I live close to South Park’s self-described “decadent vegan” bar and restaurant, Kindred, and most nights as I pass by it bustles with stylishly dressed couples and groups who sip craft cocktails, sample the amaro menu, and laugh with the carefree abandon of people whose bodies aren’t trying to digest animal fat.
The design of the corner restaurant brings them in as much as the food. White marble and pink-patterned wallpaper reflect off a gilded grid of mirrored ceiling that curves down at one end to become the north wall of the room where a massive sculpture depicts a four-eyed wolf wearing a human skull for a crown with snakes curling off the side of its head like ram horns.
It’s a lot to take in, especially if you’re seated in the booth immediately beneath that wolf head. Somehow the visual pairs well with the death-metal soundtrack playing at a (usually) low volume on overhead speakers.
All of this is wide open and visible to the street when the weather’s clear, and it opens at four. So, occasionally when I walk past with my dog and find it just opening I take advantage of the uncrowded, pet-friendly patio to grab a beer and partake in a little meatlessness.
I’ve enjoyed a few dishes in the year Kindred’s been open. The $12 beet risotto is good, and an $11 jackfruit BBQ sandwich made a nice introduction to young jackfruit, which has a meaty texture and isn’t as sweet as the mature fruit. But a few months ago a menu addition called Soul Crush got my attention.
The uncheerful name is a play on soul food, in particular a meal of cornmeal-crusted catfish. Here, $13 gets you spicy macaroni, grilled broccolini, and a takeoff of mashed potatoes made from parsnip and celery root. And a cornmeal-crusted, fishlike Gardein.
1504 30th Street, South Park
Gardein is a meat-substitute brand that, among other things, makes facsimile fish filets out of soy protein. In most cases, expecting a meat-substitute to compare favorably to the real thing is wishful thinking. But let’s face it, catfish is a last-pick fish. This flaky fake stuff tastes and chews far better than the mushy bottom-feeding river dweller, and I’d much rather eat this.
Dressed with a light splash of mushroom gravy, the celery-and-parsnip mash proved interesting. More than lick-your-chops good, it was thistlelike and a little tangy and I wound up finishing it quickly as I tried to figure it out. The broccolini was right on, and the creamy mac had enough spice to it that it didn’t occur to me there wasn’t any cheese involved.
I wouldn’t say anything on the plate was a stand-out item, but for an omnivore looking for satiety on a meatless plate they present a good meal.