Do you find it odd that a restaurant that bills itself as “100% Plant Based” would have artificial turf out front?
Maybe I should have taken that as an omen and fled from Plantees, a new fast fooder with a limited menu of meat-free items in the Mills 50 District.
Now before the die-hard vegans get poised to tap out a poison-pixel letter let me assure you this is not an anti-vegan review. In fact, I would love to introduce more plant-based foods into my diet. Obviously, someone in my profession can’t entirely eliminate animal products from his diet and still present a wide variety of restaurants for your consideration.
But on my nights off, those evenings when I don’t have to go to a restaurant, I’ve been striving to be more meatless (meatlesser?).
I was hoping to find the food at Plantees to be so good that it could offer a vegetarian option if I didn’t feel like cooking. I did not.
Let’s start with the burger, which is intended to be the star of this show (even though it’s a small cast to begin with). According to the menu board, the burger is made with an Impossible brand patty. Impossible makes a good product, but it would be more noble for a restaurant to produce its own plant-based burger. I found this to be tantamount to opening a pizzeria and bragging that you use Boboli crusts.
There is only one style of burger but you may order a single for $10 or a double for $14. I went for the double and found the patties to be impossibly small, just slightly larger than your standard slider. It had cheese/not cheese, grilled onions, leafy lettuce, tomato and pickle slices. It looked quite pretty. It just wasn’t filling, and at 14 bucks ridiculously overpriced. (I know the price of meat has skyrocketed but, just as a reminder, this isn’t meat.)
I also got an order of the items simply called nuggets. From what they have been nuggeted is unclear but we know it would be from a plant source. Cardboard is made from plants. These were small disks, silver dollar-sized and not much thicker. On the outside was some sort of breading, and the inside had...more breading? Whatever it was had the texture of dense dough, and they were utterly flavorless. And at $9.50 for eight (about $1.18 each) extortionately priced.
(I heard the man taking orders tell another customer that they had just gotten the nuggets in, which tells me they, too, are probably a prefab product, so shame on the company that prefabbed them. Also, the clerk was responding to the customer’s surprise at seeing the nuggets on the menu, indicating he was probably a regular here, which made me feel sad for him.)
The nuggets tied for the title of least appealing menu item with the “Plant Style” fries, an $8 stack of thin fries topped with cheese/not cheese, onions and something called plant sauce. An oil refinery is a kind of plant. It was a gloppy mess, and not in a good way. They were quite inedible.
None of the issues here seem to stem from some of the challenges restaurants currently are facing. Staffing did not seem to be a problem, and it was nice that the fellow who took my order brought it to me where I was sitting near the artificial turf watching Mills Avenue traffic flow by. And it's a pleasant enough place with an open-air feel with tables on a covered patio and bean-bag chairs on the turf.
We need more restaurants offering meat-free menus. Whether for health, humanitarian or environmental reasons, more people are looking for a place to have a good plant-based meal. Plantees, I fear, ain’t it.
Plantees is at 1030 N. Mills Ave., Orlando (map). It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 321-206-4271.