I guess this is my weekend of vegetarian/vegan restaurants (see my previous review of Café Manna). Ste Martaen is a family business based in Chicago that makes their own variety of nut-based vegan cheeses. In addition, they have a food truck featuring vegan lunch items, many of which showcase their cheese products. Today they made a trip to Milwaukee, and briefly stopped outside Whole Foods among other locations in the city. Although they were behind schedule, they regularly updated their Facebook and Twitter with each stop, so it was very easy and convenient to walk the few blocks to Prospect and North just in time to grab a couple hot sandwiches.
The food truck was really more of a food trailer than a traditional food truck (and don’t look for it to say “Ste Martaen” on it anywhere…that confused us at first), with the menu and prices handwritten on the inside of one of the doors, with items wiped off as they sold out. The sandwiches were pre-made, wrapped in foil, hot and ready to go.
I got the Chicago Cheesesteak ($10), made with seitan and Ste Martaen three cheese sauce. The sandwich looked a mess, but was truly delicious. The seitan was wonderful, juicy and peppery and flavorful, and seemed to have been grilled or seared before being sliced into strips. Honestly, it was some of the best seitan I’ve had anywhere. The cheese sauce was pretty darn good for a dairy-free vegan cheese, although I wouldn’t necessarily call it saucy. It wasn’t completely melted, but was soft, and had a mild flavor somewhere between American and cheddar cheese. Certainly not a replacement for the real thing, but it filled the role in the sandwich nicely. (Disclaimer: I am not vegan, and I love cheese more than most things in life.) The sandwich was missing the promised grilled pablano peppers and onions, which was disappointing, but other than that, it really was delicious. (And truly mammoth, as advertised.)
Steph opted to get the BBQ Chik’n Pita ($7). This was made with vegan soy protein “chicken” and topped with shredded Ste Martaen cheese. The chik’n was, like the seitan, wonderful. It was slightly crispy on the outside, and as Steph pointed out, the sweet and tangy barbeque sauce permeated perfectly throughout. This was not simply tossed in the sauce, it had clearly been cooked in it, making a moist and flavorful protein. As for the quality of the chicken substitute itself, after twelve years of vegetarianism I consider myself well-versed on the available vegetarian “meat” products on the market, and this is up there with the best of them. It had a nice texture, with the grain that you expect in chicken, with a nice chicken flavor. The cheese here I believe was meant to be cheddar, and was slightly sharper than that on the cheesesteak, and again certainly provided an impressive amount of cheesiness for a product made primarily of nuts. The pita was not nearly as enormous as the cheesesteak, but still made for a nice meal.
Both of these sandwiches were excellent. If you live in the Chicago area, I definitely recommend checking them out, but even if you don’t, they seem to travel around a lot, so give them a follow on Facebook and Twitter and see when they’ll be near you. My only real complaint was the lack of the veggies on my sandwich, but I’m going to give these guys the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was either a fluke, or that they ran out, which can happen to anyone. That said, I have no qualms giving this vegan meal on wheels top marks.