(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Vegan Americana has been making waves, from the new Impossible Whoppers at Burger King to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s vegan chicken buckets. But at one popular Clarendon bar, vegan options are a longtime specialty receiving a new focus.
Galaxy Hut is a small, dimly lit bar at 2711 Wilson Blvd with regulars huddled around tables with built-in arcade games or in the outdoor brick alleyway. The bar has a long history in the local punk rock scene, opening in 1990 in the nascent era of the Clarendon bar scene. It’s strictly for the over-21 crowd, opening at 5 p.m. every day and closing at 2 a.m.
The bar also has a Smithsonian-worthy collection of VHS tapes playing on a regular cycle. Last night (Wednesday), it was Pulp Fiction.
In early August, the Galaxy Hut adjusted its menu with a masthead noting — as it has since 2017 — that every item on the menu can be made vegan. This is not a small menu either. Sandwiches like the Reuben or meatball sub can all be swapped out with vegan imitation ingredients. Others, like the “big mock” — a vegan burger with pickles, onion, Russian dressing and non-dairy cheddar — are implicitly designed as vegan entrees.
Each of these items can be paired with tater tots or eggplant fries, which manager Joe Baker swears by. All of the condiments on the menu are made in-house, according to Baker, so traditionally egg or dairy-based aiolis or ranch are swapped with vegan ingredients.
“We used to carry honey mustard, but people pointed out that’s not vegan so now we use sweet mustard,” Baker said. “We listen to our customers and adjust. Personally, I’ve stopped saying ‘do you want normal cheese’ and switched to ‘do you want dairy-cheese.'”
The vegan menu was not a sudden change but a gradual evolution, according to Baker. Galaxy Hut’s owners are vegan and the bar has been making adjustments over time to cater towards the establishment’s “pretty consistent vegan crowd.”
“We’ve had a significant vegetarian customer base for a long time,” said Lary and Erica Hoffman, the owners, in a joint email to ARLnow. “Galaxy Hut went entirely vegetarian for 9 months in 2012, but decided to add meat options back to the menu due to customer demand.”
The veggie focus event landed Galaxy Hut as the Virginia standout on a “50 States of Vegetarian Food” list compiled on the Food Network website.
A handful of the beers also have non-vegan ingredients, but Baker said all of the bartenders know the taps well enough to let those ordering vegan food items know which of the beers to avoid.
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