Ethical Dining with the Dark Lord at Mark of the Beastro
In talking to my friends and other people invested in delicious food, I sometimes hear that vegan food lacks something, that the absence of animal products leaves a gap. This is not the case at Mark of the Beastro, a trendy spot giving classic diner fare a vegan twist.
The online ordering process at this devil’s diner is simple. In response to the challenges of the current pandemic, they’ve put together a pickup system where, after ordering, you simply call upon arrival and they’ll set your food on a table just inside the building. This truly contact-free approach feels secure in complicated times. Once you’ve picked up your meal, there’s nothing left but to take it home and enjoy.
There is something special about fried food. The homey comfort of crispy but somehow not greasy morsels draws you in and makes you reach for more. At Mark of the Beastro, the Fried Pickles ($4.60) had me sneaking bites from the beginning to the very end of the meal. It was lucky that the portion size was large enough that we never ran out. I wish they sold them in half orders so I could pick some up on my way to pretty much anywhere as a treat for the road.
“It was lucky that the portion size was large enough that we never ran out.”
The flaky and crunchy breading coating the thin, tart pickles made me think of late-night snacks when I’m writing or playing video games and need something a little salty for sustenance. They were good all on their own, but the house ranch added a creamy element and an extra layer of dill that kept me dipping them, at least most of the time.
For me, diner food is as much about the experience as it is about how things taste. For wings, the experience is especially visceral, and the wings at Mark of the Beastro (coming in at $1.84 per wing) definitely live up to the expectation. Messy and saucy, the wings even had a skewer down the middle, which added an almost carnal authenticity. The wing itself had a fried exterior that added bite, giving way to the tender soy interior. The wing’s flavor was quite neutral and a little light on salt but took well to the sauce. I chose the Sir Barbalo sauce which was spicy and sweet, thick and sticky. I appreciated the accompanying ranch that brought a creamy balance and tempered the spice. Though I’m not really a sports watcher, these wings made me want to start so I can serve them at a game-watching party someday when parties don’t feel like such a dangerous prospect.
“For me, diner food is as much about the experience as it is about how things taste.”
After the wings, a Grilled Chicken and Roasted Veggies Quesadilla ($8.29) seemed like a good next step. Filled with roasted onions, peppers, mushrooms and spinach, the crispy tortilla felt hearty and filling. The cheese was tender and soft and mixed well with the sauce to help make the quesadilla more cohesive, if a bit messy. The seitan chicken was slightly spongy on its own, but well seasoned. All together, the crispness of the veggies, crunch of the tortilla, slight bounce of the seitan and soft creaminess of the cheese and sauce made an excitingly textural bite. A highlight for me was the yummy chipotle aioli served with the quesadilla. This extra sauce brought spice, tartness and smokiness that completed the dish and made it feel like a meal of its own.
Breakfast foods are diner staples, and I appreciate that at Mark of the Beastro classics like waffles, pancakes and French toast are available a la cart in whatever amount you desire. I chose French Toast ($2.76 per slice), with a cinnamon-y smell that immediately gave me breakfast feelings. The French toast was well battered with nice browning. Although it wasn’t quite as crisp as I hoped, I blame that entirely on the travel time in a steamy container. To maintain a crisp exterior, I recommend eating this dish in the parking lot or on the way home with your hands, dipping it carefully into the sticky, sweet maple syrup.
“Breakfast foods are diner staples, and I appreciate that at Mark of the Beastro classics like waffles, pancakes and French toast are available a la cart.”
If a sweet breakfast isn’t your thing, try the Garbage Hash ($10.13). A
crispy, spicy and pleasantly greasy diner dish, the hash felt homey and comforting. In addition to fried potatoes, the curry-seasoned tofu scramble, spicy and crumbly sausage and onions were served on a bed of greens with salty toast. Earthy mushrooms and sweet pepper bits added dimension to the texture and flavor, but I wouldn’t have minded a little more salt. This hash was the kind of breakfast I would eat before a long day of working or playing outside to stay comfortably fed until dinner time. To be honest, the hash was the very first thing I tried, but it was so good that I saved some and swung back for a couple extra bites after trying everything else.
If you’re looking for diner food that tastes as good as it feels, a trip to Mark of the Beastro may be just what you need. Find them at 666 S State St. from 4–10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. You can also go online to markofthebeastro.com or give them a call at 385-202-7386.