Marc Bannes and his wife Meg McGrath, both longtime vegan home cooks, have always aspired to start a vegan business. So when Bannes—who’s a guitarist and vocalist for the Chicago punk band Typesetter—found himself with the kind of spare time afforded by a canceled touring schedule, the duo sprang into action. Now you can catch them popping up at the Wicker Park restaurant Hash every Tuesday for Vagabond Vegan Supper Club, where they’ve been slinging a rotating menu of hearty plant-based dishes for pickup since August.
Inspired by years of visiting vegan restaurants across the world while out on tour, Bannes’ concoctions are the sort of mouth-watering fare that you might normally find in a diner—reubens piled high with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing on house-made bread, giardiniera-loaded Italian (seitan) beefs, fried pickles and fresh-cut fries. The menu, he says, is largely informed by personal taste.
“I just wanted to make things that I find really delicious,” Bannes explains.
Bannes has been perfecting his recipes for vegan proteins—which you can also find throughout the rest of the week in various Hash menu items—for years, using a combination of recipes (“I’m a big nerd for food blogs,” he says) and at-home tinkering. The Vagabond formula for corned seitan, for instance, comes from a modified version of McGrath’s grandmother’s corned beef recipe; the burger-like protein is similar to a reverse-engineered Impossible Burger. Bannes also makes vegan cheese, culturing cashew and oat milk into vegan mozzarella and cheddar cheese that you’ll find studded throughout the Italian seitan sandwich or melted between two slabs of protein on the towering patty melt. To round off the meal, McGrath—who’s been a vegan baker for nearly a decade—crafts an ever-changing menu of tarts, from apple chai to a cardamom-spiked dark chocolate orange.
Diners can place orders for pick-up via text every Tuesday, with a new menu out each week. Bannes says the reception has been largely positive; they frequently sell out of menu items. Both he and McGrath work full time jobs elsewhere, so they’re not looking to expand beyond the pop-up anytime soon, though they’d like to someday dedicate a day to vegan brunch and maybe sell packaged versions of their goods. Bannes credits the support of the Chicago vegan community and friends—especially Hash owner Emily McKern, who helped them set up the ghost kitchen in her restaurant—for helping launch Vagabond Vegan Supper Club.
“Chicago has just a cool scene in terms of [things like] Chicago Vegan Test Kitchen, so many farmers markets,” Bannes says. “There are so many awesome opportunities to go share the food you’re creating with people.”
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