Vegan Friendly: The Bell Marker in the Gaslamp District
The Veg Foodie, Kelly Bone, is on the hunt for restaurants and bars whose vegan options aren't just after-thougths. This week she checks out the plant-based menu at The Bell Marker in the Gaslamp District.
The Short and Skinny
Under the twinkling lights of the Gaslamp, a new brew pub binds beers by San Diego’s native son, Noah Regnery, with a classic American menu rich with vegan options.
A large horseshoe bar engulfs spirit racks and golden taps pulling beers brewed on premise. A rotating list of guest drafts flush out the options. Between rows of white brick, clear panes of glass reveal polished tanks gurgling on hops and yeast. Brass lights cast a dim glow over the heads of vacationing couples, liberated office workers, and curious locals here to test the taps. Peek into the open kitchen you'll see spirals of olive oil falling over pizzas, potatoes dropping into the fryer, and frothy cashew cream finishing appetizers. General Manager Keith Wolfe leads a polished staff, well-schooled in dietary questions and the growing scope of beer and cocktails—at San Diego’s introductory ABC (Artisanal Brewers Collective) Pub.
ABC’s Culinary Director, Trevor Faris, brings tried and true recipes from across the collective, some re-spun and made new for the San Diego market. Here, slabs of silken tofu becomes fish and chips and heirloom beans are stewed into a rich cassoulet.
The bulk of the menu is pulled from the roaring mouth of the 620 degree Wood Stone oven. Organic flour forms pizza crust—which rises and cold ferments over a 72 hour period—spread with an array of topping from a simple dusting of oregano to roasted squash with pomegranate molasses. A coarse California tomato sauce or lemon infused cashew cream lays base to each pie. The kitchen, armed with Follow Your Heart Mozzarella, Kite Hill Ricotta, Parmela Aged Nut Cheese Sharp Cheddar, and fennel spiced Impossible Meat sausage can veganize nearly every pizza on the menu.
Care is taken in all acts—from separate prep zones reserved for vegan food to chefs finding ways to purposefully reuse scrap. For instance, the silky remnants of soaked chickpeas for the house-made hummus becomes the aquafab used in the sour floats at the cocktail bar.
What to Order
The generous jar of rough chopped Mushroom Pate ($11) nests under a stratum of pickled mustard seeds and a float of horseradish foam. It is plated with a not-to-be-overlooked side salad—a conglomerate of all the kitchen herbs and microgreens dressed in a light vinaigrette with pickled red onions—that is good enough to be a stand alone dish.
A coveted salad in the vegan community, the Classic Caesar ($13) comes scattered with Röckenwagner croutons and tossed in a house-made cashew dressing spiked with herbs, sumac, olive oil, and capers.
Dollops of cultured almond ricotta cuddle up with earthy roasted mushrooms under a sprinkle of thyme on the White Mushroom Pizza ($17).
Asking for the favorite staff meal is a one-way road to satisfaction. This is how I came upon the Squash Pie ($16). The warm lemon creme saturates the air just before your first bite of the slice—loaded with winter squash, red onion, and arugula—hits your mouth. The sharp drizzle of tart pomegranate molasses lingers as you lean in for another forkfull.
Ask for beer recommendations after ordering food. Your waiter will bring you a curated sampling of beers paired perfectly with your meal.
602 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101