if you’re a milwaukee vegan, you’ve certainly been clutching your pearls with the rest of us, wondering and worrying about the big overhaul at palomino. they closed for about six weeks earlier this spring/summer, with promises of an all-new menu that would still be vegan-friendly, but i know there were a lot of nervous nellies out there (me included!) during the long wait. i kept an eye on their facebook and instagram, watching for clues, and the early ones were a little scary… lots of old favorites appeared to be missing from the menu. and then they reopened, and early reviews were a little grim: no more sides included with entrees, many standard vegan menu items totally vanished, and fair-to-disappointing reviews of the new food. i was almost scared to go check it out myself! thankfully, my curiosity won out, and we headed over for an early dinner on the 4th of july. the weather was gorgeous, so we even got to sit on the (non-smoking, woo!) patio. score!
okay, so: the menu is definitely different. there are fewer items, and the vegan stuff is just marked with a little (v) to denote the availability of a vegan version for a regular item. there are still several options to choose from, but if you go in expecting the old menu, you’ll be disappointed. luckily we had already wiped that idea from our minds, so we were able to think about it as a clean slate (-ish). we decided to focus on the new entrees and sides, so this time around, we skipped the elephant in the room (the totally-different, not-toffalo-wings-anymore, vegan wings). we’ll do the wings on a repeat visit and i’ll let you know how that goes. meanwhile, here’s what we ordered, and here’s what we thought.
i was feeling super indecisive (and greedy) and erik was feeling pretty tolerant of my annoying behavior, so we just ordered two entrees and two sides and split everything down the middle. first up: the new po-boy (it’s not called a faux boy anymore), which is black-eyed pea falafel served with a really great cabbage slaw and a remoulade.
i have to say, i LOVED this sandwich, and so did erik. the black-eyed pea falafel was different and really tasty, and the slaw and remoulade were super flavorful. i would absolutely order this again, and i already feel like it’s my new favorite. yay!
next up, the vegan burger, also known as the #5:
this is a house-made patty made with pecans, walnuts, and rice. it’s served witih lettuce & tomato, and a side of the vegan pinky horseradish sauce (same as before, and still zippy!). the burger was maybe a little on the dry side, but i’ll take that over a homemade patty that falls apart if you look at it sideways, so i’m not complaining. we both liked this burger as well, but we agreed that we preferred the po-boy in our little matchup.
next, the sides! i have to admit, i was pretty whiny and sad when i learned that sides were no longer included, and i was relatively heartbroken when i learned that they 86’ed the sweet potato tots (RIP, little friends). but i tried very hard to keep an open mind, and we sucked it up and ordered two small sides: one of the New! From Scratch! Tots! and one of the New! Handcut! Fries! they are quite different from before, is what i’m getting at.
first off, let me say that the “small” sides are really pretty generous. we both felt like we were getting a good amount of each, even though we were splitting small orders. and second: they were both really tasty! the new fries are very nicely done, crispy and just the right shape & size for my liking. and the new tots! well, i was VERY biased going in, because i loved the deep-fried tots of old, and these are nothing like those… but they’re delicious in their own right. they’re much larger, so the crunch-to-innards ratio is different than you’re used to, but i have to say that the homemade tots won me over. and most importantly, they still have the vegan ranch for dipping! praise be!
you will also notice the horrifying scary awful house dill pickles next to each sandwich. if you’re into that kind of thing, those come free. i am not into that kind of thing. *sad trombone* (i’m sure they’re great, i just hate pickles, yo.)
they have several new desserts on their menu as well, with one vegan option: hand pies! that sounds promising, but they didn’t have any the night we were there (booo) and they didn’t have any the night my friend colleen went, either. so i guess we’ll have to wait on the hand pies review; maybe when we go back to try the new vegan wings.
all in all, we were really pleasantly surprised. we left without being uncomfortably full (for once, ha!) and yet we totally felt like we got enough to eat. we’ll definitely keep palomino in our regular rotation, and move forward with our new favorites.