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The Southwestern Frites are piled high with bean chili made with craft beer.

About a month ago I saw a social media post about a new food truck, Grinnin’ Possum. Great, another hilarious way to say you’re serving animals as food, I thought. Shame on me for making assumptions, because the possums are safe with this vegetarian food truck.

Chef Joseph Lain is a classically trained chef — Le Cordon Bleu, no less — and let’s just say, French cuisine doesn’t emphasize vegetarian/vegan cooking. As he learned more about the “processing” of animals, he felt less comfortable with it. Along the way, his wife and children were also influenced. “While living in Europe we went to a local pig festival in Germany, and local protesters were giving out information and playing videos on how pigs were slaughtered.” Let’s just say the family made a decision to give up meat. That’s why he decided to use his culinary training to create meals that would please his family — and just might encourage others to give it a try.

So what exactly happens when a French chef from southern Georgia who spent a few years on the border of Belgium and Germany decides to serve up veg fare locally? Some of the best damn flavors you’ll find spooned over frites!

In his first month out in the truck, the vegan options were a trio of flavors piled over hand-cut Belgian-style fries. The Swamp Taters had me at “hello.” Soy curls brined in buffalo sauce are referred to as “nawdads” and oh, they’ve got just the right amount of heat. That fiery flavor is tempered with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and verdant scallions and topped with a plant-based tartar sauce. The Southwestern Frites are pretty special because Lain deliberately uses a beer from whatever brewery he happens to be serving next to. In our case, it was Smiling Toad’s God Save the Queen, a brown that was destined for meaty bean chili. Smoky, rich and smothered with guacamole and chipotle ranch, this one was pure comfort food on a cold, rainy Saturday night. But the Cackalackian? Winner, winner. What a surprise to bite into something so tangy or fresh. It’s an umami bomb: pickled onions, garlicky slaw, a generous and just right amount of dill, and a yellow Carolina mustard that just makes you pucker up with each bite. I’d like to tell you that the two of us just ate a bit of each to “try” it. Nope, we devoured all three enormous plates of fries. Chef Lain has a way, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. Because coming soon: Gumbo de Herb and Cajun Boiled Peanuts.

Lain keeps his Facebook page updated with service locations and dates, and you’ll find him out and about next week for Vegan Restaurant Week. You’re going to want to. Because his culinary take on fries — perfect brewpub fare — will leave you “grinnin’ like a possum eat’n fried taters,” according to Lain. He’s not wrong.


Fifth Annual Vegan Restaurant Week Nov. 1-7

In 2017, I decided Colorado Springs needed a Vegan Restaurant Week. So I produced one. Five years later, it’s going strong. This year, 27 establishments will be flexing their plant-based culinary muscles. It begins Nov. 1 — World Vegan Day — and spans the entire week. Take a taste around the world at OCC Brewing. Experience a pop-up at Ferns Diner + Drinkery with Chef Aaron Posey. Get traditional Chinese food (but vegan) at Shangri La. Dig into a carnivore’s take on housemade tempeh — featuring fermented white beans and seeds by Immerse Cuisine’s Chef Brent Beavers at The Carter Payne. And so much more. Find a list of participating establishments along with menus at coloradospringsveganevents.com.