STACKED is a Scout column that aims to dig down into the delicious details of Vancouver’s better sandwiches and burgers. From banh mi and burgers to sliders and reubens, the goal is to craft and catalog an archive of awesome that visitors and locals alike can reference when at their hungriest.
The unsuspectingly complex Southern Fried Artichoke Sandwich from Main Street’s casual vegetarian eatery, The Arbor, is an indulgent hit for herbivores and carnivores alike. Inspired by the Southern-fried chicken sandwiches you’d find in Nashville, chef Robert Clarke’s vegetarian version is not a shy interpretation. Humbly packaged in craft paper, it holds together a boldly flavoured balancing act that stands on its own and remains – eight months in – one of the most popular dishes on the menu at restaurant. Eating this on their patio tucked behind the restaurant is a summertime must. Here’s how it works:
1. Flanked on either side of the whopping layer of flavours is a soft ciabatta bun. It’s the perfect and sturdy base that holds it all together.
2. The top bun is given a generous lick of spicy, vegan-friendly mayo made with flaxseed oil and a house-made hot sauce that gives the whole sandwich a habanero kick.
3. If the spicy mayo is the bass, consider the coins of jalapeño tucked under the bun the high-hat cymbals of heat. Pulling double duty, they add freshness and even more spiciness to Clarke’s take.
4. Chef Clarke’s smokey eggplant “bacon” makes a clever play here. Cured overnight (in a mixture of sugar, salt and pepper) and smoked in the oven, the stuff is dropped in the fryer for a moment before service, which lends the sandwich both a satisfying bacon crunch and a smoky flavour.
5. To give the sandwich some extra crunch and zaps of freshness, the spicy vegan mayo binds a slaw of carrot, red and green cabbage.
6. Cheddar cheese is shredded and gently melted to add an overall unctuousness to the vegetarian behemoth (vegan cheese is an option).
7. The bottom bun is finished off by a slather of avocado mousse, which is whipped up with lime juice and a touch of salt. This is where the structural integrity of the ciabatta really does its job.
8. The titular artichoke hearts are deep-fried with a special blend of paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder and garlic powder, giving the crispy nuggets their “southern” quality.