With plant-based menu innovation pushing boundaries, it’s good to do a gut check once in awhile and see if diners are embracing it with the same enthusiasm. The Iron Griz is a restaurant at the University of Montana’s golf course, showcasing fresh produce grown in the campus gardens. Couple that with Patrick Browne, the Executive Chef who is also a member of the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, and you are bound to get some forward-thinking veg-centric menu development. His Beet Reuben features thinly sliced beets from the gardens, local sauerkraut, housemade Russian dressing and Wheat Montana marble rye bread.
“Initially it wasn’t a bestseller,” says Browne. “Then I put together an updated menu and took the Beet Reuben off. That turned out to be a big mistake. We immediately got complaints. It turns out, quite a few regulars come in just for that sandwich. I put it back on the menu and it’s proven to be one of our most popular sandwiches.”
Although it lacks the classic corned beef, the sandwich succeeds at evoking the Reuben flavor system. “The traditional Reuben is a pretty popular sandwich, and a lot of guests crave it when they see it on a menu,” he says. “The only change we made was to substitute the meat for a thinly sliced, roasted beet. The sweet, earthiness of the beet is somewhat similar to corned beef and delivers a meaty bite. It shows that you can switch up a classic with great results. We took an old standard and made it local and plant-based—with great guest acceptance.” Browne is also considering subbing out the beets with other roasted root vegetables.