15 Sep 2014
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Willie McBride's: Go for a Beer, Skip the Vegan Food

The Branchburg pub offers little in the way of vegan fare.

Willie McBride's: Go for a Beer, Skip the Vegan Food Willie McBride's: Go for a Beer, Skip the Vegan Food Willie McBride's: Go for a Beer, Skip the Vegan Food

After a week of volunteering at  Camp Fatima in Lebanon, my friends and I couldn't wait to get to the bar on Saturday.

The week is an amazing one —a crew of about 215 volunteers, including seven from Somerset County, have the honor of caring for 66 children with disabilities—but it is also exhausting and emotional. As soon as the week ends, we all get together at a local pub to reminisce about the week and start getting back to real life. 

The post-camp venue of choice this year was  Willie McBride's, the recently-opened Branchburg pub that took over when Cryan's Ale House went out of business. One of the very generous volunteers hosted the shindig, asking the restaurant to cater trays of pizza, wings, nachos and other finger foods. Clearly, none of these were going to cut it for Little Miss Vegan.

With a long night of drinking ahead of us, I knew I needed to get some food in my stomach. Unfortunately, the menu didn't deliver. The only option suitable for a vegan is the grilled vegetable panini ($9), without the cheese. The bartender confirmed with the cook that the vegetables are just grilled with a touch of olive oil—no butter—but he forgot to ask the kitchen crew to leave the butter off the bread. He also forgot my requested side of hummus.

The sandwich sounded promising, but that's as good as it got. When the plate came out, it featured a bucket of soggy, breaded fries and a heap of mushy grilled vegetables on butter-coated white bread. It was not the promised ciabatta bread (if it was ciabatta, it was not a good one). I regretted ordering it, wishing I'd gone for the hummus and flatbread appetizer ($7.50), or requested one of the salads sans meat. There are six salads on the menu, but each features chicken or fish.

Later in the night, as my friends ordered burgers, I discovered that the restaurant offers multi-grain rolls. They're actually quite tasty, much heartier than the white bread served with the veggie panini. At next year's post-camp shindig, I'll be ordering the grilled vegetables on the roll rather than the panini, with a side salad and a side of hummus.

The afternoon servers were accomodating and happy to ask about vegan options. Come Saturday night, as the bar filled up quickly, the bartender just dismissed my friend as she tried to find out about more vegan options. 

If you find yourself at Willie McBride's, I'd make sure to fill up before getting there. Stay for the cheap drinks, but don't plan on getting a good vegan lunch or dinner. The options just aren't satisfying.

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