On the third night of service after its highly anticipated opening, the cozy dining room of Spokane's newest vegan-focused eatery is packed, the evening's waitlist growing.
Looking around the room, one wouldn't be able to pick out a vegan from any other person — whether meat-eating, vegetarian, flexitarian, gluten-intolerant or otherwise — enjoying the colorful, flavorful dishes from Rüt's concise all-plant menu.
If we had to guess, though, many of the diners here tonight are not devoted vegans, but are eager and curious to sample the menu omitting milk, eggs, animal protein and honey from its ingredient list.
Rüt (pronounced "root") is the culinary effort of chef-owners Justin Oliveri and Josh Lorenzen, both practicing vegans. The restaurant opened April 8 in a space formerly home to Picabu Bistro on the lower South Hill, next to a Rosauers grocery store.
"Both of us, being vegan, have noticed there was a lack of places to go in town, so instead of going out and eating a side of fries everywhere, we figured there was a need to have a common place to go and eat and have good food and trust that it is what it says it is," explains Oliveri.
Oliveri also co-owns Cascadia Public House in the Five Mile area, which features a notable selection of vegan dishes, though none have been replicated at Rüt.
"We were going for a gastropub feel with the menu while still using solely plants and making it more approachable," Oliveri says. "It's not a place where you just go get salads. We still offer super tasty dishes that are appealing to not just plant-based [diners]."
Rüt's menu consists of less than 20 items, but offers a range of textures and flavors, including several dishes that convincingly mimic animal-based ingredient counterparts.
The comfort food-inspired truffle mac ($14) has coconut "bacon bits," Broccolini, bread crumbs and chili flakes. Two plant-based burgers feature two of the leading commercially available plant-based patties, the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger. The latter is the star of Rüt's rich and savory jalapeno mushroom burger ($15), topped with a spicy-sweet jalapeno relish, crispy onions, tempeh bacon, sauteed mushrooms and "cream cheese."
Another meat-mimicking standout is the fried "not-chicken" sandwich ($15), consisting of a plant-based chicken substitute made from vital wheat gluten, or seitan. It's breaded and topped with coleslaw, Buffalo sauce and vegan ranch-mayo. Tacos al pastor ($14), meanwhile, are made with pulled mushrooms.
Before you even get to the aforementioned entrees, consider the hearty salads and starters on the menu's front side. Three colorful full-size salads ($12 each) are the wedge, sesame-ginger crunch and beetroot and pear. A traditional Caesar ($10) and small green side salad ($6) round out the greens list.
A can't-miss in the shareables column is Rüt's take on Buffalo cauliflower wings ($10) that this nonvegan thinks tastes better than any chicken counterpart. Get a plate of dirty fries ($9), sweet potato fries ($6) or white bean "queso" ($7) with warm blue corn chips for the table to share. Unfortunately, the avocado salad rolls ($10) with cabbage slaw and sweet chili sauce were unavailable when we stopped in, meaning it's a safe bet they're as good as they sound.
Rüt's cocktail program, developed by bar managers Seth Tyler and Diana Wissinger, is as creative and colorful as its plant portions. So is the space's physical bar, which has an exotic midcentury feel with crisp white shelving against a backdrop of marble-patterned emerald green with pretty plants and art throughout.
A few house cocktails stand out. The Golden Rüt ($12) is a blend of rum, coconut milk, turmeric and spices, and evokes the palate of chai tea; warm and smooth. Also try the Hanami ($11), a refreshing blend of green-tea infused sake with elderflower, chia seeds and cherry, served in a highball glass over ice.
Brunch and a kids menu are both coming soon to Rüt, along with outdoor patio seating. ♦
Rüt • 901 W. 14th Ave. • Open daily 11 am-close • rutspokane.com • 241-3165