Before my arrival in Salt Lake City, I did a check up on the vegan friendly restaurants in town, and became quite intrigued with the vertical diner in particular. While on Amtrak, I stumbled upon a native Salt Lake vegan who gave this place rave reviews, which only piqued my interest. Upon my first day in SLC, I took a bike ride to meet her there for lunch.
The location is a bit off the beaten path, so much in fact, without a GPS, I would have presumed myself lost. Not that it’s a bad thing, it usually means cheap eats and little to no hipsters with bad haircuts. I was curious about the vintage scooter parked out front, and impressed at the ample bike parking. Walking in I was greeted by the familiar atmosphere of the never ending cup of coffee, 24 hour deep fryer and open kitchen of the a “Great American Diner”. Something about sinking into the vinyl upholstery in booth or perching yourself at one of the bar stools lining the kitchen makes any tourist immediately feel like a regular. However, Vertical is not your average cup o’ joe, it totes an extensive all vegan menu with gluten-free options, a small stage for open mics and bands, is completely non-smoking, and harbors an extensive beer and wine list. Wine averages at six bucks a glass and beer ranges from a $2 PBR to a $7 Samuel Smith Organic Pilsner. Hard Ciders are on the menu as well as 18 fair trade coffees and teas.
The staff seem to make part of the entire experience. Very knowledgeable about the menu and allergy warnings. My server, David seemed to glide between his tables with the grace of an Olympian figure skater. Maybe it’s all the vegan food, I thought; he later informed me that his roller skates were in the trunk of his car. I noticed a wide variety of people from all walks of life enjoying their meals. Young and old, people on a business lunch, a stop on a scooter ride, and a gentleman in for a quick bite after dumpster diving. I was informed that the place is quickly becoming a hot spot for omnivores looking to eat healthier by enjoying a vegan meal.
I started the meal with a Matte Latte ($3.00), rich and frothy with the perfect balance of silky latte and matte bite. Any of their coffee house favorites (i.e. cappuccino, latte, etc.) are available with matte (a strong tea) instead of espresso.
]Next I sampled the Tender Tigers ($4.75) a mock chicken tender made from homemade seitan paired with a homemade ranch dressing. Served on a stick and still sizzling from a bath in the deep fryer, I was reminded of eating at county fair. Served with crunchy carrot sticks to balance out the greasy vegan goodness. The consistency of the ranch could have been less thick, and a bit creamier, however, I have not come across a better vegan ranch yet.
Up next was the “I Got Biscuits, Baby” biscuits and gravy with homemade sausage ($5.50). The biscuits were a bit dense for my liking, but I guess the south west isn’t accustomed to the fluffy “down on the farm” biscuits a job at Bob Evans made me so familiar with. However, the robust flavor from the gravy by far makes up for the dense biscuit. The sausage was spectacular and flawlessly spiced, which most vegan versions never seem to perfect.
My partner and I could not pass up sampling the “Nacho Mama” as well ($7.50). They were piled high with homemade bean chili, fresh guacamole, homemade salsa, sour cream and a tangy cheese sauce. The dish is easily made gluten free by opting out of the cheese sauce, and is served with their homemade hot sauces (both are out of this world). This is by far my favorite vegan nachos I have had to date.
While speaking with my server, I was also informed that the diner uses completely biodegradable sugar can husk and corn based flatware and boxes for all of it’s take out orders. Vertical Diner also recycles and composts everything, as well as using organic and local products when available.
This is the first restaurant in my travels where I have encountered an entirely vegan menu with options for allergy concerns, a friendly and helpful staff, good food at cheap prices, locally owned and operated, plus it’s green with outreach into the community.
This restaurant meet all of my criteria for the perfect vegan hot spot, and gets an 11 out of 10. That’s right, I threw in an extra point because the waiter had a cute butt.
Be sure to check out thier website at http://www.VerticalDiner.com