A few years ago I started going to the Hard Rock Cafe in Faneuil Hall to see some of my favorite local bands perform. Now I know what you are thinking, isn't that place a tourist trap? I used to feel that way too until I started visiting regularly. Not only is it a great place to see live music (you can stand as close to the stage as you can push), but Hard Rock has a pretty killer food menu. You may remember I went to a pizza party there in April.
Every few weeks Hard Rock rotates what they called the LTO menu (limited time offering) and the current promotion is their first ever, totally meatless menu! You can imagine how thrilled I was to learn the October and November special was completely veg.
Earlier this week I dropped by with a friend to sample the vegetarian offerings.
Hard Rock knows that it's true what they say, we eat with our eyes, which is why there is a photo of each and every item on the new meatless menu. Let me tell you, once you see what's available, you'll want all six dishes.
We had an awesome waitress, Cara, who came over and offered to begin our meal with the two signature drinks on the meatless menu. The first is called the very veggie tini. It's fresh cucumber, red onion, mint and lime juice, shaken with Greek yogurt and Tito's vodka.
I wanted to like this, but it tasted like the dip that is served on supermarket crudite platters, mixed with vodka. I took one sip, winced and pushed the drink aside.
The second drink special is called the wascally wabbit (you have to say it in the Looney Tunes voice). It is alcohol free and is a mix of carrot juice (hence the bright orange color), apple juice, orange juice, ginger and Orgeat.
I'm not a big juice drinker or into juice cleanses, but I really, really liked this. With every sip you felt as if you were getting healthier and stronger.
While sipping on our juice we placed an order for two appetizers and two entrees, with the intention of sharing everything. Cara brought us some side plates and napkins, topped with a small card that said, "I'm with the band." It was a promo for their shop, but I still loved it.
Speaking of bands, Hard Rock plays music in their dining room and whatever song is being played, that video also runs on all the TVs in the bar. Cara asked if we'd like to pick a song or two (commence freak out!) and naturally I picked Michael Jackson, followed by Madonna. When "Smooth Criminal" came on I was so excited I squealed.
With MJ blaring, our first dish arrived, the cauliflower wings. If you've been reading Pop.Bop.Shop. for a while, you already know I am a huge fan of buffalo sauce. I couldn't wait to taste these.
The cauliflower was hearty, making these pieces more satisfying than I was expecting. Each floret was bathed in buffalo sauce and had a great heat to it. Of course we dunked each and every piece into the bleu cheese dressing.
Next we tried the pico de quinoa arugula salad. Normally when I order any type of quinoa salad or bowl, I find myself hungry again three hours later. Because this dish was topped with a very generous portion of brussel sprouts, I actually felt quite full.
In addition to the sprouts, the quinoa and arugula is also mixed in with pico de gallo, spicy pecans, feta cheese, craisins, cilantro and lime juice.
This salad is a perfect lunchtime option.
Another great lunch choice is the grilled ratatouille wrap. It's grilled eggplant, corn, red peppers, baby arugula and sriracha mayo in a grilled flour tortilla.
The fact that the wrap is grilled gives the tortilla an extra tasty crunch. I loved the seasoning on the tortilla too.
The wrap comes with a side salad, but you can substitute French fries, which we did, obviously.
Now, I have the saved the best for the last. The most incredible dish on the meatless menu is hands down the cauliflower burger. Most veggie burgers fall in one of three categories - frozen (gross), black bean (which can have a really strong flavor) or chickpea (which can be too moist and fall apart). I have never had a cauliflower burger before and I didn't know what I was missing!
Hard Rock makes the cauliflower patty in-house. It's a mixture of cauliflower, garlic, egg, goat cheese, oregano and breadcrumbs. Once it's packed, the patty goes in the oven and then it's fried for three to four minutes until it turns golden brown. That final dip in the fryer gives it a crispy exterior that tastes great beneath the melted cheese.
The burger consists of the patty, monterey jack cheese, zucchini squash, arugula, tomato and a garlic aioli.
That garlic aioli is everything. I wish I had a jar of it to take home and spread on every sandwich, burger and piece of toast.
I was really in love with the cauliflower burger and my carnivore dinner date was too. She said to the manager, "This has as much heartiness and flavor as a turkey burger. I eat meat and I would still order this over a real burger."
At this point we were pretty full, but when Cara asked if we liked to see the dessert menu, we felt we had to at least look. There were so many decadent choices but we were both eyeing the Oreo cheesecake. Cara could sense that we were wavering, so she offered to box up a piece for each of us.
I love Oreos and I love cheesecake, so you really can't go wrong with this combination. The best part of this dessert was the Oreo cookie crust. It tasted like having four or five crushed up Oreos on the bottom of every bite. My only wish was that they laid off the sacchrine Hershey syrup, which was unnecessary here.
The Hard Rock Cafe meatless menu will be available until Sunday, November 13, 2016. Hurry in to make sure you get to taste the cauliflower burger. You will thank me.
Looking ahead, on Monday, November 14, the vegetarian specials will be retired and replaced with a new burger special and six new cocktails. The burger is called the Heineken Brisket Burger and it's a half-pound of certified angus beef topped with Heineken- braised brisket, caramelized BBQ onions, garlic aioli and Gouda cheese. The cocktail list has a wide range of creations including a bourbon milk punch and a pineapple sage 'rita.
The next time you are in Faneuil Hall, consider resting your feet and having a bite at Hard Rock.
*This post is sponsored by Hard Rock Cafe. As always, all opinions are 100 percent my own.