Well folks, I’ve failed you yet again—in the midst of my studies, my role as co-president of the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC), and my galavanting across southeastern New York, I’ve not made the time to scribe a post to quench your thirst for social justice-infused food prose. However, the aforementioned galavanting has provided me with ample blogging material, as it included a jaunt to my beloved spiritual hometown of New York City. Accompanied by my dear Ferry housemate and native Brooklynite Gabe, I wholeheartedly enjoyed two days of urban frolicking, chock full of yoga, vegan eats, philosophical subway conversations, and the discovery of a revolutionary eatery known as M.O.B.
The day after catching a train from Vassar to NYC and catching up with Gabe’s generous, welcoming family, my Brooklyn buddy and I enjoyed green smoothie-granola breakfast bowls à la Ali before heading to an invigorating class at the activism-imbued yoga studio of Jivamukti. If you’d like a taste of the Jivamukti style, I’d highly recommend downloading a couple of podcasts from top-notch instructor Jessica Stickler. An artful yet unpretentious round of sandwiches and donuts from the Cinnamon Snail food truck nourished our yoga-ed bodies, and I basked in the superbly vegan-positive atmosphere that so contributes to my love of The City.
After tea, showers, and lazy reading, Gabe and I had worked up another appetite. Accordingly, I employed my mental arsenal of vegan restaurants of NYC to invoke one near Gabe’s Brooklyn home, and happened upon M.O.B. First popping up on my restaurant radar at The Seed Experience 2013, M.O.B.’s newly launched Brooklyn location received positive reviews from a handful of my fellow NYC vegan venturers, though it has not yet exploded onto the main veg restaurant scene alongside the Candles and Blossoms. However, M.O.B.’s outstanding food quality, creativity, and whimsy undoubtedly deserve a coveted spot in the New York Vegan Restaurant Hall of Fame.
Boasting an acronymic name for “Maimonides of Brooklyn,” M.O.B. buries its roots in the ancient Jewish philosophy of reflection, commitment, and knowing “The Other,” as well as in the following’s emphasis on the healthful combinations of vegetables, fruits, and spices—sounds to me like the basis for a vegan ideology! The brainchild of French-born Cycil Aouizerate, M.O.B. originated in Paris, but drew primary inspiration from Brooklyn’s hip hop scene. Aouizerate sought for M.O.B. to unite all people, regardless of beliefs and lifestyles, over nourishing, compassionate, and scrumptious food. Both of M.O.B.’s locations function as celebrations of Brooklyn’s dynamism, featuring “avant-garde pizzas” in the shape of the Brooklyn Bridge’s arches as the restaurant’s namesake dish, as well as Brooklyn-themed comic books offered to guests along with the menu. M.O.B.’s playfulness extends beyond its comic books: one of the walls of the main dining room sports a plethora of plastic vegetables nailed to wooden plaques bearing such eulogies as, “R.I.P. Mister Tomato—Died for Sauce,” as a satire of the taxidermied heads of hunted animals.
Not only does M.O.B. offer humor, spunk, and free reading material, it also boasts a well-crafted menu of artfully composed, soul-satisfying vegan dishes. Two Michelin-star chefs and an acclaimed raw food connoisseur united to create a legitimately groundbreaking menu of wholesome, plant-based comfort foods, with specialties of meatless saucissons, sweet potato buns and rolls, corn soup, and (of course) the namesake M.O.B. flatbreads. Since the menu nor the restaurant’s décor nowhere explicitly denotes the restaurant’s complete vegan-ness, unsuspecting (and non-vegan) diners expect the traditional animal-based versions of mac & cheese, burgers, and hot dogs, and become subsequently wowed by the wonderful world of vegan food. I became convinced of the efficacy of this strategy when, on both of my visits to the eatery (one a week after the first), curious patrons hesitated outside of the restaurant’s front door and enthusiastically entered with my slight prodding of, “Oh, this place is great, you’ll love it!”—no mention of veganism involved (the servers would take care of that later).
Even I, aware that M.O.B. was a vegan establishment, felt compelled to double-check with my server that nothing on the Mob Dog Deluxe contained animal foods (better safe than sorry!). With her blessing, I eagerly ordered the loaded hot dog. In between munches of complimentary paper-thin kale chips, Gabe and I talked life, love, and literature before gawking over the colorful plates soon presented to us.
