PICTURED: Beat on the Brat with Beyond “sausage” on a hoagie roll, topped with sauerkraut and mustard. All photos by N. Lackey Shaffer

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Fatty Vegan
325 Borchard Drive, Ventura

BierBrats in the Big Lots shopping center in Ventura was one of our favorite places for simple but satisfying eats. Those delectable sausages wrapped in fresh-baked rolls, dressed in any number of toppings and served with a dark German lager, made for a quick, easy and tasty meal when I was in no mood to cook. I was sad to see its closure . . . but the new restaurant that recently took over the spot is making a decent stab at filling those Schuhe.

Fatty Vegan, which just opened in early 2021, proudly proclaims its commitment to meatless junk food, beer and punk rock. Dogs, sandwiches, pizza, nachos — all the bar food basics, without any meat products at all. While I love fresh produce, it’s hard to deny the sheer satisfaction of a big, greasy pile of something to have with a beer, and Fatty Vegan has made that experience available to those who eat much lower on the food chain. Beyond sausages, Not-Yo-Cheeze, chik’n, carne a nada and jackfruit are among the protein options, which can be used in tacos, salads, buns and pizza. Side dishes include elote, coleslaw, potato and pasta salads. There are also several options for desserts.

The punk rock vibe is noticeable immediately upon entry: leopard print on the floor, skateboards and Nardcore posters decorating the red and black walls. The staff is friendly, courteous and excited about the menu, designed to give vegans their junk food fix while also appealing to carnivores. For the most part, we found the Fatty Vegan offerings to be appealing across the board.

Our order (placed online for pickup) included the Weekend Nachos (topped with jackfruit seasoned and prepared to mimic al pastor); a Manic Hispanic combo with chick’n, carne a nada and “al pastor” tacos; a “sausage” and mushroom pizza; and the Beat on the Brat sausage. For sweets, we tried two shakes (raspberry and cookies and brownie flavors) and the “awesome cookies and brownie” dessert, “fatty style” — essentially, a vegan brownie and chocolate chip cookie sundae.

In my opinion, nachos owe a lot of their flavor and popularity to the nonmeat toppings: rich cheese sauce, crisp tomatoes, hearty beans, fresh guacamole and spicy salsa. So it’s no surprise that Fatty Vegan’s nachos were so successful. Yes, even the dairy-free cheese sauce and crema had great texture and flavor. 

The jackfruit al pastor was great on the nachos, where it had strong supporting characters.On its own in a taco, not so much. Not bad, exactly . . . but the texture was a little spongy and the al pastor flavor didn’t really come through; I probably wouldn’t choose this option again. 

The fake steak and chik’n tacos, on the other hand, were fantastic! The beef substitute was moist and flavorful, and paired with onions and bell peppers . . . it put me in mind of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich — a little odd for a taco, but very tasty. The chik’n was even better: nearly indistinguishable (for me) from the real thing, and topped with a wonderful spicy aioli, lettuce and pico de gallo.

Manic Hispanic taco combo from Fatty Vegan, with jackfruit “al pastor” (left), carne a nada and chik’n tacos. Photo by N. Lackey Shaffer

Beat on the Brat featured a Beyond sausage on a fresh hoagie roll. Maybe not quite as good as a nice, juicy bratwurst . . . but honestly? Not bad! Good flavor, good texture, and with some sauerkraut and mustard, a very satisfying dog — and a nice reminder of the beerhall staples that were once served in this space.

My kids, both of whom side-eyed the entire vegan concept, were huge fans of the pizza, which had a good, thick, chewy crust and a nicely spiced sauce. They didn’t seem to mind the “cheese,” which I personally found a bit bland and crumbly (somewhat like a feta in texture). Different strokes.

The shakes were a bit of a letdown. Absolutely scrumptious to look at, but the lack of real cream and milk was obvious. Not unpleasant in flavor, but a bit bland and watered down. The raspberry shake was better; more like a smoothie than a milkshake.

On the other hand — the “awesome” dessert was fantastic. That brownie was super chocolatey, moist and chewy (would love to have the recipe) and the cookie was decent, too. The dairy-free ice cream and whipped cream were both respectable, and helped cut through all the sugar.

I’m a committed carnivore, but Fatty Vegan has made me rethink what is possible with meat substitutes. Plant-based proteins have come a long way the last decade or so, and Fatty Vegan makes the most of their culinary possibilities. The meat might be fake, but flavor is the real deal.