When you go vegetarian, your range of fast food options decreases significantly. You can still eat a bean burrito at Taco Bell, but there is not much else. When you go vegan, fast food and you don’t really get to hang out at all (but you can still get that bean burrito at Taco Bell – yep, it’s vegan without the cheese). For those of us who are not that upset about not having a fast food relationship, but still could go for a drive-thru every now and then, Hillcrest’s vegan fast food spot, Evolution, is on it.
I had a minimum day at school, so I met my dear friend, Tammy, at Evolution for lunch. We both went with burgers and fries, but in totally different ways, and I also snagged a couple desserts to try later. The breakdown: Tammy got the South of the Border burger and regular fries. I got the mushroom swiss burger and sweet potato fries, and on my way out, I grabbed a walnut brownie and cocoa tart to go.
Okay, let’s be frank. The place is crunchy, but it’s clean (although the bathroom leaves a little to be desired), and it’s actually kind of what I want from a place that labels itself as vegan fast food. When I look at Evolution from the street it reminds me of an old gas station or repair shop in appearance. A little weird for a health food joint, so perhaps I should say it has the look and feel of a corner store instead. One of the grandest features about the physical place itself is that there is a parking lot. A free one! And you can stay there as long as you need to – unheard of in the parking nightmare that is 5th Avenue. What you don’t see right off is the outdoor patio area, located within the walls…and under a roof. Wait. It is outdoors, isn’t it? It’s spacious and has tables and booths, leaving plenty of space for patrons to comfortably eat and enjoy themselves.
Once inside, a likely bearded gent with a messy mop will take your order and answer any questions you have about the menu, which has staples, like the burgers, “chicken” tenders, fries, soups, and juices. There are raw preparations of many of the foods for those who prefer it. While there is a regular menu, there are also some items that may change daily, as fresh, local, and different ingredients and items are brought in. On the south side of the small ordering area there are cooler shelves housing a range of all natural beverages, including sodas and teas, as well as a variety of prepared foods, including desserts.
On the onset everything is seeming great – light, airy, and crisp. You feel pretty good just about being there, but if the food is not good, there really is no point, right? So, let’s get into what actually went down when we bit in on that back patio. Tammy ordered black bean-based burger, which is my least favorite way to have a veggie burger. Her thoughts? Good flavor overall, with the guac and salsa, but the burger was dry. Indeed, that is why I don’t like those kind of burgers. I got more of a garden patty, quinoa-based.
I thought the bun was a little more crusty than it should be. The patty itself was not as supple, texturally speaking, as I prefer, but it was helped along by the juice from the tomato and the melted cheese. The flavor took some getting used to – nutty. That said, when I did get used to it, I rather enjoyed it. My patty had melted daiya cheese on it, which does not melt down quite like a dairy cheese, but it is definitely good enough. Eyes-closed, I cannot tell it is not totally melted, but looking at it, I can see some shredded strips still in tact. The mushrooms were not well-seasoned or flavored, but I actually appreciated them in their more pure state. The lettuce was fresh and added that soft crunch to the texture profile of the dish, while the juicy tomatoes brought some needed moisture, as did the vegenaise. The ketchup is house-made and delicious. It’s perfectly sweet and tangy, and it carries its consistency well – neither too watery nor thick. It came out in a little cup for my fries, but I ended up adding some of it to my burger as well, which for me, really helped bring together all the flavors and lend that final bit of moisture I look for in a burger, and which, let’s be honest, is fairly difficult to entirely achieve sans sauces in a vegan burger.
The regular fries here are better than the sweet potato fries. Of course, I am biased because I totally like regular fries better than sweet potato fries anyway, and I only got the sweet potato fries to try them. I tasted Tammy’s fresh cut potato fries, and they were well-seasoned, not greasy, hot, and crispy. I will get those next time. The sweet potato fries are thinly sliced, more like a potato chip. Those who can master the crispy sweet potato fry have accomplished a great feat – one Evolution did not reach this time. I looked at Tammy and said, “You know what these need, right? A dip in the deep fryer.” Alas, in my efforts to be healthy, I threw out my inner Paula Deen, and took the bendable chipfries for what they were. I will say the seasoning was spot on, and I ate them all, so they were good, just not great.
We both had bottled teas. I wanted to try a house-made juice, but my dears, they are between $6 and $7. Dang. Sticker price and the fact that I thought I left my debit card at home (it ended up being in my trunk – you women know about the big to little wallet switch according to purse size. Digress.) kept me at bottled mint tea. Next time, though, I’m going for it. Based on our savory dishes alone, I will be coming back here. I was not as impressed as I wanted to be, but I liked it, and I want to try … everything else. It was lovely enough to make me want more. Think of Evolution as a dating prospect you’re not quite sure about yet, but something gave you a zing, so you will be back. Yes, I still want to make-out with Evolution.
Evolution has a complete menu and is located at 2965 Fifth Avenue, on the corner of Quince in Hillcrest. It is open Sunday – Thursday from 11am – 8pm and Friday – Saturday from 11am – 9pm. The drive-thru is open everyday from 11am – 9pm, and there is a weekend brunch from 11am – 2pm. Our food together came out to a little over $20 (not including any desserts). Dessert review coming soon (it’s going to be sweet…yes…yes, I did just throw that out).