Sassafras: Somerville’s Newest Vegan Restaurant
Somerville’s newest vegan restaurant, Sassafras, barely has a table open but the atmosphere is warm, homey, and rustic with modern pops of turquoise, which matches the menu’s dichotomy of comfort foods and more refined vegan dishes. The menu, however, is not limited to vegan fair as there is cheese with dairy upon request for those who prefer to take the vegetarian root. With a large array of pizzas available, Sassafras has something for everyone.
Upon arrival I immediately spot owner Grover Taylor who once ran the popular Eat at Jumbo’s in Somerville’s Ball Square. He’s talking with and greeting guests, and dressed to get his hands dirty in the kitchen if need be. He sits across from me in a corner table begins telling me about the volume of customers he’s recently seen as we shared our surprise at just how many were willing to venture out into the rain to enjoy a bit of vegan comfort food. When asked what made Grover make his move from Jumbo’s to Sassafras he stated “other vegan shops have been opening and I always want to stay ahead of the curve.” And ahead of the curve he is, offering top-notch vegan cuisine at affordable prices in beyond-reasonable portions. While considering different options for the new restaurant Grover new he wanted innovation, and his partner Chris was all about vegan Charcuterie Boards.
Grover, a vegetarian and friend of many vegans wanted his new restaurant to shy away from what he often sees in the vegan food industry, creating something entirely unique of his own in his made-from-scratch kitchen. Because veganism has become more mainstream (I mean Tom Brady? Drake?!) and we’re seeing a plethora of new vegan eateries, Grover’s desire to stay inventive and to push the limits is why visiting Sassafras is a must for any herbivore. He steps away from the tired, over priced and ostentatious atmospheres we’ve come to associate with vegan dining, and instead you’re welcomed to the not-your-mother’s rustic kitchen. This is the sort of restaurant where you can feel comfortable and low-key while enjoying food comparable to any of the best restaurants out there. At Sassafras you don’t have to spend time worrying about whether or not you’re dressed up enough, and in Grover’s case, whether or not you can feel comfortable rocking an old punk-rock band tee. When asked where he’d like to see Sassafras go in the future, Grover replies with a smirk “I want to be recognized as Boston’s number one vegan restaurant,” and after enjoying the Vegan Grill Sampler, he might just get what he’s looking for.
It’s easy to say something tastes or looks good, but you’ve got to admire the Sassafras staff for what they’ve managed to achieve with one of their most popular dishes. The Vegan Grill sampler comes with BBQ “ribs,” “chicken,” and the best jackfruit “pulled pork” you’ve ever introduced your taste buds to. The sheer innovation of their ingredients is so prolific that I had to commend Grover over and over again that this was by far the best vegan food I’ve had in Boston, if not the country.
Sassafras is not only unique in its menu or décor, but the staff is full of kind, passionate herbivores who feel strongly about what they do. This is apparent in the food and the experience as a whole. So what’s in the works for Sassafras? They already offer catering services, brunch, lunch and dinner and will soon be serving some wines and beers (all vegan, of course.) Soon, there will even be vegetables from Grover’s very own garden. He has dreams to expand his skills in different ways, whether that means he eventually opens other restaurants in the Boston area, or creating a brand through Sassafras. That being said, when asked what motivates his innovation Taylor replied “when someone else does what I do I move on to the next thing.” He should have no problems there. I find it hard to believe anyone can do vegan quite like Grover Taylor.