ABQ Vegan Chef Challenge: July 18–23

Jennifer Keene
4 min readAug 3, 2022

I ended up trying two new places this week and going back to two places that I’ve already been. Getting closer to completing this personal challenge to try all of the VCC restaurants this month.

Soo Bok Seoul Bowl

In sharp contrast to another restaurant who will remain nameless, Soo Bak Seoul Bowl absolutely NAILED IT with their veganized veggie bowl.

We stopped in to try the Albuquerque Vegan Chef Challenge specials that everyone has been raving about, which sounds absolutely epic: Hot Korean Oyster! Chicken fried king oyster mushrooms dunked in a gochujang chili oil on top of black garlic “butter” Texas toast drizzled with herb infused maple syrup and pickled red onions and Asian pickle chips. Plus BBQ Tofu Fries with aquafaba fry sauce, and Spicy Sandia.

We went on a Wednesday evening around 6 pm and when I asked about the Vegan Chef Challenge specials, they let me know that they were all sold out.

Fortunately, they have all kinds of delicious sounding vegan options on their regular menu that I wanted to try even before I heard about the ABQ Vegan Chef Challenge. I ordered the veggie bowl with no egg and no creamy sauce and chose BOTH sweet chili tofu and the mushrooms.

THIS is what a bowl should be.

Not only was each component delicious on their own, together they were so much more! There’s rice underneath and a yummy sesame ginger sauce in addition to the spicy sauce. The tofu was quite possibly the lightest and most amazing textured fried tofu I have ever had in my life.

Not sure if we will make it back again by the end of the month to try the special, but we will definitely make this a regular stop year-round.

Hollow Spirits Distillery

Had my first big disappointment with the Albuquerque Chef Challenge last night Hollow Spirits Distillery.

Let me start by saying that our service was great. Even though we were sitting outside in the heat and it was very busy inside with a soccer game, the serving staff kept checkin on us, refilling water, and bringing drinks. The two cocktails I tasted were delicious — the Guavanista and the Sandia Margarita. They all ordered non-vegan tacos and they were colorful and well presented with a variety of colors and textures. They looked just like the tacos on the website.

We came here specifically because they were part of the ABQ Vegan Chef Challenge so I ordered the Royal Trumpet bowl that was featured. I am not a huge fan of mushrooms, but I eat them because I believe that they are good for me and I’ve learned that talented chefs can make them turn out amazing, incorporating the flavors and textures into a dish that is greater than the sum of its parts.

That was not the case here. I was served mostly plain white rice with a few teriyaki soaked mushrooms. For $17.

There were absolutely no grilled bok choy or any other greens or vegetables, and not even any sesame seeds. When I asked about it, they said they were out. The teriyaki sauce mushrooms had good flavor, but on their own were just too mushroomy for me. I ate a few bites and took most of it home to try and jazz up with vegetables, onion, sesame seeds, chili sauce (they only had tabasco) and maybe some tofu or seitain.

After that, I didn’t bother asking if they had the vegan cheesecake because I already felt like I’d been difficult or a weird eater in front of our dinner companions and was kind of embarrassed that I’d picked this place to eat and then not eaten my food.

It is ALWAYS great when places offer vegan options, and I am very glad that Hollow Spirits does, but this felt like the kitchen didn’t care and wasn’t trying.

I’m not sure if I can really make it to all 30 places this month, but I am getting close! You can follow me as PebblesEatsPlants on Instagram or Facebook.

Vegan Chef Challenge:

  • Lucky Goose ✅ (Thai Tea Shake, Salad, Burgers, Fries)
  • RubyReds Vegan
  • Vegos ✅ (A-Beet-Q Burger)
  • Tia Mom’s Cocina
  • VeganVato ✅ ✅ (Special Torta, Hella Good Tacos, Elote Tostadas, Taquitos)
  • Rush Of Prana ✅ (Acai Bowl)
  • El Veganito ✅ (Stopped by, but had to pass because it was too hot out)
  • CZV
  • Annapurna’s
  • The Acre ✅
  • Mata G ✅ (Grab & go on 7/1 before they posted their specials)
  • Trail Rider Pizza ✅ (Went right before the challenge)
  • Holmes Pizza & Arcade ✅ (Went right before the challenge)
  • M’tucci’s Bar Roma
  • Leona Banh Mi ✅
  • El Cotorro ✅ (4 different tacos, including the Vegan Chef Challenge Special)
  • ClownDog Hotdogs Parlor
  • Kickstand Cafe ✅ (Went 7/3 and they were sold out)
  • Hollow Spirits Distillery ✅ (Lamest bowl ever)
  • Burrito Baby ✅ (Went 7/4 and they hand’t started vegan specials yet)
  • El Mariachi Authentic Mexican ✅ (Calabacitas Flautas)
  • Soo Bak Seoul Bowl ✅
  • Hummus King & Lady Falafel ✅ (Hummus, Falafel, and Babaganouj plate)
  • Blue Door Patisserie ✅ (Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake)
  • El Káahal Nuestro ✅ (Chicken Taquitos)
  • DDs Babycakes
  • ABQ Coffee
  • Zia Bros Pizza ✅ (Cheezy Bread)
  • Tokyo Bankok ✅
  • La Posada Dining Hall at UNM

Bonus Places Not On the List

  • B2B Garden Brewing ✅ (Tacos with Chips and Guac)
  • Flying Star ✅ (Double Chocolate Cake)
  • Cafe Nom Nom ✅ (Shanghai Noodles)
  • Los Ranchos Bakery ✅ (Blondie and Matcha Ice Cream)

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Jennifer Keene

I write short fun pieces that people actually have time to read.