Can’t Believe it’s Vegan, or CBIV for short, is the kitchy title of a new project on the north side. As the name might suggest, the joint serves vegan food. And while savvy diners recognize that plant-based foods have come a long way in the last two decades, there are probably plenty of diners with less experienced palates. CBIV’s name is for those doubters.
The eatery is a cheerful spot where diners can graze under the watchful, innocent gaze of cows and pig portraits. At CBIV, livestock has a place on the wall, but not at the table…or “on” the table, rather. CBIV takes a similar approach to a growing collection of accessible vegan operations, such as Seitan’s Realm and the suspended-for-now Eden Burger project. They use flavor combos from popular meat-based dishes, and integrate plant-based substitutes for animal products.
Importantly, CBIV offers vegan lasagna rolls.
According to the internet, lasagna is a perennial top-five favorite entree in this country, or least the meat version is. It’s easy to see why. The classic lasagna formula features a combo of meat, cheese and red sauce – the same important stuff found in pizza. Of course, vegans don’t do meat, or cheese. So, that might well mean a world without lasagna.
Then again, substitutes have come a long way. CBIV delivers lasagna rollups with the requisite heartiness using ample levels of vegan cheese and sauce. And there’s a crumbly faux meat element wrapped up in the pasta too. It’s a good vegan offering, but it’s also $18, which places it at the upper end of the menu pricing. If you’re not a lasagna aficionado, there are options that feel like better value.
Consider the BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich ($13). Because it has a neutral flavor and is naturally fibrous, jackfruit has been widely heralded for its impressive impersonation of shredded meat. In this case, the kitchen seasons it with a tangy barbecue sauce that defines the flavor (which is pretty much the same thing barbecue sauce does does with pork-products as well). It’s teamed with a crisp, course-cut slaw on a soft bun, and some house fries. It’s good value and a good use of jackfruit.
All the main dish options generally include some sort of component that plays the role of meat. In some cases, it’s jackfruit or tofu, in the case of the the CBIV Kebobs ($11), it’s a product that is designed to replicate chicken. The pieces bear a grilled chicken flavor, although the texture is notably different. The kebob’s other elements (red peppers, onion and mushroom) work with the combo to add textures and flavors that are all-in appealing, along with a tahini sauce that has a touch of maple’s sweetness.
The Burrito Bowl ($14) is a lot of fun, a jumble of rice, black beans, lots of bright pops of corn, lettuce, vegan cheese and a ground beef substitute. Of all the dishes, its one that feels the most like it could be passed off as conventional fare.
That said, there’s good reason to celebrate what CBIV is, rather than what it is not. Sure, its wares are not meat-based, but they are well put-together and served in a cheerful environment: That seems like a good reason to visit. CBIV can be found at 584 W. Schrock Rd. in Westerville.
For more information, visit cantbelieveitsvegan.biz.
All photos by Susan Post