As you know, dear readers, I don’t often find myself speechless in reply to food (if I did, my blog would certainly be lacking in content). However, the Mob Dog Deluxe—a carrot-chickpea dog studded with fennel seeds stuffed inside a sweet potato roll and topped with tangy ketchup, spicy mustard, salty Brooklyn Brine sauerkraut, and sour relish—transcended words. One bite of perfectly intermingled flavors dancing over a toothsome, seitan-like chickpea dog evoked in me a rather epiphanal response in which I stared, wide-eyed and longingly, at the dog; locked eyes with Gabe; and turned the dog toward his mouth, needing to share my mind-blogging gastronomic experience with another. The dog produced a similar response in Gabe (remember that he still eats meat occasion), though he regained his vocal capacities faster than I did in order to gasp, “That dog is not just as good as meat-based hot dogs—that dog is better. As in, given the choice between a traditional ballpark hot dog and this vegan one, I would choose the Mob Dog.” Coupled with M.O.B.’s strategy of not advertising their vegan-ness, the eatery’s genius evocation of traditionally meat-based classics harbors the potential to revolutionize the vegan restaurant scene. Indeed, the restaurant prompted me to break my streak of not patronizing eateries twice in a row, calling Gabe and I back for more M.O.B. a week after our first visit.
While the Mob Dog & Burger appealed to me more than the M.O.B. flatbreads on both of my visits to the eatery, two of my dining compatriots ordered both M.O.B. options during my two excursions. On our first M.O.B. visit, my dearest Gabe enjoyed the Autumn Glow M.O.B.—a house-baked flatbread made with locally grown and milled organic flours shaped like the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge, spread with black bean puree, paprika-roasted sweet potatoes, grilled corn, and jalapeno sour cream. Gabe’s younger brother Isaiah opted for the Iron Man M.O.B.—a verdant flatbread topped with roasted shiitake mushrooms, sautéed kale, horseradish aioli, and parsley— on our second journey to the eatery. Both Gabe and Isaiah sang the praises of their M.O.B.’s, sweetly offering me fabulous sample bites (though not quite as fabulous as either the Mob Dog or Burger, I must say). The graffiti-style metal plates specially tailored for serving M.O.B. flatbreads further contribute to the restaurant’s playful atmosphere.
No quality vegan restaurant has ever disappointed me in terms of dessert, and M.O.B.—the increasingly impressive establishment that it is—proved no different. Just as varied, mouthwatering, and well-chosen as M.O.B.’s dinner menu, the dessert selection guarantees a succulent, revelatory conclusion to an already pivotal meal. During both of my visits to the restaurant, I had the pleasure of sampling three of M.O.B.’s four regular desserts, and one special. I first enjoyed the Mob Sundae—two scoops of DF Mavens coconut milk ice cream (a new vegan ice cream company that has burst onto the scene over the past year) in both chocolate and vanilla, topped with a chocolate hard shell, toasted hazelnuts, and citrus-mint whipped cream.
Gabe, Isaiah, and I opted to split three desserts during our second visit, sharing a Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote, a Chocolate Hazelnut Torte, and a Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich (the latter, unfortunately, is unpictured).
The Lemon Cheesecake offered the closest parallel in both dense, creamy texture and rich, tangy flavor as dairy-based cheesecakes that I’ve ever encountered, even sporting the familiar golden-brown exterior of traditional cheesecakes. The blueberry compote, unfortunately, tasted like little more than thawed frozen wild blueberries, but only detracted slightly from the otherwise remarkable dessert.
The Chocolate Hazelnut Torte harbored a similarly creamy texture, coupled with the classic, genius pairing of hazelnut and chocolate.
Finally, the Peanut Butter Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich provided a fun, childlike eating experience, what with its slowly melting chocolate ice cream oozing out from the soft, chewy cookies and threatening to drip all over the table at any moment.
Gabe and I first patronized M.O.B. on a bit of a whim, but I could not be more enthused with the outcome of our rather spontaneous restaurant choice. M.O.B. easily ranks among my top four vegan restaurants of all time, along with Vedge in Philadelphia, Angelica Kitchen in New York City, and Garden Café on the Green in Woodstock. I duly look forward to my family’s annual NYC Thanksgiving adventure so that I can introduce my parents to the wonders of M.O.B. Hopefully my Mob Dog cravings over the next six weeks don’t distract me too much…
Until next time, Ali.