Sunday, July 14, 2024

The meatless meatball sub at Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge’s Central Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

To me, “diner” and “comfort food” are interconnected, if not inseparable, terms. Could one exist without the other? Definitely not in Guy Fieri’s world. But if you drop in the word “veggie,” as in “diner serving vegetarian comfort food,” could that fly? Most might think of whole grains and crisp greens, good-quality rabbit food that you’d get at Live Alive or another place that serves closer to raw vegetarian fare that’s undeniably healthy and deliciously done – but where is the comfort in that?

Veggie Galaxy in Central Square has you covered. It’s a 1950s-style diner with red vinyl swivel stools, white-and-black tiled floors and upholstered booths – the only things missing are the tabletop jukebox controls. Given its moniker, the eatery’s logo is evocative of a “Star Wars” title roll, but the force here is one that’s plant-based, and you don’t need to be a Jedi warrior to partake. Confirmed carnivores are invited as well. What Veggie Galaxy serves up is good, basic diner love: burgers, pancakes, fries, Reubens and subs that are all meat free, letting tempeh, soy and tofu be the way. Breakfast is served all day (from opening at 11 a.m.) and the folks at Veggie Galaxy are conscientious about vegans: Most egg plates can come as tofu scramble versus eggs. Given the mix of entree categories, the menu is vast. There are daily specials, too.

Before Bukowski Tavern left Inman Square – or I should say before it was rebranded as an upscale bar and flamed out – I was a big fan of its meatless meatball sub. It was hearty, tangy and largely guilt free. Now I get Veggie Galaxy’s version, and it never disappoints with its homemade seitan meatballs in a soft, toasted Iggy’s sub roll with mozzarella and zesty marinara. I suggest accompanying the sub with the potato salad, which is more like a cold mash with the skins on, rich and creamy with a sweetish pickle pucker to it – a curious changeup that works.

Veggie Galaxy has fun red, white and rosé sangria offerings that are juicy, full-bodied and smooth without cloyingly sweet overtones. My last time in, I had a seasonal peach spin that tasted like peach cobbler in a glass – and though the blue plate special of a sausage, onion and peppers sub beckoned me, I stayed with my usual. A vegan chocolate cream pie special was a nice way to end the evening.

The owners of Veggie Galaxy once ran Veggie Planet in the Club Passim space in Harvard Square, but it felt more like a café pop-up than a destination, whereas the spot in Central – serving up non-meat happiness since 2011 – is a come-in, sit-down experience like the Friendly Toast or Donut Villa Dinner. Keeping with the era-esque vibe, the team of friendly servers take your orders on old-school order pads, and the music piped in is decidedly classic rock. 

Veggie Galaxy, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge


Want to learn how to make sushi or hand-pulled noodles like a James Beard-nominated chef? During January and February, Tracy Chang, the can-do owner and chef at Pagu, offers hands-on instruction in making noodles and sushi rolls. You get to eat your handiwork, too. For dates and times and to sign up, see Pagu’s website and get your toque on.

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.