Who eats more plant-based “meat” products than vegans and vegetarians? Turns out, everyone does.
Skyrocketing sales of meatless burgers like the Beyond burger and other “faux” animal proteins are being driven almost exclusively by meat eaters looking for healthier alternatives. A 2019 study by NPD Group, a market research company, found that more than 90% of plant-based meat and dairy fans just wanted more variety in their diets.
It makes sense, if you think about it. Not many vegetarians are thrilled about experiencing something that looks like blood coming out of their burger — even if it is vegetable-based. At least that’s what my meat-free friends tell me.
But finding restaurants that have a strong appeal for both meat eaters and plant eaters is as rare as civil discourse on politics at the Thanksgiving table. It’s a dream but rarely a reality.
Enter Fourth Street Social in downtown Santa Rosa, located in the former Jade Room, as a new alternative.
Co-owner Melissa Matteson, who owns the restaurant with her husband, says as a former vegan, she struggled to find plant-based comfort food for years when she went out to eat.
“I wanted to do something for everyone, where you could go out with family and friends and finding something to eat was a 20 minute process,” she said.
Using her own recipes as inspiration, she’s created an approachable menu that serves up sustainably raised meat like Philly cheesesteak, along with vegetarian mushroom toast with pomegranate seeds or a variety of eye-tricking dishes like watermelon poke, jackfruit chicken nuggets and carrot “lox”.
What we love about Fourth Street Social Club is the unapologetic creativity in creating flavorfully crafted dishes that welcome almost any dietary preference. As a genre-bending menu, there are some hits and misses, but no doubt about the heart behind this new downtown space.
Open for all-day brunch, lunch and dinner, the restaurant also features an extensive beer, wine and cocktail list. Don’t miss the Michelada flight or “design you own mimosa” with a bottle of champagne and fruit juices.
Carrot “Lox” Plate, $15: Way back in 2017, I was floored by the carrot “lox” served at the now-shuttered Drawing Board restaurant in Petaluma. How a carrot could have a smoky, umami taste nothing like a carrot but reminiscent of cured and smoked salmon was mind-bending. This version is a bit simpler, but the salty, smoky strips of carrot smothered with vegan cream cheese, onions and capers is a tasty alternative to the real thing.
Watermelon Poke, $11/$17: This was one of my favorite dishes of the day — even though it had a few issues. Small ruby chunks of watermelon become tuna imitators atop a pile of jasmine rice, avocado and brilliant kimchi green onions. The cold, flavorless rice doesn’t add anything to the dish, and I would have tossed in some sesame oil to really boost up the flavor of the “poke”, but overall, this provocative dish impressed.
BBQ Sliders, $16: Jackfruit has become a common meat alternative due to its fibrous texture and mild flavor. Think of it as a chewier cousin to tofu, taking on the flavor of whatever sauce it’s paired with. Two small pretzel buns are piled high with slaw and flavorful barbecue jackfruit chunks. Solid.
Mushroom Pomegranate Toast, $12: Mushrooms and pomegranate seem like a super odd combination, but work nicely together as a bruschetta. Earthy, cooked mushrooms lighten up with a combination of rosemary and thyme. Tart pomegranate seeds — which are so of the moment — brighten the dish even more.
Jacked Up Popcorn Chikn, $10: Wedges of jackfruit are breaded and fried into a chicken-nugget look-alike. Alone, the jackfruit has a slight artichoke taste, but when dipped into vegan cilantro-lime aioli, honey mustard or buffalo sauce, they’re likely to pass the picky-eater test.
643 4th St, Santa Rosa, 707-978-3882, 4thstreetsocialclub.com. Open Thursday through Monday.