Each time I visit Los Angeles or New York I find myself green with envy over the number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. While Boston has some veg-centric standouts - Veggie Galaxy, Red Lentil, Wild Rice Cafe - we simply don't have the vast selection of those larger cities.
Last month, vegan franchise By Chloe opened its doors in Boston at 107 Seaport Blvd. The restaurant has three locations in New York and one in Los Angeles. This is their first outpost in Boston (with a second to follow in April by Fenway).
By Chloe is tucked away on the side of a building and thanks to a neighboring construction site, it is easy to miss. Once you've found the Starbucks on the ground floor of the PWC building, hook a right.
In By Chloe's front window there are two swings that feel like they should be on the porch of a vacation home in a tropical location. While their current view is of a construction site, in the warmer months By Chloe hopes to add an outdoor patio.
On the night we went it was windy and freezing outside, so the restaurant's bright interior was a welcomed changed of scenery.
In the center of the space is a long, communal table decorated with potted lavender.
Beyond the group table is the counter where you place your order.
We snagged a spot against the right wall, which had a cozy, coffee shop vibe to it.
As I walked to grab us utensils, I noticed pages of coloring book paper and a bucket of crayons. Don't mind if I do!
I was dining with a friend and we agreed to share several dishes so we could try as many menu items as possible. Our first two selections were the kale artichoke dip (on the right) and the quinoa taco salad (left).
The kale artichoke dip was served warm and topped with almond parmesan cheese. We were given a wax paper bag stuffed to the brim with yellow corn chips for scooping. I wanted to like this dip, but I just didn't. It was way too much artichoke for me and I really missed the consistency and creaminess of cream cheese (which is how I make my spinach and artichoke dip at home).
Though the dip was a bust, the quinoa taco salad was a home run. This dish was incredible. Not only is it a super generous portion (more than enough for two people), but it is packed with fresh veggies (black beans, corn, avocado, tomato). The salad is topped with crispy tortilla strips, crema and agave-lime vinaigrette. What surprised me the most was the spicy seitan chorizo, which is seasoned and cooked to taste exactly like ground beef. I am not the kind of vegetarian who seeks out food that looks and tastes like meat (I gave it up for a reason) but let me tell you, I wanted more of that seitan chorizo! It really made me miss classic, ground beef tacos.
Next we shared the pesto meatball sandwich. I was very excited to try this since I had a killer veggie meatball sub at The Meatball Shop in New York City.
The By Chloe version is portobello mushroom and veggie "meatballs," marinara sauce, sweet peppers, basil pesto, cashew mozzarella cheese and almond parmesan cheese on a potato sub roll.
My first reaction was that the dish didn't taste like pesto at all. There was a squeeze of basil pesto over the top, but the dish tasted predominantly like marinara sauce. I also found the potato roll very dry. I wouldn't order this again.
Our final savory dish was by far my favorite of the night, the mac and cheese. Each pasta shell is coated in sweet potato-cashew cheese and the bowl is topped with shiitake mushroom "bacon."
My dinner date had one bite and proclaimed, "This is almost better than the real thing, and I am a serious mac and cheese lover." I have to agree, the vegan cheese tasted just as creamy and rich as dairy cheese. I was also obsessed with the smoky flavor of the "bacon." I would come back just to eat this again.
By Chloe is well known for their desserts. After all, Chef Chloe Coscarelli won Food Network's Cupcake Wars in 2010 with a vegan cupcake recipe. Obviously we had to try at least one.
After scrutinizing every option in the display case, we went with the raspberry tiramisu cupcake. The cashier grinned, "That one is my favorite!" She handed us our selection in the most adorable to-go box.
We cut the cupcake in half and my first bite was just the cake. I said, "This tastes more like a breakfast pastry to me, almost like a banana bread."
Then I had a second bite (with frosting) and the coffee flavor in the frosting won me over.
By Chloe also makes their own vegan ice cream, which you can buy in an individual size, a pint or as a pushup pop. I am a sucker for cute packaging, so we ordered a pushup pop. We went with the chocolate chocolate - a chocolate ice cream sandwiched between two pieces of Hostess vegan cupcake.
I would have been giddy just to have a pushup pop (they remind me of childhood), but a pop with cupcake pieces? This is serious business.
Because the ice cream base is coconut, the chocolate flavor tasted like Almond Joy (which I love). The pieces of cupcake were so decadent and I couldn't believe I was even eating such a thing! The pushup pops are tightly wrapped and super portable, so you could easily take them down to the waterfront and enjoy your frozen treat while overlooking Boston Harbor.
In addition to all the incredible vegan human food, By Chloe also caters to pups. You can purchase bone-shaped peanut butter treats or a "pupcake" for your furry friend.
I am ecstatic that By Chloe has arrived in Boston. I can't wait to order both the quinoa taco salad and the mac and cheese again, plus continue to sample all of the other pushup pop flavors. It's a good thing this restaurant is outside of my usual route, otherwise I would be there every night!