The Inner Harbor’s Pizzazz Tuscan Grille advertises itself as the only restaurant of its kind in the Baltimore area; Upscale casual Italian cuisine with no preservatives, pink Himalayan sea salts, no white sugars, only agave or organic raw sugar, cold pressed olive oils. Vegan and gluten free options on a traditional menu nestled within the tourist trap of crab cakes and sno-cones. Such an audacious boast left me searching through the Grille’s options, unsure of what to select. The phrase “Black Bean Vegan Burger” left visions of a Red Robin monstrosity ketchup and salt-soaked in my brain. Thankfully, my food-server informed me that the dish was not a burger, but a sandwich, similar to a patty melt. For a moment I thought to wax on the nature of burgers to sandwiches, but I refrained.
Removing “ham” from “burger” opens up so many possibilities. What I received (extremely late, explaining the partially-eaten nature of the photo, although this was to be expected in the Harbor) was true to the patty melt promise — a crispy black bean vegetable patty smothered with Daiya cheese, topped with tomato, onions, mixed greens and spicy mustard on whole grain bread. As a vegan who spent twenty years as a Southern American omnivore, Daiya is a blessing. It recreates the texture and nature of cheese while exhibiting a taste all its own; were I to return to meat and dairy at any point in my life, Daiya would remain a substitute for cheese – its superior.
While hardly a burger, Pizzazz’s vegan manna proved a grand reprieve from the barbecue and cocktail stench of Baltimore’s watery tourists. The eatery’s philosophy of “food is medicine” could not be more accurate … without the Black Bean Vegan Burger, I would have been sick.