Smile Politely

Red Herring absolutely lives up to expectations of hipness

A cropped image of a Philly cheezesteak on a white plate at Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant. Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.
Caitlin Aylmer

It’s the last week to visit Red Herring before the restaurant closes for the summer, and there is something about walking downstairs to get to a restaurant that has always felt cool to me. Like, you’re in on the secret, part of the club. You don’t need glaringly obvious street-level doors. You just know.

The Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant absolutely lives up to these expectations of hipness.  From the moment you step down the stairs and through their door, the welcoming atmosphere combined with the delicious, freshly prepared food will leave you feeling excited to explore the menu.

This time, I accompanied a friend on their inaugural visit. Coming from a town without any vegan restaurants, they were excited to try something new. Initially, I had planned on trying some of the new menu items — looking at you, seitan gyro — but in the moment, I fell to the siren song of the toasty hexwrap ($12) and a guava Jarritos ($2).

After grabbing a lemon Spindrift ($1.50), my friend wavered between the macro-conscience Red’s salad ($12) and the more hedonistic Philly cheeze ($12) but decided to join me on the comfort food side. Don’t get me wrong, I adore a good salad, but I also like people to see that vegan food is more than just salads or chopped veggies. It can be downright decadent.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

After placing our orders at the front, we grabbed a booth and enjoyed the live music. The delightful mélange of colors, muraled support beams, and artwork provide a welcomed variation from the current decor trend of sleek minimalism. For basement level seating, there is a surprising amount of natural light afforded by the egress windows which added to the inviting ambiance of the space.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

The toasty hexwrap may ring some bells for people, but where this version really exceled in comparison to its drive-through counterpart was taste. All of the ingredients were in perfect proportion to each other; the cashew crema and nacho cheeze sauce were complemented by a nice kick from the chile sauce. Crisp lettuce and diced tomatoes balanced delicious refried beans. I usually take pictures of the food after a couple of bites, but didn’t get the chance as I ravenously devoured passionately ate my meal. I’m sure it was a sight to see.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

On the other side of the table, my friend enjoyed their Philly cheeze, which was served with a lovely pasta and bean salad. For this sandwich, a toasted hoagie was stuffed with marinated seitan, sautéed peppers and onions, and slathered with melty cashew cheeze. It was hearty, delicious, and just the thing to power through the rest of our grey afternoon.

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

I also purchased an oatmeal cream pie ($5), which I saved for later that day. It held up quite well for being tossed in my bag rather unceremoniously, and the dessert provided an enjoyable addition to my Earl Grey tea. The cookie portion was soft and ever-so-slightly chewy while the cream was rich and sweet with a clean mouthfeel — none of that waxy-coating feeling I get from packaged snacks. It was quite sweet, so I do recommend having a strong tea or coffee along with it for the perfect afternoon treat.

Don’t wait till next fall to try this vegan campus favorite because this is the last week to visit Red Herring before the close for the summer. They’ll also host their Spring Jubilee on Friday, May 12th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. featuring music, raffles, and of course, delicious food. 

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant
1209 W Oregon St
M-F 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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