When the Alamo Drafthouse made drastic changes to its iconic menu last spring, the fallout was swift and severe.
Among the most vocal criticisms leveled against the cinema-cum-restaurant was that the extreme edits left vegetarians and vegans with very few options remaining (R.I.P. Kick-Ass Tofu Sandwich).
Part of Austin market Chef Trish Eichelberger's mission since then has been to develop a selection of menu items that serve the Alamo's herbivorous clientele while also speaking to the chain's need for scalability and consistency across its national market. To that end, she did some internal polling and testing and came up with a few solutions, unveiled Tuesday night at a preview tasting.
Of the four menu items unveiled, two were successful and two could use some work. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
I was completely underwhelmed by the spiced tofu tacos ($9 for 3), which were rather flavorless apart from aggressive spice and a touch of creamy avocado. While tortilla chips lent a nice crunch to the bite, the tragic tortilla encasing the filling was wholly unappetizing.
While I welcome the presence of a vegan dessert on the menu, the otherwise delicious (and quite filling) oatmeal cherry cookies ($6 for 3) were marred by the presence of rancid walnuts. While this isn’t a problem some tighter quality control can’t fix, I would be much more inclined to order these cookies if the cherries were paired with some chunks of vegan dark chocolate instead of nuts.
On the winning side is a refreshing summer starter, a cherry tomato and avocado bruschetta made with basil and lemon vinaigrette. While the $10 price point is a bit galling, diners will receive a generous 8-ounce portion with balsamic-drizzled crostini on the side for dipping/spreading.
My favorite offering from this new menu, though, is the samosas. At $7 for three of these potato-and-pea filled savory pastries, they are the best value and are satisfying, to boot. The accompanying peach-and-mint chutney was a winner, too. I would definitely order these on a future visit, especially since they offer the added benefit of being easy to eat in the dark.
The Drafthouse is batting .500 with these new menu items. But diners should go determine for themselves what’s working and what isn’t; these items are being piloted at the Village location as of today, June 11.
Copyright © 2014 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.