• gardein at yard house: how to eat vegan

    June 7th, 2010quarrygirlLA restaurants, yard house

    any reader of this blog knows that we are huge fans of gardein. we live off their vegan protein creations—both the packaged goods and commercial products are part of our daily lives. we are avid beer drinkers as well, so naturally when we heard that gardein had made its way onto the menu at the irvine yard house location (a restaurant that brags they have the word’s largest selection of draft beer), we were beyond excited.

    we found the irvine yard house menu online, and discovered that a whopping 25 menu items could be modified to include gardein. while that’s impressive and definitely a coup for the vegetarian world, we couldn’t help but notice that almost all the items contained dairy…bearnaise sliders, chicken caeser, spicy thai chicken pizza, etc. some of the items did look veganizable, though, so we were determined to make it work. we didn’t want a repeat of the chipotle situation (which was later resolved), so we decided to contact yard house in advance and see just how much they were willing to accommodate vegans.

    i called yard house irvine early on a weekday, and the minute i started throwing around the “v” word, i was promptly connected to a manager. she told me that the gardein products are vegan when they arrive at yard house, but due to kitchen preparation and contamination they are not vegetarian when they are served. she added though, that if i tell my server that i am a vegan, the restaurant will happily cook my gardein in a separate pan. i thanked her and before i had the chance to end the call, she reminded me again that unless i specified that i was vegan when ordering, the gardein would not be suitable for vegetarians.

    cut to: sunday morning. with this new found information, we headed to yard house in irvine to open them up for lunch. we arrived early (around 11:30am), and snagged an awesome corner booth and a couple half yards of german beer.

    a waitress came to take our order, and we immediately told her that we were vegans and were there to try the new gardein. before we could say any more, she interrupted us with what sounded like a scripted reply. she said, “i just want to let you know that the gardein is vegan when it comes through our back door, but after we cook it, it’s not even vegetarian. we prepare it on the same surface as/and it comes in contact with, all the meat. so i just thought you should know…it’s not vegan.” i told her about my conversation with a manager just a few days prior, and asked if we have our gardein cooked in a separate pan. i also inquired as to which breads were vegan, and she was really nice about it all, and said she’d find out.

    moments later, an affable manager named eric (not the same person i talked to on the phone) appeared at our table to sort things out. he went through the same points that the waitress did: untouched gardein is vegan, but after the yard house prep process, it isn’t vegan at all. he was, however, very eager to please and assured us that SOME menu items could be made vegan if they were cooked in a separate pan. for example, anything fried could NOT be made vegan. as he explained, the fried items (including chicken strips and orange peel chicken) are cooked altogether in oil with shrimp, chicken, beef, and other animal products that will inevitably coat the once vegan gardein. he also answered our bread question: all the breads at yard house are egg-based and not suitable for vegans, other than the wheat buns. he was uncertain though, as to whether the wheat buns contained honey…they are a product from giuliano’s bakery, and the ingredients were not readily available. we are going to look into that later though, don’t worry.

    anyways…after scrutinizing the menu, we decided that we could order the chicken rice bowl (with gardein rather than chicken), and the chopped salad with no bacon, plus gardein, and balsamic vinaigrette rather than bloody mary dressing. i just want to add, that through the whole ordering process, the manager was SO AWESOME in helping us determine what was vegan. he was pretty open in saying that gardein was something they were excited about trying out, and he was really learning as much as he could about catering to vegans. i’m talking about a+ customer service here: we ordered the chopped salad with gardein, and he said, “i am going to give you both the chicken and sirloin gardein; i want you to try both and let me know what you think!”

    so we ordered our two safe dishes and double checked that they would be cooked in a separate pan, and were pleasantly surprised by the amazing food that arrived at our table.

    gardein chicken rice bowl: stir fried bok choy, baby corn, snap peas, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, peppers, and broccoli over jasmine or brown rice. $12.85

    first up, the “chicken and rice bowl” made with gardein. the portion was huge, and it was very well prepared. perfectly seasoned vegetables including bok choy, snap peas, and shiitake mushrooms. it was all grilled up on a soft bed of rice with delicious gardein chicken—and they even brought us a serving of sriracha sauce!

    yard house is first and foremost a bar in my mind….so i was expecting middle-of-the-road food. boy, was i wrong!!!!! the “chicken” and rice bowl exceeded all expectations.

    chopped salad with gardein: avocado, tomatoes, gardein chicken and sirloin, corn, cilantro, cucumbers, celery, onions, balsamic vinaigrette. $11.90

    next up, the chopped salad with 2 kinds of gardein meat was fantastic as well. what pushed this over the edge was the addition of gardein’s delicious burger patty. you can’t find this thing in stores, and yard house knows how to slice it up and prepare it just right. so damn good. not to mention heaps of fresh avocado, tomato, corn, and cilantro. we loved it!

    after two fantastic gardein-based meals and several pints of refreshing beer, we know that yard house irvine CAN cater to vegans. however it took A LOT of back and forth, and some very cooperative staff members to make sure our meal was vegan-friendly. when we dined there, it was before the lunch rush, and the we were able to talk to the manager at length. i just don’t know if the same would be true had we visited during a popular sports game or peak hours. anyways, the yard house irvine SURE TOOK CARE OF US. they were friendly, polite, helpful, and all around accommodating.

