Saint John pop-up restaurant brings vegetarian menu to the city

The Saint John Ale House, there is an entire section of the restaurant and a separate menu dedicated just to vegans and vegetarians this weekend.

Keith's Kitchen: a Vegetarian Voyage is a pop-up vegetarian restaurant located in the Ale House's Oh room

Chef Keith Broome is the man behind a pop-up restaurant for vegans and vegetarians in the port city. (Jeri Knopp)

Vegans and vegetarians in Saint John are used to having one or two choices to pick from, if they're lucky, when they go out to eat.

However, this weekend at the Saint John Ale House, there is an entire section of the restaurant, and a whole separate menu, dedicated just to them.

Keith's Kitchen: a Vegetarian Voyage is a pop-up vegetarian restaurant located in the Ale House's Oh room.

The restaurant features a completely vegetarian (and largely vegan) menu curated by Executive Sous Chef Keith Broome.

As a longtime vegetarian, Broome says he knows the difficulty in finding good vegetarian food well.

"About 20 years ago, the vegetarian options weren't very good at all, so I was kind of on my own," he said.

"Even going to the grocery stores and whatnot, there wasn't a lot of options except for vegetables, but now things have come a long ways. There are lots more options now; not so many in Saint John, but hopefully we can change that," Broome said.

The menu includes a number of the Ale House's past menu items, including polenta fries and grilled zucchini, as well as many of Broome's own creations, such as sweet and sour "chicken" balls, and Broome's favourite dish, the vegan mac and "cheese."

"The cheese for the mac and cheese is cashew based," Broome said. "There's some cider vinegar in there to help balance it out, there's some nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy flavour, and when you cook it up, it gets kind of thick and cheesy."

Pop-ups more popular

The pop-up restaurant trend isn't entirely new, having come into vogue in the late 2000s. It caught on early in larger cities because it offered young, up-and-coming chefs the chance to try out some of their own recipes on the general public, without having the prohibitive expenses of opening their own stores. 

We thought it was sort of an excellent idea to sort of let [Broome] run wild.- Jesse Vergen, executive chef at the Ale House

Since then, it's slowly moved into smaller cities and broadened in scope.

Now, restaurants such as the Ale House are allowing some of their chefs the creativity and authority to have a little fun in the kitchen.

"We thought it was sort of an excellent idea to sort of let [Broome] run wild," said Jesse Vergen, executive chef at the Ale House. "To just give all the creative reins over to him, and let him do something that he wants to do, and showcase the awesome talent that he is."

They've been open for one night out of three so far and they say they've had a fantastic reaction from the community.

According to Vergen, most of the seats have been taken up by Saint John's vegans and vegetarians, but a number of omnivores have booked tables to try something new as well.

Vergen hopes that the response bodes well for future pop-up restaurants, at the Ale House, as well as at other restaurants around the city.


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