The sign at the bar says "Vegan But Fun" at Bar Vegan, the latest offering from Pinky Cole of Slutty Vegan fame. Pinky had a vision that plant-based proteins not only could replace meat but could be unequivocally delicious, have loads of attitude, and be fun to eat. Her "fast food" Slutty Vegan restaurants and food truck draw wrap-around-the-block lines for a reason: the food, whether or not you are a vegan, is amazing.
Now she opens her first sit-down concept, Bar Vegan, which inhabits the former Mercury restaurant space on the second floor of the Ponce City Market food hall. Bar Vegan sort of has you at hello—the design is crazy/sexy/cool, with rich textures and neon light sprinkled with some light graffiti. The music plays loud and infectious and the staff all beam with enthusiasm.
The menu is a joint venture with another local chef Derrick Hayes of Big Dave's Cheesesteaks. Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, cheesesteak egg rolls, cheesesteak quesadillas…all absolutely decadent, delicious and true to the traditional versions…but not a molecule of meat. I even sat there focusing as hard as I could to have my brain and palate tell the difference…but I couldn't. It was too darn tasty. Right now, the menu is limited but soon will be offering cauliflower wings (yes, faux-chicken wings sourced by cauliflower) salads and more.
And with "Bar" being the first word of the operation, the libations—yes, all drinks also qualify as vegan-only—are the other stars of the show. The aim is "bar theater" with "experience cocktails" made tableside like The Foreign Fruit Punch comes an "Active Smokey Volcano." Other offerings come in a fire extinguisher, gas can, ferris wheel or bank safe, complete with musical sound bites. For teetotalers, the "Shaken Not Slurred'' mocktail menu will be your thing.
Like everything Pinky has touched, this is a great story and you can just feel her creative, unstoppable energy behind every detail. During the day you can also grab the food (there's actually a take-out counter called Dinkies) and walk to the Beltline for your feast. Either way, whether you are a practicing vegan or not, you should enjoy the flavors and passion of Bar Vegan.