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1.17.2010

Dusty's Cellar: A vegan's review of fine dining

Friday night was date night for the two of us. We have had two nice gift cards waiting to be used. Since moving to East Lansing we have heard so much about Dusty's Cellar and Tap Room. It boasts a huge variety of wines, beer, and food imports for sale in their store plus it has a deli that allows for anyone to order gourmet sandwiches. The Tap Room is more of a local hang out, offering burgers, sandwiches and such with beer being the drink of choice. My husband and I decided to try the fine dining since we had heard how delicious and gourmet each dish proved to be.

We arrived and we were asked whether we had reservations. Umm, no, we did not so we placed our names on the waiting list and we were asked whether it was an option for us to be seated in the covered patio. It looked nice and they ad huge warmers in the room. I forgot to mention that my husband had dropped me off and I made the decision for covered patio to be an option. (Big mistake). We left our phone number since the hostess told us it would be an hour wait. Before leaving I asked the hostess whether there were vegan options. She said there were not too many but to let my server know and they would accommodate me as well as they could.

We drove off and lingered at a local bookstore for 10 minutes when we received a call letting us know that a table was ready. I was surprised that their quoted time was way off but I overlooked it. We arrived and were seated in the patio. My husband did not look happy but then I told him I had said it was fine. We later regretted that decision. Either the warmers were too low and our legs were cold or the warmers were too hot and our faces felt like they would melt off. I got a bit sunburned in the patio room by the way. :(

Our waiter arrived at our table and greeted us and shared the night's specials with us, both of them being meat choices. Before I opened the menu I asked the waiter what options there were for a vegan. He paused for effect, cringed, and said that they really did not have any choices except a Spicy Thai Penne Pasta dish, even though the noodles had eggs in them. My husband then told him that was obviously not vegan. Our waiter then said he would go to the chef and ask what cold be cooked for me. He came back 5-7 minutes later and cringed again and said that at this time the chef would NOT be able to accommodate me since there was a larger party he was concentrating on. Wow. Turn-off number one. All I could think about at the moment was "How rude!" Oh well. As I kept on looking at the menu, I noticed that the restaurant was more of a steakhouse more than anything. Every dish had meat, whether it was chicken, fish, beef, lamb, game, there was not a SINGLE dish that did not have meat except for the blasted pasta dish.

My husband and I decided to stay since we have been waiting SO long to use the gift cards. I regrettably ordered the Spicy Thai Penne Pasta with a baby greens salad that had cherries, candied pecans, tomatoes, and a lovely curry dressing. If I had been a good girl, since I devotedly have been ordering STRICT vegan, I would have just eaten the salad, but I did not. I was just frustrated that I could not order something that was gourmet and equally fine dining without it having meat. Either way, we decided to order drinks, so I had the mojito and my husband, Ryan, had a POM mojito. I preferred his so we shared. We asked for the Tomato Bruschetta as an appetizer since that seemed safe for a vegan.

Our waiter returned 10 minutes later with our dinner salads. As we ate we wondered if our waiter had forgotten our appetizer. We decided to give him a chance. After we finished our salads, our waiter picked up our plates and said that our dinner would be ready soon, which then prompted Ryan to respond, "Please do not bother to bring our appetizer with our meals. We would have liked them before the salad." He said it very kindly and our waiter noticeably realized he had forgotten our order. I felt bad for him, but he returned 5 minutes later with our dinner and told us that dessert was on the house.

My husband ordered the Filet Mignon which was accompanied with mashed potatoes and squash. My husband takes advantage of ordering meat while we are out since I have not been fixing it but once a week. My Spicy Thai Penne Pasta had a peanut sauce made with coconut milk, fresh crushed ginger, and red pepper. It proved to be too sweet and saucy, but was perfectly spicy. I gave about a cup of it to my husband. The salad was a favorite of mine, thus my regret for not just having a big bowl of their salad.

