The Beer Plant
A vegan gastropub finds success in a cursed location
by Karen O. Spezia
Photographs by Mica McCook
Sarah and Ray McMackin must be magical wizards. They took a chronically jinxed restaurant space and turned it into a bona fide success. Even more amazing, it’s vegan. The Beer Plant is their miraculous creation. With a 100% plant-based menu and over 40 beers on tap, their popular gastropub has been packing them in since its September opening.
For two decades, its Tarrytown location suffered from constant turnover (perhaps due to its landlord’s morally-imposed restrictions, but that’s a whole other story…). Restaurant after restaurant tried and failed. So when The Beer Plant opened last fall, Tarrytown neighbors waited for its inevitable collapse. But something unusual happened: it didn’t. Almost immediately, the crowds arrived. And a year later, they’re still there.
And it’s not just vegans swarming The Beer Plant. It’s also beer lovers and non-vegans; a surprising cross-section of nearby neighbors and folks from across town who’ve found their way to this quiet corner of Tarrytown. It took the McMackins almost two years to transform the space from yet another defunct coffee shop into a rustically hip destination.
The vegan menu is a creative spin around the globe with influences from Mexico, Asia, and Europe. But the signature dish is all-American: Buffalo Cauliflower Wings, a delicious riff on America’s favorite bar grub. Tender cauliflower florets are fried in a spicy tempura batter and served with the classic accompaniments. They’re so addictively tasty that I prefer them to the chicken variety. The Ploughman’s Plate is another yummy starter, piled high with home-baked bread and a variety of vegan cheeses, spreads, and pickled veggies. Nachos are topped with oozing queso and savory quinoa chorizo and the skillet of Mac-n-Cheese is bathed in creamy cashew cheese sauce. Of course, there are veggies like roasted shishito peppers, jewel yams, green beans, and broccoli, served with a choice of dipping sauces.
Entrees include the Blacksmith Burger, a savory vegan patty topped with caramelized onions and cashew cheddar. The Vietnamese Bánh Fire sandwich is stuffed with zingy crisp tofu and aromatic veggies on a baguette dressed with sriracha mayo. Fish & Chips are reinvented with beer-battered hearts of palm and Pad Thai is made with raw kelp noodles. Weekend brunch features tempting options like Chik’n & Waffles made with chicken-fried seitan and a decadent crepe wrapped around caramelized bananas, candied pecans, and whipped coconut cream. Toasted bagels are smeared with almond cream cheese and cured smoked carrots are dead-ringers for salmon lox.
But as the name implies, The Beer Plant is as much a bar as a restaurant. Its rotating 40-tap selection is a draw for craft beer aficionados, featuring some unusual brews rarely found on draft elsewhere. Cocktails are given great attention, too, and there are some very reasonably priced wines. While The Beer Plant is a resounding success, it’s ain’t perfect. The dining room can be painfully loud and the service can be annoyingly inconsistent. But that’s a small price to pay for a tenant that has finally filled this cursed space with great energy, food, and drink. The McMackins have banished the ghosts and cast a magical spell.
Read more from the Makers Issue | August 2017