Big Mood: This groovy café is reimagining plant-based cuisine

Located on Elmwood Ave., Big Mood is committed to quality vegan food

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In a world awash with signals telling you to buy meat, Jack Porcari takes the easier path for the planet, sticking to vegetables, cheese and eggs. He details his finds for readers in Kind Cuisine, posted every Thursday.

From the inside, Big Mood on Elmwood looks less like a restaurant and more like your cool aunt’s ‘70s-themed apartment. Complete with macrame plant holders, retro light fixtures and orange tie-dyes, this vegan eatery’s aesthetic is as retro as it is current. Big Mood offers a variety of 100% vegan burgers, bowls, salads, sandwiches and dessert. What’s more, each item on the menu corresponds with a quirky mood for the dish. 

Seitan bacon joins forces with vegan mac to create a sensational burger.

The signature wings ($9.95) tore apart like the real deal. The Buffalo sauce emits a good amount of heat, so make sure to have your “blue cheese” handy to ward off the spiciness.

Their marinara parmesan sandwich ($13.95) came neatly wrapped in floral-print parchment paper. It features wheat gluten-based chicken patty with a similar crunch level to Mighty Taco’s jalapeno cruncher. The sauce was on the sweet side, the cheese was melted to perfection, and the basil pesto added a green side to the dish. At some points throughout the meal, I would have preferred a standalone chicken parmesan, but the sandwich preparation fits in with their fast-casual dining environment.

The bacon mac burger took me back to my childhood. This “pinkpea patty” is reminiscent of my dad’s lamb and olive tapenade sliders in both flavor and texture. Their homemade burger has a surprisingly meaty bite for a seasoned chickpea puree. The vegan bacon was an absolute slam dunk and the macaroni reminded me of a slightly crispier version of Annie’s mac and cheese. Overall, the combination of the bacon, mac and cheese, meatless patty and lettuce kept me coming back for more. Just like the menu suggests, order this if you are in an “eating my feelings” mood.

Perhaps the most creative item on the menu was the insta-cake push pop ($6.95). Just like your favorite childhood ice cream treat, this dessert delivers bite sized bits of vegan cake at your demand. The stratum of cake includes three layers: chocolate, orange and lemon. Between each velvety layer is a decadent cream that kept me pushing up to the next layer. The insta-cake pop was perfectly portioned to end the meal on a sweet note, without the weight a heavy dessert brings.

Big Mood does a great job of creating a space where vegans and vegetarians can be comfortable ordering food that many of their meat-eating counterparts enjoy regularly. For me, it was not the availability of these items that made Big Mood worthwhile, it was their commitment to quality that attracted me. The restaurant is the first in Buffalo to make most of their menu items from scratch, instead of simply reappropriating Beyond Beef and calling it “vegan.” Their Instagram page notes that “our team slow-roasts, blends, ferments and prepares nearly everything from our mayo and dressing to our bacon and zero-clucks patty.” This dedication to homemade, creative, and quick meals sets an example for what vegan eating in Buffalo can be.

Big Mood

Hours: 12 p.m. - 10 p.m. daily

Seating: Limited café seating, outdoor patio available

Address: 423 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo, NY 14222

Online: www.eatbigmood.com // Instagram: @eatbigmood

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Orders: Takeout, dine-in and delivery

Questions or recommendations? Email: jackporc@buffalo.edu