The Root 66 Vegan Food Truck hides in a parking lot off Galisteo Street. It's tucked behind the Brakeroom, Santa Fe Brewing Company's downtown location, a modest, one-time speakeasy, one-time cigar club. The truck offers lunch and dinner Friday through Monday, not to mention a special brunch menu on weekends. Previously, Restaurant Martín was providing the tasting room with a small selection of pub grub, but those duties now fall to a rotating selection of food trucks. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the newly opened Mediterranean-styled YummyTown Food Truck provides dinner from 4-9 pm. The rest of the week is time to get your plant-based comfort food cravings satisfied by Root 66.
True to its name, the truck serves up an entirely vegan spread to complement the Brakeroom's 18-tap selection of locally crafted beers. The menu makes no bones about mimicking meat and cheese items, like a marinated tempeh-based Reuben ($12) topped with sauerkraut, pseudo-provolone and vegan Russian dressing made with products from Follow Your Heart (the company behind Vegenaise). There are buttery-tasting biscuits with black-bean gravy ($8) and a pretzel roll topped with meatless sausage ($8). For dessert, find pumpkin spiced pancakes and flaky mini apple and ginger pies ($8 apiece). Root 66 even serves hot chocolate topped with fluffy vegan marshmallows ($3). The menu is set to rotate seasonally, and gluten-free options are also available. On cold winter days you can eat inside the Brakeroom. It feels strange but comforting to sit on cracked leather seats still fragrant with a hint of cigar smoke and eat earnest vegan food, no matter how well it passes for more carnivorous fare. Just add a pint of Java Stout ($4).
Root 66 is the brainchild of chef/owner Gail Brousseau-Patak, a Jacksonville, Florida, native who converted to a vegan lifestyle eight years ago. Before opening her Santa Fe business, she founded a small vegan café in her home city called Garden Truck Food Company while working as a restaurant consultant with a veggie-based bent. In addition, she is a ardent advocate for movements such as Animal Protection Voters, to which she donates some profits.
"I'm so excited to be sharing my passion for this lifestyle," Patak tells SFR.
When I visited Root 66, a small crowd of local herbivores had taken over the wooden picnic tables outside with their sandwiches and burgers. I decided on the smoked shiitake Impossible Burger ($12), which is made from ground mushrooms and a meat substitute that tastes remarkably like real beef, thanks to an iron-rich molecule called heme. In this case, it is derived from soy and fermented by a special yeast in a similar process to brewing beer or making wine. It's also found in all animal blood, and in addition to adding the flavor and texture of meat to a plant-based patty it brings plenty of iron and protein to the table.
The Impossible Burger was created in 2016 by Impossible Foods, a California-based alternative food company whose "meat" made waves when it became a standing menu item in 2017 at
Momofuku Nishi in New York. Last month, even White Castle joined the cause, offering the Impossible Slider for $1.99. Another boon: Impossible "beef" is surprisingly inexpensive, thanks to the company's low cost of production, especially in comparison to the land and water necessary for raising cattle. While it appears on the menu at Rowley's Farmhouse Ales and the Plaza Café Southside, Root 66 is the first vegan restaurant in Santa Fe to offer it.
My burger came out with a hint of pinkness on the inside, thanks to the secret impossible ingredient, topped with "gouda" from Follow Your Heart and a side of potato salad with vegan mayonnaise, dill and cracked black pepper on top. While not an exact dupe for the real thing, the patty is rich, chewy and hearty, with the shiitakes cooked to a satisfying crispness and giving a flavorful crunch.
As a devoted carnivore, I don't have a problem with bleeding meat, but for diehard vegans it might be unnerving eating food that so closely resembles the real thing. Still, the Impossible Burger is a godsend of sorts for those converting to the diet for health or ethical reasons—but who miss the taste and texture of true beef. Thankfully, Root 66 makes clear concessions to those of us conditioned by carnism without sacrificing any integrity when it comes to saving the planet and providing healthy alternatives to classic junk food. Well, as healthy as pancakes and burgers can get, at any rate.
Root 66 Vegan Food Truck
510 Galisteo St., 904-762-4114
Noon-10 pm Friday-Saturday; 10-4 pm Sunday; Noon-8 pm Monday