From the sidewalk of East Carson Street, you could glance inside Piper's Pub and assume that what you see is what you get: the tin ceiling, dark-wood bar and simple highboys of the classic English pub. You'd never guess that Piper's is also a destination for vegan eating ... unless you looked at the menu.
There, expected British Isle favorites such as bangers and mash and Guinness beef stew mingle with vegetable vindaloo curry and seitan Thai chili wrap.
"We don't just slap a salad and some steamed veggies on a plate and call it vegan," says Mindy Heisler, the general manager. "We make an effort to make our vegan offerings as good as or better than our carnivorous ones." Case in point: the seitan shepherd's pie, which features seitan braised with root vegetables in a rich mushroom stock, topped with browned cauliflower smash.
Fifteen years ago, owner Drew Topping, whose family hails from the British Isles, longed to create an "authentic pub experience" stateside. Piper's has been serving British Isles cuisine ever since, along with cask ales and soccer — err, football — games. Inspired by staff and customer preferences, veggie items began working their way onto the menu seven years ago.
"We employ people that have all kinds of preferences and restrictions when it comes to their diets," Heisler explains. "And we had a great customer response to the vegetarian items."
Five years ago, Piper's added its own tradition to the mix: Vegan Tuesdays. Each week, the kitchen highlights a vegan soup and entrée special — like the recent grilled portabella tacos with savoy cabbage, salsa verde and seasoned refried beans. Popular weekly specials sometimes work their way onto the regular menu.
Those options are also featured at Piper's "Pub Chip Shop" next door — a fish 'n' chips joint with late-night weekend hours and more unexpected veggie options.
As the weather transitions, so will Piper's seasonal menu. Starting mid-March, the Buddha Bowl (saffron quinoa, herb-roasted vegetables and a cashew tahini) will become a regular, while Tuesday nights will continue to surprise.