When chef Will Johnston started crafting the menu at Strongwater Food and Spirits, he promised to keep vegetarians front of mind. What stands out at this new restaurant in the 400 West Rich building in Franklinton is that Johnston’s not simply subbing in some tofu in meat-based dishes. He’s conceptualized dishes to be vegan and vegetarian.
There are sliders made with quinoa, meatloaf crafted from eggplant and a vegan Rueben made with seitan. But the standout comes in the form of two seemingly simple tacos on the small plates portion of the menu. The vegan Jackfruit Tacos ($6.50) are, hands down, one of the best things I have eaten this year. Jackfruit is not something often seen on menus around town, which is too bad. The fleshy part of the fruit is rather meaty, its texture resembling pulled chicken. And that’s exactly what the jackfruit in these tacos looks and feels like, but with a sweeter, more fruit-like flavor (akin to pineapple or mango). It plays nicely with the accompaniments— sriracha slaw and chimichurri rojo. The spice level sits right on the cusp of mild and medium—so it’ll satisfy those who want a little heat, and those who don’t want too much.
If this dish is an indicator of things to come, I’m looking forward to seeing what else comes out of the kitchen at Strongwater.
Of course, the meat options are great here, too. I loved the Chorizo & Pear ($9) sandwich that doesn’t look like much—it’s fairly thin with spicy ground chorizo and slivers of bosc pears—but it hits on all the sweet, salty and spicy notes desired in a great grilled cheese. Mild Swiss is a nice choice and the thyme honey that seems to coat every piece of the sandwich is addicting.