Barbecue is one of those dishes that's super hard to find made vegan, but Smoke Shack in Milwaukee serves up a delicious BBQ Seitan!
Ryan and I are vegetarians, but we still love seeking out cool vegan eats wherever we go! We've had so many creative vegan dishes and have found some awesome vegan replacements for our favorite meat and seafood dishes. But the one thing that we always wanted and couldn't find was vegan barbecue - until we finally found it at Smoke Shack in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!
Honestly, Smoke Shack was one of my favorite restaurant experiences to date. The first thing that really stuck out was how serious their COVID-19 precautions were. They required masks, obviously, but this was the only restaurant that asked us to please put on our masks when our server approached the table. That's something I'm more than happy to do to help protect the staff considering they're in front of lots of people all day long. They also had us fill out a contact tracing form which was another first!
The restaurant itself was so nice too - it's pretty simple in terms of decor, but it's pleasant and clean. You really get that smoke shack vibe with all of the planked wood. At each table were a bottle of hand sanitizer and a fun "What's Your Blues Name?" activity. (I'm Tricky Bean Smithy and Ryan is Slim Sauce Young).
Now, for the food. Just so you know, this wasn't a vegan barbecue restaurant - it was a barbecue restaurant with two vegan options. But still! Like I said earlier, we've been on the lookout for vegan barbecue for a while now and it's amazing that this restaurant is even offering a vegan option! But, we'll get to get in a minute. First, I need to talk about our appetizer.
The. Most. Amazing. Fried. Green. Tomatoes. EVER. I love fried green tomatoes and these hit the spot. They were so crispy, thin (thin is the key), had such a tasty golden batter, and were served with a delishhhh chipotle aioli. Seriously, so good.
Now for our vegan barbecue entrees! The two options were a BBQ Seitan Plate and a BBQ Seitan Naked Sandwich, so of course, we got one of each. For those who don't know, seitan is a popular vegan meat substitute made primarily from wheat gluten. At its core, seitan is pretty plain, so it's easy to mimic different styles and flavors of all kinds of meats just by adding ingredients, spices, and sauces to it.
Each entree came with one side and pickles, and the BBQ Seitan Plate came with cornbread too! It was honestly difficult to choose just two sides between us (but then again, we could have chosen more) because they were all classic Southern sides that looked so good. We ended up choosing the Pimento Mac and Cheese and Coleslaw and oooh man was that mac and cheese good. That pimento gave it such a nice kick. All seven of Smoke Shack's sides are vegetarian, but I'm not sure which (if any) are vegan.
Our entrees themselves were great! Each of them came topped with arugula and red onion and the seitan had an awesome classic barbecue flavor. It was slightly disappointing that the seitan was crumbled instead of sliced brisket-style, but the flavor was good and that's all that really matters. If we're coming to a barbecue restaurant expecting anything that isn't meat, we can't complain about the really delicious vegan option they do have. I'm just really over-analyzing here.
Just as a heads up if you're planning on getting both vegan entrees, the only difference between the BBQ Seitan Plate and the BBQ Seitan Naked Sandwich was that the sandwich came with a bun! (And the plate came with some cornbread).
We were having such a good time that we ended up ordering TWO drinks each. (When we splurge like that, you KNOW it's good). I love a good Moscow Mule so I went for the Texas Mule, made with grapefruit-flavored vodka instead of plain vodka. Naturally, it was delicious.
I'm obsessed with Smoke Shack not only for their vegan barbecue options but because all of their food is top-notch, high-quality, and full of those Southern flavors we all know and love. And if I'm ever in Milwaukee again, we'll definitely be paying them another visit.
Check them out online here: smoke-shack.com
Or visit them in person at 332 N Milwaukee Street, Milwaukee, WI 53202