When I look back over 2019 and the food trends of this past year, there are a couple that really stick out. Straws became persona non grata in Vancouver this year, and wow did Beyond Meat get popular! In the non-vegan world, it feels like Fried Chicken was the biggest food trend in VanCity this year. It all started with Juke a couple years back, but people went bonkers for the Down Low Chicken Shack and other fried chicken joints that seem to be popping up all over the city recently.
In the veg world, there tends to be two different types of folks: one has zero interest in “fake meat” and the other is down with it, even if it’s just on an “every once in a while” basis. I mean, let’s face it, veggie or no, eating fried chicken (or fake fried chicken) every day isn’t good for you.
But for vegetarians, it’s about having options. As a vegetarian, I have few choices at many convenience or fast food restaurants. My son loves to go to Jack in the Box whenever we’re in the States, and the veg choices there are almost nil, and the vegan choices are pretty much zero.
Over the past year, many fast-food chains have gotten hip to the veg movement. It’s a win-win. The eatery gets more customers, and the customers are happy because they have more choices.
A&W lead this charge this year by introducing the Beyond Burger (which they immediately sold out of, it was so popular), quickly followed by Tim Hortons and others.
A&W is also at the front of the pack when it comes to vegan chicken, which I think is going to be the next big trend.
I’m excited for it. I’m not the hugest fan of the Beyond Burger. I know it sounds weird, but it’s a little too much like meat for me. My thesis is that these “fake meat” products are actually more of an alternative for meat eaters than they are for vegetarians, but I’m all for it. In general, the less meat we eat the better.
But vegan chicken! Yes please! Bring it.
So, let’s talk about where you can get vegan chicken in Vancouver.
KFC. It’s probably been 10 years or so since I ate at Kentucky Fried Chicken, but when they rolled out a vegetarian chicken burger, I needed to check it out. The weird thing about this sandwich is that it’s basically a secret menu item of one. I can’t find it on the website, and when we went into the store, it wasn’t on the menu. I had to ask for it. Also, please note, it’s fried in the same frier as the chicken, so that may be enough to exclude some of you from trying it. Order it in a wrap, without mayo, and it’s vegan, or just order it regularly if you are vegetarian.
A&W. As of the beginning of this month, A&W launched a plant-based chicken nugget. It comes with your choice of BBQ or Sweet & Sour sauces (pick BBQ, trust me). Again, I’m pretty sure they are fried in the same frier as the meat is, but it seems like that’s par for the course these days…
BeetBox: Juke Fried Chicken opened up this little joint on Davie St, and it’s completely plant-based. The menu is exclusively comfort food; burgers, a Taco-Bell type gordita wrap, onion rings, fries… and yeah, they have salads, too. The salads look great, by the way, but I was there for the deep fried goodness. The Chick-Un Sandwich patty is made of seitan and soy, and comes with a miso-based dressing and lettuce. Also worthy to note this is the most expensive (though you are supporting a local biz, not a big chain) of the three options.
Okay, so now I’m going to weigh in with my opinion.
Of these three, (and it kind of shames me to say this) KFC is my fave. It’s the most authentic and chicken-like. It’s really quite shockingly delicious. I was frankly disappointed at the A&W nuggets. My feeling is, the Beyond Burger was such a big hit for them, they were rushing to get on the meatless train and roll out something different. But there’s nothing great about these nuggets. They remind me of the boring ones you can buy in the grocery store. They were pretty bland and boring, I don’t think I’d order them again. Beetbox was good, but the texture and colour of the burger reminded me more of a falafel than actual chicken. Also the dressing made the lettuce quite soggy, and I like the textural element of a crisp lettuce on my burger.
Okay, over to you. Where have you had vegan chicken in Vancouver? Where am I missing and need to go? And have you tried any of the above vegan chicken? I’d love to hear your thoughts.