by far the winner at this luncheon. Perfectly marinated tofu accompanied by grilled peppers and onions with warm, soft tortillas were extremely satisfying. The tofu was not mushy, but held together nicely and was a great addition to this favorite mexican dish. The Mozzarella sandwich was tasty, if not a little indestinctive compared to the other two dishes. The Walnut Burger, from the famous Trempeleau Hotel in Wisconsin, was a crowd pleaser. As any new vegemite knows, giving up the comfort of the hamburger (not the meat, but the sandwich part) can be hard, but let me tell you, this burger is a fantastic replacement, without any of the guilt (except maybe the fat grams, but hey, it's healthy Omega fat)! Served atop a squishy yet supportive bun, it was adorned with avocado and tomato. The consistency was pleasurable, even more gratifying than a beef cartilage or bones to break a tooth on.


The dining area is an open and bright, art filled area with plenty of windows. The high ceilings don't help to create a snuggly and cozy kind of a feel, but we certainly didn't have a problem getting rooted to our booth for a chunk of time. The waitress and chefs were very accommodating and gave us the recipe for the fajitas while answering all of our questions with a smile. And wow, we could've spent hours just wandering back and forth between the deli case and grocery/gift shop area just past the dining room (although the term "grocery area" doesn't quite do the little market justice). There are so many varieties of organic, vegetarian, and vegan items offered, as well as knick-knacks, gift items, books and magazines, AND, in the freezer section, Walnut burgers to go! Yes, they sell the delightful walnut burgers for you to take home and recreate...and we did just that!

Overall, our first dining experience as vegemites went off better than we could have hoped. It was a great learning experience for us. We realized that for future reviews we will have to slow down and actually talk about the food during our meal instead of inhaling it, we will have to take some notes as we eat, as lapses in our memory are starting to plague us, and lastly we will need to convince the VegVix to order dessert. It is a work in progress, so join us on our vegadventures!
Check out the menu at

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