By: Sara Wong, Peak Associate
Food has always been political in nature. Take a moment to reflect on how “traditional” the California sushi roll is or how American farm-to-table restaurants are well-recognized, whereas ethnic restaurants constantly remain in the shadows. When you take a moment to consider the correlation between your food choices and the world you live in, the link between food and politics screams in your face. Now, these realizations have hit mainstream media with social media campaigns calling for consumers to not only support small, local businesses, but specifically Black-owned small, local businesses.
In Vancouver, one of the first lists of Black-owned restaurants to hit Instagram was posted by @foodcouver. I checked out their list and was surprised to see how small it was. Since my first check-in, the list has grown, but Taps and Tacos in Port Moody remained the only restaurant I’ve ordered from in the past. What I took away from my perusal of that list was that I needed to familiarize myself more with Black-owned businesses in the Metro Vancouver area.
Having a mild spice tolerance and being limited to takeout (I err on the side of caution because I live with someone who is immunocompromised), I found BeetBox’s vegetarian and vegan takeaway fare appealing right away. They’re located in the West End, on Davie Street. If you’re driving, I recommend pulling into the parking lot of the Shoppers Drug Mart that’s a block or so past the stretch of Davie where BeetBox is situated. Parking in that neighbourhood can be a real nightmare otherwise.
If I’d been there to dine in, I could’ve easily spent hours inside. BeetBox is filled with warm lighting, high shelves full of dangling plants, and white walls contrasting with pastel pink wainscotting. I could picture myself sitting at the dark wooden picnic table by the large window up front on a future visit.
Since I was a walk-in, I had to wait a little for my order to be ready. During that time, I remained the only customer in the store. “Bicycle Race” by Queen played while I checked out the pantry corner, where a see-through fridge housed jars of BeetBox’s sauces and pickles, as well as packages of seitan bacon (another vegan product) — all of which were available for purchase.
My order, which was for myself and my parents, consisted of the fried chick-un sandwich, green pea falafel, mushroom bowl, and onion rings. Including tax and tip, the total came to around $45. The big ticket item was the mushroom bowl. At $15, the bowl consisted of rice, fried oyster mushrooms, asparagus, peas, and baby kale, dressed with buddha sauce. While I was impressed with the crackling-like texture of the fried oyster mushrooms, overall I found the bowl to be underwhelming, especially given the price point.
On the flip side, the smaller items like the fried chick-un sandwich and green pea falafel were excellent. The breaded and fried seitan in the fried chick-un sandwich tasted like its poultry counterpart. To my surprise, I didn’t mind the spicy pickled cucumbers inside the sandwich, possibly because of the additions of miso “aioli” and shredded iceberg lettuce.
Despite my mind being blown by the seitan-masking-as-chicken trick, my favourite item was the falafel. The use of green peas instead of the usual chickpeas was innovative and fun; I’d never seen it done before and the colour on the inside legitimately made me feel happier while I was eating. I liked how the tahini dressing added creaminess, the preserved meyer lemon provided bright bursts of flavour, and the pickled vegetables added varying textures to the dish. Plus, you can never go wrong with pita bread.
Although I was able to handle some small slices of spicy pickled cucumbers, the chipotle “aioli” and curry salt on the onion rings was another story. After eating one, I was reaching for a glass of milk! The rest went to my parents, who did not find the onion rings spicy at all.
I think the best way to enjoy BeetBox at the moment is if you plan an experience around it; go for lunch, order something you can easily carry — like the fried chick-un sandwich or green pea falafel — and then head to nearby English Bay. I never envisioned myself dreaming of a picnic by the beach with vegan food before, but that’s what great food experiences will do to you; they’ll open you up to more possibilities.