Vegan pork roll? Find it at this new Lake Como restaurant
by Sarah Griesemer, Asbury Park Press
“Did you hear about the new restaurant that opened in Lake Como?” I asked a vegan co-worker, anxious to share the news of a place that, judging from local buzz, was dishing up some truly tasty food. “It was a food truck and now it’s a restaurant.”
He heard, he said, and had seen Alternative Plate’s neon green-lettered truck earlier this month at New Jersey VegFest, a vegan food festival at the Meadowlands in Secaucus. Then he told me something I didn’t quite understand: They are known for their vegan pork roll, egg and cheese sandwiches.
Vegan pork roll? How could that be?
I had to try it.
More: Pork roll and New Jersey: A perfect pair
Before the week was up, I had visited Peter Teevan’s Lake Como restaurant, also called Alternative Plate, to see the space and find out what plant-based pork roll was all about. The self-taught chef, a former Wall Street trader who truly loves being in the kitchen, layered his house-made pork roll (a wheat-based product) with a thick slice of tofu he flavored to taste like scrambled eggs, plant-based sausage and bacon, avocado, tomato and a spicy house-made ketchup on an everything bun that he, of course, made himself.
The sandwich was big and messy, just how I like them. There was so much flavor, and it was delivered in ways that surprised me – which is part of the fun here. The tofu tasted and crumbled like scrambled eggs, the plant-based meats had the flavors and textures of their non-vegan counterparts, and that flavorful ketchup pulled it all together.
It makes sense that this seemingly blasphemous sandwich, devoid of the pork roll New Jerseyans know and love, would taste so good: Although he has been in the food business just a few years, “I was always fascinated by food,” said Teevan, who has been vegan since the mid-90s. And it isn’t enough for him to serve plant-based foods; he wants to make as much of it as he can himself. Especially the meats.
“I’m a plant-based butcher,” said Teevan, who is serious about food and feeding people well but also has fun with it. He makes, from scratch, vegan chicken (he calls it “chikan”) and chorizo, both of which go on pizza; steak, for a steak and cheese dish he is planning; and corned beef for Reubens. He is also working on a plant-based hot dog.
“We’re organic, vegan butchers,” he said. “We’re plant-based food developers, and our specialty is the meats. We’re making it so someone can eat it any day and want to eat it every day.”
From Wall Street to the kitchen
Teevan, who is 58 and lives in Rumson, worked for three decades as a high-tech trader. But as artificial intelligence made its way into the industry, “I became irrelevant as a trader,” he said. “I had to reinvent myself.”
Nearly three years ago, he entered into a contract with Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch to bring a food truck to the property. In August, he opened the restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, in the space previously occupied by Ma’s Italian Deli. Ironically, it once housed a sausage shop.
I tried two other dishes, which were just as surprising and delicious as the pork roll, egg and cheese. The Loaded Mac Attack gets big flavor from a sauce made with cashew cheese, red peppers, miso, vegetable stock, garlic, olive oil and spices; it is tossed with pasta and topped with avocado, cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado ($10). The Buffalo “chickan” pizza is a whole wheat crust crisped at 550 degrees and topped with vegan cheeses, spices, raw sauce, Buffalo sauce, and tofu-based blue cheese that gets its tang from vinegar and lemon ($12).
Other dishes include a gyro with coconut-based tzatziki sauce, a falafel burger with avocado hummus, sausage and peppers, and spinach and artichoke pizza ($10 to $12).
Teevan plans to add desserts – brownies, ice cream, tiramisu, lemon meringue, cream puffs. In the future, he hopes to produce his plant-based meats and pizzas on a large scale. “It’s organic, it’s good, and I have yet to meet someone who said they couldn’t transition using these products,” he said.
“We put a lot of time and effort into making sure they are right,” Teevan said of his recipes. “This is how food should have been in the first place.”
Teevan sees himself, his restaurant and his business as a way to provide more people with access to plant-based foods. “What I care about,” he said, “is that we show you the power of your plate. If I can get you 10 percent or 20 percent of the time, just think about the impact on the planet. (We want) to really show people that you can be a part of changing the world, simply by the foods you put on your plate.”
Alternative Plate is at 1602 Main St. in Lake Como; call 732-552-3319 or visit www.altplate.com.