Benson Brewery:
The Movement Enters Cattle Country

February 13th, 2014

1002709_358472680948030_1944233702_nThis past Monday, when a restaurant in the heart of cattle country embraced Meatless Monday, residents reacted swiftly: they jammed the place.

Benson Brewery, located in Omaha, Nebraska, had a one-hour wait as customers enthusiastically lined up for local, sustainable and delicious vegetarian cooking. And this is why Meatless Monday is good business: Benson Brewery is joining the movement not by subtracting house-cured pastrami and Chocolate Stout Braised Short Ribs from its menu, but by simply adding dishes like Zucchini Ribbon Salad and Seitan Piccata.

Executive Chef Matthew Taylor, who admittedly “loves meat,” does not have to prove his carnivore credentials. After all, he stirs his coffee with bacon. But at the same time, he recognizes the shift in dining demands that is moving more vegetables to the center of the plate. “I have a clientele that are asking for it. I believe in giving customers what they want.”

photo[2]And what they got on Monday were dishes such as Baby Kale & Lentil Salad, Mushroom Stroganoff with Herb Breaded Tofu, and German Chocolate Bread Pudding. Partnering with cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz, every week customers will be enjoying food that’s good for them, good for the planet, and good for the local economy. “I want to promote local farming,” says Chef Taylor. “I want to buy from local farmers within a 40-mile radius from my restaurant. I want to affect agricultural practices with nutritious fresh food and humble preparation by conscientious people.”

Before Benson Brewery offered Meatless Monday, Taylor said Mondays were “a dismal day for business.” But by adding vegetarian and vegan options, Benson Brewery is adding customers while also having a positive impact on the community.

“There’s a joy about Meatless Monday. Our customers applaud that we will promote Meatless Monday each week,” says Taylor.

In the city that was once home to the Union Stockyards, customers are now lining up to go meatless. Which parallels nicely with Taylor’s changing approach as a chef. “I’m evolving as a chef, learning about diet and the science of food. This is causing me to change my dietary approach for my customers.”