This past Thursday, I sat down to try Parlor City Vegan’s restaurant week lunch menu with two photographers and friends from Pipe Dream. Parlor City Vegan is located at 81 Clinton St., on the West Side of Binghamton. The restaurant’s interior is clean, bright and elegantly minimalist.

The lunch prefixed menu offered three first course options (the day we ate, the soup was tomato bisque), salad and loaded fries, three second courses — a veggie harvest wrap, cheeseburger and mac and cheese, and a cookie for dessert.

My friends and I were able to try a few different dishes from the first and second course options. For our first course, Kate got the tomato bisque soup. It was presented beautifully and was very autumnal in aesthetic and taste. The soup was surprisingly thick, and very flavorful. It was a bit salty, but was a hearty and complex soup, which is hard to come by!

Kai and I opted for the loaded fries, which featured french fries topped with melty cheese, vegan bacon bits, scallions, BBQ sauce and ranch. Clearly, this dish was chock-full-of vegan alternatives, which were interesting to try for a first-timer like myself. The fries were perfectly crispy, and the cheese alternative tasted remarkably like dairy-based cheese — I almost couldn’t tell the difference! What was most impressive to me was the meaty taste that they were able to imitate in the vegan bacon bits, which were also seasoned beautifully.

For our second courses, Kate and I were able to once again enjoy vegan cheese and bacon, in the form of max and cheese topped with bacon bits, scallions, apple BBQ sauce and ranch. The mac and cheese was extremely flavorful. The texture of the cheese was more of a cream rather than a melted cheese sauce, which is to be expected with vegan cheese. However, it was extremely flavorful, and featured a more complex spicy and nutty flavor than most dairy cheeses, which was a nice change. The bacon was once again delicious, and the apple BBQ sauce and ranch added a nice coolness and more flavor contrast to the dish. The portions were so generous that I was full halfway through, and was able to take the rest home to enjoy!

Kai tried the vegan cheeseburger, which looked so similar to a meat cheeseburger when served that you couldn’t tell the difference. Kai reported that the meat alternative was so good that it almost lacked any tells that it could be a substitute. The only complaint she had was that the temperature of the patty was not as warm as a meat burger usually is, so the burger lacked some heat.

For our final course, we got sugar cookies and chocolate chip cookies. The chocolate chip cookie was a perfect gooey temperature, and tasted just how a good chocolate chip cookie should. The sugar cookie was also solid, and had a nice crunchy texture.

As someone who has never been vegan, or had a fully vegan meal, exploring vegan alternatives in meals that I frequently eat was a super fun experience. Parlor City has definitely perfected the craft of alternative meats and cheeses, and showed me how more complex flavors could be introduced to staple comfort foods like mac and cheese. Parlor City Vegan’s website even advertises that they sell many of their own vegan products, including scratch-made cheeses, throughout the Southern Tier. We left the meal, vegan cookies in hand, feeling fully satisfied.