    find a way to support this place, and their choice to use gardein. go here with your omnivore friends, order gardein, and ALWAYS ASK THAT IT BE COOKED IN A DIFFERENT PAN. call ahead, and ask if it could be cooked in a separate pan as well. let’s get this on their mind! if enough of us bring it up…they might make it a standard procedure, and stop reciting the “this isn’t vegetarian anymore” script. ; ) we can all be a part in helping yard house and gardein cater to VEGANS as well as health-conscious omnivores.

    yard house irvine
    Irvine Spectrum
    71 Fortune Dr
    Irvine, CA 92618
    (949) 753-9373

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24 responses to “gardein at yard house: how to eat vegan” RSS icon

  • I was at Yardhouse yesterday too. I had a gardein burger but it never dawned on me to ask about the bread. I think it’s great that a chain like this are offering meat substitutues and I hope they will go the next step of singling out a vegan section of their menu, or employing a “v” symbol next to stuff that can be made vegan.

    This is how all restaurants should be.

  • I, too, hope that they (Yardhouse) will make the effort so that an unknowing person will not unwittingly be eating food that has been prepared alongside meat. I posted a link to this on gardein’s facebook page. I also emailed Yardhouse (before I read your article) commending them for accommodating vegetarians and suggesting they add a vegan cheese (preferable Daiya :-)to their menu. I’d like to try some of Thai pizza!

  • Cool they worked with you to prepare some vegan dishes!
    I’ve tried this sort of thing at some omni places in Pasadena, and people are unfailingly kind and gracious. It’s more a problem of comprehension I’ve found (not exactly knowing the difference between vegetarian and vegan, and things like that.)

  • Let’s be clear: YH are offering Gardein as a healthier alternative to meat rather than something vegan. They don’t claim it to be vegan (and neither does Gardein). Expecting to get something vegan just because it has Gardein in it is tantamount to expecting anything with carrots in it to be vegan.

    I love Quarrygirl’s angle: show up and hassle the kitchen to prepare the food separately. I think more and more places will be offering alternative products like Gardein in the future, so this is absolutely to be supported.

  • When I went to check out their items it was at the peak of a Lakers game and couldn’t really get any of this information cleared up. Thanks for doing the leg work during a less busy time of day!

  • Fantastic! When you spoke to them did they give you any indication if they will begin to offer gardein at other locations in the future (such as the long beach location)?

  • miss anthrope

    @gwen: they said irvine has it exclusively for 6 months, then hopefully more locations will get it!

  • What strikes me is the pat response about “not even being vegetarian” once it is prepared. I can’t help but wonder what we’re getting in other restaurants when we order a veggie burger, or other items we “think” are safe. I recognize that aside from only eating food I prepare myself, there is no way to totally avoid this – but one would think chefs would at least CONSIDER the veggie/vegan lifestyle as they do food allergies, etc.

  • @oc_gal: You’re not ready to transfer your credits to Troll University just yet, but we applaud you for your effort and wish you lots of luck in your future endeavors at Troll Community College.

    Hey, at least YH is giving the veggie disclaimer. And it’s very cool that they’re so friendly and accommodating to the vegans that are showing up. Think of it as a debugging process; YH is trying some stuff out, and the people that are showing up for it are offering feedback. There’s no need to get all bent out of shape because people are consuming soy, somewhere.

  • @miharu Why attack me as a troll? We are saying the exact same thing, and I was being highly constructive.

  • @Jan: Unfortunately the mentality in a fast-paced kitchen is usually “I don’t have time to stop and clean this.” The same few pans are usually used for dish after dish after dish, at least in my experience.

  • In fact, if you ask a place how often they clean their griddle, they might look at you in horror and say, “Never, of course!” because that’s seasoning to them. Ever wondered why your Boca Burger sometimes tastes particularly good at a restaurant?

  • PLEASE AVOID YARD HOUSE at least the one downtown. Its very close to my law school and so after finals people usually like to go there to celebrate for happy hour. This time I called ahead and said I am a vegan and would like to participate in happy hour specials too, is there anything that could be made vegan at the happy hour prices (that was more substantial than edamame, nothing else on the happy hour menu is even vegetarian). They told me sure, they could make the lettuce wraps with mushroom. I arrived and told my survivor what I had been told on the phone and she brought me yummy lettuce wraps veganized, but when my bill came the item was full-priced. I told her I had called ahead (had told her this when I placed my order also) and she sent her manager over. He said the lettuce wraps I had weren’t included in happy hour, after much debate he said basically “we were honored this because you were given misinformation, but we won’t honor this in the future and we are not a vegan restaurant nor a restaurant that caters to vegans,” When I asked him didn’t he think it was nice to include vegans in happy hour when they go out with non-vegan friends? He said no we don’t care about vegans, this is not a vegan restaurant. when I asked him if he cared if I posted him words on the vegan blog-o-sphere he basically said he didn’t care if a single vegan patronized their restaurant. His words were enough to make me sad and frustrated and I will not be giving the vegan haters more of my money.

