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Vegan in the ‘Burbs’ – Uli’s in White Rock

Uli’s Restaurant on White Rock Beach may have the best veggie burger I’ve ever tasted. Crispy, savoury, and topped with all the right stuff – this burger will score big points with vegans and meat eaters any day!

The team at Uli’s knows all about scoring points, having already won awards for their classic meat burgers. Fortunately for us, they’ve put equal love into their veggie version. Their tests showed yummier results by using two thinner patties instead of one fat one, so the result is double the crispiness, which greatly enhances the texture…a quality often lacking in an average veggie burger.

Uli’s, a breezy German-style bar and restaurant, has become my favourite destination for ocean view dining in White Rock. The food, atmosphere and just-familiar-enough, but not-over-casual service all help to make it a staple for locals and visitors to White Rock’s beachfront. For the past year, I’ve been talking to owner Tyson Blume about doing a sampling of their famous veggie burger – sans cheese. So on a rare night when the whole Vegan Project crew was in White Rock, we all went down to Uli’s to sample house Chef Ryan Bissel‘s vegan creations.

I’m a bit of a restaurant eavesdropper, so I’ve frequently overheard Chef Ryan speaking to tables about the farms that supply Uli’s high quality food, and the philosophies that inspire their dishes. When he arrived at our table to host us through the evening, we were delighted with his knowledge and passion for straight-up good food, both vegan and traditional.

To start, he served an Heirloom Tomato + Gazpacho Salad accented with compressed watermelon, kale chips and balsamic pearls jellied with agar-agar (amazing!). Usually served with scallops, he re-mixed the dish with sea asparagus, which is found locally. The vinegar and tomato combo is quite acidic, so his addition of compressed watermelon perfectly balanced the dish. It was refreshing, unique, and an intriguing way to inspire our palettes.

Next up was fresh pattypan squash done simply with olive oil and light seasoning. The squash were freshly picked, and the natural, earthy flavours really came through. We loved the simplicity and flavour. Chef responded by saying “If it’s great for flavour, it’s great for us.”

Then came the main feature of the evening: Uli’s Famous Veggie Burger – Vegan Style! (shown at the top)

I usually sub the burger’s mayo with avocado, but Chef Ryan had already prepared a vegan mayonnaise for us that paired perfectly with the existing flavours. He was proud to announce that everything – and he meant everything – is made in house. That’s part of what allows them to be so accommodating to food sensitivities and special diets.

The burgers were delightful. A few of us had the patties on top of a salad (their burger buns contain egg whites) , and I had mine on a gluten-free bun (which also contains egg whites). They do, however, have bread options that are vegan, and would be happy to substitute the bun to your preference. Chef Ryan used flax as a binder instead of cheese, sticking with the double pattie formula, and the result was an outstanding veggie burger free of animal products and packed with flavour.

We finished the evening with a custom dessert: slightly frozen cherries and raspberries tossed in mint-raspberry vincotto with just a touch of sugar. “It’s very fresh,” he warned us, “so don’t be surprised if you hit a pit.”

The risk of crunching a pit was a small price to pay for this delectably fresh finish.

In addition to locally inspired, scrumptious fresh food, Uli’s offers an extensive bar menu with an emphasis on artisan cocktails and great scotch.

If you are going to take a trip to Uli’s, and we strongly recommend you do, give them a heads up if you want to dine exclusively vegan. They’ll be happy to prepare something for you based on what’s fresh and amazing that day.

Uli’s is also an excellent spot to dine with your meat-eating spouse or friends. Mr. Blume’s and Chef Ryan’s standards are incredibly high with regard to ethically sourcing their meat and animal products, so if you are going to eat meat, take some notes from these guys.

Here’s what Chef Ryan had to say about Uli’s food philosophy:

“First and foremost, we are huge believers in getting back to our roots. We want to prepare the highest quality product using as many local producers as possible. We build a sense of community through food, straight from the farms to our customers.

“Diners (especially in Vancouver) are becoming more conscious about the food they eat. Because we have been to many of the farms and seen with our own eyes the practices that are being used by our farmers, we find it easier to educate our guests.

“We strive to find farms that not only meet standards but are trying to work with other farmers and government to change the way that food is grown and accessed. One of the best suppliers that we use is Two Rivers Meats out of North Vancouver. They distribute to small artisan suppliers that probably wouldn’t be able to do it on their own. At the end of the day I just want food to be good again, done the way my grandparents did it, back when organic was just food.

“We have a lot of work and a long road ahead, but if we can get one guest at a time to stop shopping at the Costcos and Walmarts then we will be successful.”

When I messaged Tyson to thank him for the amazing dinner, his response was simple:

“Not a problem. We love the opportunity to stretch our culinary fingers.”

If all restaurants had that attitude, dining out with special requests would be an altogether different experience.

Nice work gentlemen.

~The Vegan Project

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One Response to Vegan in the ‘Burbs’ – Uli’s in White Rock

  1. Lacey says:

    Sitting at Uli’s right now, asked specifically for vegan and gluten free and they gave us gluten buns and told us the veggie burgers are made with cheese. Unimpressed.

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