Here's one of several places we meant to go on our last visit to Ohio, and didn't: Vegiterranean, Chrissie Hynde's new vegan restaurant in Akron. Say it again: vegan restaurant in Akron. I hope it succeeds, even if it's awful. I couldn't get excited about the menu, which is built around fake meat--veggie hot dogs, burgers, chicken-like bits, etc. I get what they are trying to do; diners in America's erstwhile tire capital, they figure, won't cotton to a pyramid of mixed seaweeds alongside quinoa fritters with tamarind sauce. On the other hand, you have to make a *really good* veggie burger to get people to forget the original, if they aren't inclined toward vegetarianism to begin with. I'm not sure I've ever had a *really good* veggie burger. (Perhaps Chrissie's was the one, and I've missed it!) What I have had are surprisingly good veggie burgers, inoffensive "chicken" nuggets, veggie dogs no worse than the average Ballpark. It seems to me the best bet is something like Ubuntu, where the entire concept of the meal is reconceived with vegetables, fruit, or grains at the center. But then again, perhaps you have to let people know that they don't have to give up hot dogs and hamburgers to be vegetarian. And if you offer more radical veggie food, as Vegiterranean sort of does, people may transition over to it. Anyway, good luck, Chrissie. Next time I'm in Akron, I will go.
UPDATE: I think what I'm getting at here--which I will express in the form of an SAT flashback--is as follows:
veggie burger: beef burger :: movie: book
That is, the best veggie burger (or dog, or mcnuggetty thing, or whatever) is somehow inspired by the original item but does not attempt to copy it. It has to be a veggie thing, first and foremost. Just as movies that try to reproduce the original book on film are always overcrammed, literal minded, and bad. The movie has to be a movie. It can't be a book or imitate a book, because it's a different art form.