I would definitely recommend the restaurant to a non-vegan, but certainly not for a vegan. I promptly emailed the owner and expressed my disappointment and sadness of not seeing more options. Nowadays there are SO many people who are vegetarians. I just kept on asking, don't vegetarians and vegans like fine dining? Does fine dining only mean a steakhouse? So many questions. The irony of it all is that I could have eaten vegan at Chili's or Taco Bell if I wanted to but that is not my choice. Stay tuned for an update concerning my email to the owner.

On a lighter note, Vegan Family Style is giving a copy away of Vegan Cupcakes By Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Go and visit her site!

11 comments:

Viviane, Taste-Buds said...

I am not a vegan but usually I tend to like the more vegetarian dishes. At times I feel that I even need a meal just made of veggies even if I am out. I can understand your aggravation since it is hard to find some veggies only dishes in a lot of places.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

See, and I just thought that was something that was so lacking in our part of the country. (After all, we are in the land of BEEF here in Texas!) It seems so many times restaurants look at vegetables and such as an afterthought. And with so many opportunities to be creative with vegetarian dishes, (without the added expense of meat), you'd think a chef would step outside of the protein-minded menu to think of alternative ways to present gourmet dishes. Sorry it wasn't all you'd hoped it would be! :(

pTsaldari said...

Well! Hummmm this was not a happy camper from the start. Hate to see what she says about plain still water. Having a special diet (by choice) is a preference not a restaurant requirement therefore it would have been prudent for this Vegan to have called ahead since she has very strict dietary requirements and to have asked her questions. The linchpin was the gift card which either she won in a raffle or was given as a gift, I must assume out of sincerity. It would be wise for the Dusty Cellar to learn from this experience and to offer a menu item that can be easily utilized as an alternative. Also, servers need to be trained better in knowing what Vegans are and what they eat. These are just simple remedies that I recommend to my restaurant clients. Take special care to assist servers in not "wondering" about anything. They are in the front lines and have to deal with the kitchen which is not always accommodating. Your servers are your ambassadors - help them, train them and you're bottom line(as well as their gratuities) will please everyone including the guest. Mine the deep smarts and be adaptable that's how you get return customers. The survival of your business depends upon it.
Cheers, PT

Beatrice said...

It sounds like a disappointing experience, even apart from the lack of options for vegans. Hopefully they'll improve their menu and their customer service.

CrickettSongs said...

I eat mostly a vegetarian diet, and also find it very frustrating and weird when fine dining means meat-only options. pTsaldari was a little harsh- our blogger did ask the hostess about vegan options and received a vague/misleading response...

Kelly said...

Oh Noelle! So sorry to hear about your calamity! As they say, "Lesson learned"!

Simply Life said...

great to write reviews for others to learn from!

Mandie84 said...

Colin and I have only been to the Tap Room, but have heard bad reviews from several people about the service who frequent the restaurant. I am sorry you had a bad experience!! We like the Tap Room, though, and I think there were more vegetarian options or items that you could ask for without meat that would have been good.

Bromography said...

How disappointing! I am not a vegan or vegetarian; however, I think that restaurants should have at least a few options! Even a carnivore like me does not need meat in every dish.

Conor @ HoldtheBeef said...

Firstly, great first review :)

Secondly, how disappointing about the lack of options. Although I can kind of understand not having any vegan meal options, it does seem a little odd to only offer the one vegetarian option. Too bad if you were a vegetarian who was allergic to peanuts!

Shelly said...

I'm reminded of a time when I went to Landmarc (in NYC) on a date, and there was NOTHING vegetarian. When I asked him to substitute the chicken on a pasta dish to something veggie, he said "sorry ma'am, we don't do ANY substitutions!" Not only was it rude, it was pretty embarrassing for me (and I'm sure my date felt really awkward about it too). Nowadays I feel like restaurants are becoming more accommodating, but most of the so-called "fine dining" restaurants are still very heavily meat based and there are even some that don't offer a single veggie option! Sorry you had to go through this!

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