If you follow us on Twitter, you might recall a call to eation (eating action) in the order of getting to Phoney Baloney’s in Irvine, CA before they closed. We made it there just in the nick of time with our binge eating buddy The Insufferable Vegan, and not only were the sandwiches fantastic (the grown-up grilled cheese in particular) but so was the conversation with owner, sandwich guru, and Vegan Vagrant, Kyle Domer. After a little time to recuperate, we thought we’d check-in with Kyle, pick his brain, and his recipe box.
SuperVegan: How long have you been a vegan person?
Kyle: Since March of 2002, so about ten and a half years.
What were you doing before you opened Phoney Baloney’s? And how did you become a super vegan sammy maker?
My background is in marketing, with prior business ownership in the skateboard industry. I was just doing freelance marketing for a variety of clients before opening up PB’s. Having been vegan for over 10 years, I’ve made myself a lot of good food, and sandwiches have been some of my favorites. The only food that trumps sandwiches in my book is Mexican food, but that’s a little more complicated to start as a business than sandwiches.
What’s your best/funniest story about serving vegan food inside of a gym?
Honestly, there weren’t that many. The obvious, “Wait, this isn’t real chicken?” was standard fare, but nothing too crazy other than that.
Hmm … nothing amusing or interesting about being in a gym? I can’t believe that! Were people lured away from their physical fitness regiment by the smell of your grown-up grilled cheese? Were any diners turned-off by the smell of sweat?
A lot of people said they, “Can’t work out while smelling bacon the whole time!” whenever we were making our coconut bacon. We actually had two or three gym members complain to the owner about it! Some people would mention the musty aura in the place but always said the food quality was worth the awkward ambiance.
It’s terribly sad that Phoney Baloney’s closed, but also exciting that you’re planning something newer and better for LA proper. We can’t wait to taste what you do next! What lesson did you learn from the Phoney Baloney’s experience that you’ll take with you to the next incarnation?
Location, location, location. Although something within a niche like veganism demands less emphasis on location, it doesn’t mean it can be neglected completely. Also, food costs and correct pricing may be the most important part of keeping the business afloat.
So any hints as to what will be next for you and when? Is it going to be another PB’s or a new place altogether? A food truck? Sit-down? Still just sandwiches?
I’d like it to be another Phoney Baloney’s, just in a different form. Still a sandwich-centered menu, but with the increased diversity that could come from a full kitchen. There will also be local craft beer involved. My vision for the next project is getting clearer every day and there are some things I just won’t compromise on. When the time is right, everything will come together like it’s supposed to.
In the meantime, can people hire you for catering or special events? Or if they’re having a sandwich emergency?
We are just getting into catering and it’s so much more than sandwiches, which is really nice for my culinary creativity. We had some amazing customers (and all around stellar humans) named Jessica and Kenny who are about to welcome a new vegan baby into the world and we have the honor of catering their baby shower this weekend. I’m working on doing some vegan grilled cheese parties, although the first one is a private event for the PETA office in Echo Park next week. I’ve got some cool guest chef nights lined-up, but you’ll hear more about those when they’re set in stone.
Where’s your favorite place to eat in LA? And what’s your favorite thing to get there?
I’m kind of a beer
snob geek, so good draft beer is kind of a requisite when I go out to eat. That being said, I like Mohawk Bend and The Pub at Golden Road. Mohawk Bend buffalo cauliflower is always outstanding. For fancy date nights, it’s gotta be Shojin. Real Food Daily is always good too.
Share a trade secret! Is there one thing a novice sandwich maker can do at home to take their sandwich to the next level?
I’ve always been adamant that the way the ingredients are layered makes a huge difference in the overall taste sensation of a sandwich. Also, it’s amazing how adding some herbs/spices/lemon juice to Vegenaise can elevate the flavor profile of the final product.
I love the idea of layering ingredients, can you elaborate on that? What’s the right way to do it? Provide an example?
Sure. First of all, you have to have some sort of spread on both sides of the bread. There’s nothing worse than a dry sandwich. Then, my typical way of stacking, from bottom to top, is protein, lettuce, tomato and onion. Avocado will usually be the top layer but that depends on the dish. In our Veggiepalooza, we did the avocado on the bottom because it was the “meat” of that particular sandwich.
Can you share a recipe with us?
Since it’s smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, I figured I’d share one of my classic holiday party dishes. This is classic comfort food, sure to win over omnivores and vegans alike. Don’t get me wrong… this is vegan, but it’s no health food. You do get a nice share of spinach in it, but that’s about the healthiest part of this party favorite.