Quick definitons: "Vegetarian" is generally used to describe somebody who doesn't eat meat–meat here meaning of animal origin: fish, shellfish, fowl, beef, pork, lamb, snake, alligator, rat, et al, but who can consume dairy products and ova. So, butter, cheese, milk, cream, eggs, like that.
"Vegan" is applied to one who eschews all animal products.
One can be a vegetarian but not a vegan. I'm not either, but I have altered my diet in those directions. Let's face it, animal fat tastes great, but it's not good for you. (We won't get into the morality question, that's your business. Nobody likes an obnoxious vegan, and it often seems, that term is redundant ipso facto ...)
Then again, my altered diet notwithstanding, Tuesday, I had lunch with an old friend and we went to an upscale diner in Portland. Along with my fried chicken and mac 'n' cheese, I had a bacon/bourbon/maple syrup vanilla milkshake. You can't believe how good that was. The bacon was actually just a postage-stamp-sized bit stuck into the top as a garnish, and the shake was thick enough so the straw wouldn't deliver it. Yeah, I'm cutting way down on milk products, but now and then, the call of the bad health is powerful ...
Um. Back to the Lotus:
On the face of it, this vegan stuff might sound, at the least, strange, and a skeptic might suppose, even, vile. Roots, twigs, bark, and nettles? Right. Rabbit food. Eat the bunny instead ...
Not necessarily so. I got the whiskey-ginger barbecue sandwich, and it was good enough so I'd get it again.
(I was going to get the falafel wrap, but I was a little leery of the collard green "bread" itself; I'll risk it next time.)
The thing with vegan or vegetarian fare has, for me, been about consistency. You can make a tasty bean-burger patty, but if it chews like, well, mashed beans? It doesn't satisfy that meat-eater's desire to use the fangs and not just the grinders. For a long time, that's been the alpha and omega of vegetarian burgers, and big deal.
That's changing. We found a faux-chicken sandwich recently that was close enough to make you wonder if they'd sneaked real chicken onto the bun; this experience was like that.
No, they haven't made soy curls that will make you think you are eating pulled-pork; however, they have made them chewy enough–even "meaty"–that they are satisfying that way. And the use of spices has gotten ever so much better with such fare.
The biggest drawback I can see at the current state is the cost. Faux-meat is spendier than the real stuff in most instances. And you can't find it everywhere.
Nope, it's not quite the same experience as chowing down on a great bloody steak or pork chop, but it's getting closer, and I'm guessing we aren't far removed from the days when a blind taste test will fool more people than not. When Mickey D's starts serving them as a permanent menu item throughout the chain? That's how you'll know the day has come.
Be real interesting to see how many people make the switch when that happens.