Phoenixville’s Taste Offers Innovative Vegan Comfort Food

The industrial-looking spot is equal parts wine bar and vegan bistro.

The Delaware Valley continues to trend toward healthier dining options, with quality vegetarian fare abounding. Want fine dining? Visit Vedge in Center City, considered one of the best restaurants in the country. Grabbing a quick lunch? Head to Sweetgreen in Ardmore, Philly or King of Prussia. It’s true: Meatless is now mainstream.

And then there’s Taste, which opened in May within Sand Castle Winery’s Bridge Street storefront in Phoenixville. This moodily lit, urban-chic space is a one-of-a-kind restaurant prototype—a neo-vegan bistro, wine bar and retail wine shop, if you will.

The concept is based on the success of the Herbivorous Butcher, the meat-free shop in Minneapolis that specializes in flavorful and nutritious plant-based alternatives. “I want to treat veganism as something normal,” says Sand Castle’s managing partner, Chad Sletten. “By offering veg-forward comfort foods, Pennsylvania-produced beers and spirits, and, of course, our own selection of organic European varietals, we’ve created a most unique start-up business model.”

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Huli huli rib sliders. 

The Mushroom Flat, with faux mozzarella and baby arugula. 

The 20-seat restaurant is Sletten’s second effort. His first Taste is in Warrington. Overseeing the kitchen is chef Theo Charitos, a Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse alum who’s done a complete 180 from his days of heavy pastas and cheesesteak spring rolls. He’s crafted a menu of light, shareable snacks like pickled and marinated Lancaster County vegetables, noshes of sliced seitan “rib” sliders and Portuguese black-bean “chicken and sausage,” plus flatbreads and salads. Try the smoked-tomato Grand Ma Flat, with faux mozzarella made from cashew cream.

There were a few miscues on our first visit. The chickpeas with sriracha lacked seasoning, the Korean barbecue lettuce wraps produced a watery gush with every lift, and our server neglected to clear each course’s plates. A second go-round had a better groove, and our server was mindful. The ancho-spiced carnitas tortillas—filled with jackfruit instead of beef—was a spot-on interpretation.

Taste’s blackened “ribeye.”

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A special olive oil blend is dispensed. 

Impressive beverage offerings include Sand Castle’s Bucks County-based wines. Especially good are its gently oaked chardonnay and the duskily complex pinot noir. Some of the cocktails are creatively spun, too. Lansdale’s Boardroom Vodka gets a beet-juice infusion before it’s flourished with blood orange, making it a uniquely refreshing sipper.

Along with the alluring zinc-topped bar, another focal point of the restaurant is the array of canisters lining a sidewall. These vessels contain Veronica Foods extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, each infused with a flavorful blend. Try several—all complimentary—like the basil or wild-mushroom-and-sage oil. And be sure to sample a dash of dark-chocolate or cinnamon balsamic vinegar, drizzled on warm slices of Charitos’ pita bread.

To be sure, Taste isn’t a fine-dining experience like Philly’s Vedge—but it’s not supposed to be. Rather, it’s a place to linger over snacks, conversation and a drink or two. Even if your ideal meal is a burger or you usually eschew salad bars, this unique eatery is worth a visit by sheer virtue of its culinary creativity.

236 Bridge St., Phoenixville, (484) 924-9530

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