  • Thank you so much for the heads up! We will definitely check this out this weekend. I hope that more restaurants will follow Yard House’s example. Keep up the good work- I love your blog!

  • Emily, thanks for the heads up about the downtown Yardhouse. I only work a few blocks away. There are so few options down here for vegans. Argh! The strangest part of your ordeal was how the manager though that vegans should be segregated to their own special restaurants. -Rachel

  • Emily – Sadly, in my experience, the Yard House (every location I’ve been to) is so crowded they probably don’t HAVE to care about catering to special diets of any kind…

  • I was at the downtown Yardhouse with friends tonight. We ended up leaving and going to Trader Vic’s because the server said she couldn’t do anything for me other than a salad. I was not nearly as crowded as usual and when I asked about a grilled veggie platter, she said no. I also asked about the lettuce wraps, but they have oyster sauce in them and they said they couldn’t (wouldn’t) prepare them without it. I won’t be back to ANY

  • Yardhouse in the near future.

  • I am writing in response to the comment made by Emily. In an effort to learn more about your visit to our LA Live location, I would appreciate an opportunity to speak with you. We apologize for the negative perception this has left you with and I can only hope that you will allow us the opportunity to make things right. Where we certainly do not profess to be a vegan restaurant, we are willing to accommodate all reasonable modifications to meet our guest’s dietary needs/preferences. If you would care to further discuss, please do not hesitate to contact me at yhguest@yardhouse.com.
    I am also in receipt of the comment made on our website by Rachel and would welcome the opportunity to clarify matters with you as well.
    We truly appreciate your time and hope to speak with both of you soon.
    Best regards, Kristi Preston

  • Ran into a bunch of very nice employees of the DTLA/LA Live location over the weekend at another bar, post shift. I asked if they would be getting Gardein. I was told yes, but they were told in their meeting that if anyone asked, it was cooked on the same surfaces/pans and thus wasn’t vegan. I expressed my mixed feelings and they totally understood (they were all meat eaters but totally “got it” and thought it was weird the vegan stuff was cooked with meat). I made a comment along the lines of “I guess I’ll have to be sure it’s cooked on a clean pan or something,” to which the response was along the lines of, “yeah, that’s probably not going to happen.”

    While I realize gardein even cooked on the same surfaces as meat is still healthier than meat and thus, will probably do ok with the “health conscious,” crowd, it’s not going to bring in any new business, and I expressed that to them.

  • When you check to see if different pastas and breads are vegan, can you please verify that the vitamins that are in the flour used to make these items are from vegetables and not animal sources? Thank you.

  • I started with the company 2 months ago. I’m still learning things, but it appears that a new pan is used every time with dishes, but that might just be my location. I’ll come back soon when I have more info. I contact Customer Service with questions.

  • I cannot guarantee that no cross contamination will happen, nor can I guarantee that other restaurants don’t tweak their recipes a bit, so confirm with the location you visit. Here’s a list of vegan items at YH:

    -Gardein Chicken Rice Bowl
    -Greek Salad (No Feta)
    -Grilled Romaine (No Gorgonzola and dressing)
    -House Salad (No Dressing)
    -Mixed Greens Salad (No Croutons)
    -Summer Salad
    -Walnut Pear Salad (No Bleu cheese crumbles)
    -Mushroom Wraps
    -Grilled Artichoke (No Garlic Aioli)
    -Angel Hair Pasta (No Feta or Parmesan)
    -Gardein chicken or burger patty
    -Truffle and Garlic Fries (No Parmesan)
    -Guacamole and Chips (No Feta)
    -Jasmine or Brown Rice
    -Potato Chips

    -Soy Vinaigrette
    -Balsamic Vinaigrette
    -Spiced Balsamic Vinaigrette
    -Aloha Sauce

    I have no idea if any of the breads are vegan, although I think it’s likely the sourdough is. Avoid the Mediterranean burger, the portobello cap is marinated in worcestershire.

  • Funny, my wife and I went to the downtown LA Yardhouse 8/7/11 after reading the articles here and a few other places. We were excited to try a few things. The disappointment started with the bartender who told us that there wasn’t much Vegan there. Bread had egg in it, the pizza dough wasn’t Vegan, no separate frying oils, etc. But he went to get the manager anyway. The manager came right out and said, “Nothing here can be made Vegan.”

    “Really?” we said, “Not even the salad?”

    “No, all our salads are tossed in the same bowls, so your salad would be coming into contact with non Vegan salad ingredients. Nothing here is Vegan, not even the beer. We serve Wheat beers in the same glasses.”

    This had us a little confused as to why wheat beer would be an issue, maybe if there’s honey in it or something. I said, “Don’t you wash your glasses between beers?”

    “Yes of course, but we can;t be liable for cross contamination.”

    So while she was certainly very attentive to our needs, it left me wondering if she really knew anything about Vegans. I think most Vegans know that the plate they are eating off of probably had meat on it an hour or two ago. And the Yardhouse can’t go through the trouble of even washing out a salad bowl to make a Vegan Salad? Wow.

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