Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Bed-Stuy for vegan fare.
Toad Style has been open for about a year and a half now on Ralph Avenue in deep Bed-Stuy and, with its bodega-style awning, it looks similar to many storefronts around the city. There are two things, however, that make Toad Style different than most:
1. All of the food on the sandwich-and-sides menu is 100% vegan. There's also no soy allowed here, nor palm oil, nor any GMOs. The proprietors will happily dispense of any trace of gluten as well.
2. The decor features an impressive array of memorabilia from old Kung Fu movies, and the name itself refers to the fighting style of a character in the 1978 classic Five Deadly Venoms. A DVD player silently projects such flicks onto a screen pulled down in the back. There's also some Star Wars gear (from the Dark Side only, it seems) and a big, battle-ready dragon overlooking the ordering counter.
Under the faded posters and kitschy mis-en-scène are a handful of small wooden tables with a wobbly, narrow bench providing your vegan-eating ass with a somewhat precarious perch. The music is loud, and while the playlist varies, note that the chefs and owners also play in the punk/noise-metal band Perdition, so it may get into that territory from time to time.
There was a steady stream of take-out and delivery orders when I ate here last week, but the atmosphere at Toad Style is chill and friendly enough to reward dining in. Feel free to BYOB from any number of nearby beer stores.
The vegan fare at Toad Style is basically stoner food, with everything grilled or fried and laden with toppings and sauces. The Cheeseburger, for example, is a wonderful mess, with a surprisingly moist and umami-packed patty of mushroom and lentils slathered in a thick almond "cheese," the lettuce, raw onion, tomato, pickles, and house-made ketchup all doing their job well. Not pulling its weight? The bun, which tastes decent (in a super-healthy way), but is way too dense to hold the slippery insides in place once you take a bite. Expect to reassemble and eat this sucker in an open-faced manner after it all comes spilling out.
Even better (though with the same bun caveat as above) is the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit sandwich, for which the fibrous fruit proves to be a remarkably effective meat substitute. The texture has real heft and chew, and it's not really any sweeter than the more commonly-served pulled pig, especially after being smoked and doused in Toad Style's tangy, spicy sauce. Grilled cabbage and pickles provide welcome crunch and acid to the mix.
If you're really hungry, get the huge boat of Cheese Fries. The thick, crispy potatoes are buried under an alarmingly-caloric amount of hot cashew cheese, and are best eaten with some of the kitchen's hot sauce.
Toad Style brings something new to its Ralph Avenue surroundings, and for vegans in search of a big, fun meal, the food is good enough to warrant a bike ride or a trip on the nearby J train.
Toad Style is located at 93 Ralph Avenue between Putnam and Jefferson, and is open weekdays from noon to 11 p.m., and weekends from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (347-789-1589; toadstylebk.com)