Since last week's Last Supper revolved around the tale of a heartless staff member's meal of decapitated pig head, it's only fair that this week we balance out the karmatic scales with some less-cruel dietary options. Being one of the few people in the office with the leaf-eating dietary purity that comes from being vegan, I was shipped off to review Pirates Tavern, with the specific instructions not to use any more pirate-related puns in this article.
Pirates Tavern is perched deep in an industrial area of town that gets zero foot traffic, vegan or otherwise. With a directionless menu, they seem to be catering to the health-ignorant vegan who craves a meal of French fries, linguini, and chili. The pirate motif brings to mind Judge Reinhold's character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, as he toiled away under a pirate's hat while working at Captain Hook's Fish and Chips.
Things got off to a rough start for our dining party when our appetizer of Dragon Rolls (deep-fried spring rolls) had to be sent back to the kitchen for not being even remotely cooked on the inside. The house salads also missed the mark, assembled with such lack of effort that they appeared to be little more than a casual reminder that if you get through this burden of lettuce, more fried food awaits. While the tofu salad fared a little better—with seasoned tofu and crisp greens—the entire dish was coated in a thick sea of "Booty Sauce." This unfortunately named tofu-based house-sauce is on nearly every dish at Pirates Tavern, and while its taste is sharp enough to warrant occasional use, it really feels out of place when it completely blankets a salad to the point of smothering the life out of each and every leaf of lettuce it touches.
The Booty Sauce parade kept marching on into the entrees, including the mighty Salisbury Stack, with its intimidating heap of potatoes and mock beef—truly a meal that could satisfy a vegan lumberjack, if such a paradoxical career existed. The deep-fried mock chicken of the Shaolin Temple entrée (thankfully Booty Sauce-free) had plenty of flavor in each bite, and was tasty enough to distract from the dish's lack of presentation. The Hickory Burger, on the other hand, was the meal's biggest disappointment. Little more than a reheated Boca Burger slathered with BBQ sauce, this uneventful sandwich failed to demonstrate a competent appreciation of one of the key staples in meatless dining: the fake burger. The fake burger is of paramount importance in a town like Portland, where numerous establishments go out of their way to make unique meatless burger options (i.e., Mash Tun or the LaurelThirst). Hell, even Burgerville's Gardenburger is superior.
If there is some semblance of hope to be found at the Pirate's Tavern, it's the beer. Seldom do the words "cheap," "local," and "organic" describe a restaurant's beer selection—plus, beers here are served in HUGE frosty 24-ounce mugs, making them even more of a value. And while the food at Pirates Tavern didn't live up to the high standards of meat-free dining that this town has grown accustomed to, how upset can you really be at being let down by a pirate-themed vegan restaurant? Let me answer that for you: not at all.