Recently I saw a post on Twitter about an all-vegan brew pub near Rockford, Illinois and was totally surprised that I never heard about it. I investigated and my boyfriend and I made plans to drive out on our day off to fill our bellies with tasty craft beer and vegan bar food!
Pig Minds Brewing is located in Machesney Park, Illinois, about 1 hour and a half from Milwaukee (just north of Rockford, IL). It's tucked away in an industrial park, but the building is really nice with a large outdoor patio and indoor seating. The waitress said they've been open for about a year now. Speaking of the wait staff--everyone was super-friendly, including the patrons who made some great food recommendations!
Pig Minds has a rotating list of beers they make on-site. Between the two of us we tried the Blake Hoffman (wheat beer with Cascade hops and orange peel), the Southy Bitch Slap (an irish red beer), and there was a brown ale with Vanilla that was amazing (of course, I don't see it on their menu now, so I can't share the name). All of the beers were delicious and very reasonably priced. They also offer a beer flight so that you can try a bunch of different kinds.
We were sort of overwhelmed with the menu--I'm always like that whenever I get the rare pleasure of visiting an all-vegan restaurant. "You mean I could eat any of this??"
We started with the Seitanic Wings--we picked the mild buffalo sauce. It looked like they used the standard Gardein chicken fingers for these (which I actually love), but then fried them and sauced them up appropriately. They were delicious and disappeared quickly from our plates! My boyfriend is determined to perfect this recipe for future football game celebrations.
Next up, the nice ladies at the tables next to us (looked like some nurses that just got off work and covered their table in yummy appetizers) suggested that we must get the Towering Eggplant--"Deep fried beer battered eggplant layered with Galaxy Mozzarella topped with oven roasted marinara." This was a great suggestion! The batter was tasty, the cheese all melty and the marinara was very flavorful--we loved it!
We were each going to try to order entrees after this, but let's face it--we were already getting full. So, we decided to share the "Reuben Kincaid--A Seitan Reuben served on marble rye with sauerkraut, 1000 Island and Italian style cheese." You get to pick a side with the sandwiches, so we picked "Calico Beans--Warm Three Bean salad with TVP Crumbles, garlic and an apple cider vinaigrette."
The sandwich was tasty--especially the sauce, but the Calico Beans stole the show--these were super-delicious.
I read somewhere that the desserts here were "to die for," so I insisted we get the "Special Brownies--These will put you out of your Pig Mind! Blended with Chocolate & Pig Minds Stout Beer drizzled with chocolate syrup and Peanut Sauce sprinkled with powdered sugar, then topped off with a strawberry rose."
O.M.G. I don't say that too often, but this dessert deserves it. It tasted like a giant, toasty warm peanut butter cup. This is a must-eat if you visit!! We only made it through half, but don't worry--I took the rest home! :)
Since we really wanted to try so much more, we decided to get a few things to go. I LOVE fried pickles, so I got a batch of theirs to go. The picture isn't as appealing because it's in the box, but the taste is still just as good. They are "spicy battered pickle spears, with a creamy wasabi sauce" and let me tell you--this wasabi sauce WILL clean out your sinuses!!
My boyfriend decided to take home the "Wrappers Delight" wrap which contained "Fresh spring greens and guacamole, with tomato, red onion and Beyond Meat chicken strips, topped with 'honey mustard' dressing." I had a few bites too and we were both amazed by our first taste of the Beyond Meat chicken--it's like the real thing and perfect in this wrap! (Side note: I'm not a huge fan of overly-realistic fake meats, but this passed my test of being close but not with a gross texture.) We also both loved the "honey mustard" dressing--very flavorful and perfect on this cold wrap!
Overall, we loved Pig Minds--we're definitely going to plan another trip back soon! The food and drinks were fantastic, the people were super-nice and the restaurant itself was very comfortable. I know this may sound weird, but I was surprised to see such a wide variety of patrons--lots of older folks and people you'd expect to see at a "normal" bar. Oftentimes when I visit veg*n restaurants, it's mostly hipsters, "cool" tattooed people, guys with curly mustaches or extravagant beards, etc. It's so awesome to see that all kinds of people are interested in what they have to offer, which just means that vegan food is making it out of its niche and into the mainstream! Thanks, Pig Minds--if you ever want to open a Milwaukee branch, we'd love it!! :)