Dining, Driving, and Dealing on the Vegan Food Chain

And where to find the Best Tuna Sandwich (sans tuna)

There are dozens of dedicated spots to find plant-based burgers, milkshakes, and tacos, but local vegans are no strangers to the disappointment of finding out their favorite food truck ran out of dairy-free cheese two days ago and won't have any more in stock until next Tuesday. It all goes back to the complicated chain of food distribution.

Isaac Mogannam, co-owner of PLOW Burger and now PLOW Distribution, knows firsthand that getting quality plant-based foods to the masses is no easy task. Mogan­nam likens vegan food distribution to a cross between gambling and drug dealing: It's equal parts crossing your fingers as you lay money on the table and dealing with unreliable suppliers hawking overpriced goods.

Conventional restaurants (as in not vegan) don't often offer much in the way of vegan condiments like dairy-free cheese and eggless mayo, or meatless substitutes like seitan and tempeh, simply because the big-box distributors don't offer many plant-based choices. And even when they do, those specialty ingredients often aren't available in the small quantities required by the food purveyors. That means long waits for much-needed products, the risk of spoilage from over-ordering, and the threat of standing in line at Whole Foods to stock up on vegan ranch and dairy-free buns at retail prices.

Mogannam figures if plant-based foods were easier for restaurateurs and chefs to get their hands on, they'd likely want to offer more options for the growing vegan community. The key is accessibility. "It needs to be easy for conventional places to get their hands on this stuff and easy for them to execute," he said. "How else are you going to get conventional restaurants to offer it?"

His solution was to become the distributor he'd dreamed of all along. Mogannam started small for his distribution product list, with plant-based mayo, cheese, and bacon because he was already bringing them in for PLOW Burger. Then Bouldin Creek reached out to see if he could help them get their hands on a few items, and that parlayed into a growing client list and even more plant-based products. Not only does he help restaurants order those specialty ingredients, he explains their market value, demonstrates how to cook and prep the ingredients, and offers advice on designing new plant-based menu items. Mogannam also hopes to show wholesale customers how they can increase sales by appealing to an additional, and rapidly growing, dining demographic.

Currently PLOW offers items such as boxed water, vegan drumsticks, shrimp, caviar, and fish-free sushi at storefronts like Rabbit Food Grocery and Thai Vegan in San Antonio. They've also perfected the tunaless salad that even many omnivores have been raving about. Aptly named, the Best Vegan Tuna Sandwich is currently available at Rabbit Food Grocery, the Bee Grocery, Buzz Mill, and the Flag Store at 45th and Duval.

Mogannam doesn't just want to be a plant-based food distributor, he wants to be a specialty plant-based food distributor, offering surprising items that are hard to find. He's applying the same principle to the distribution company as he does to the food trailer: "Good food should just be good food. If it happens to come from plants, that's even better."

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