The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Vegan Menu Options at Mellow Mushroom®

Posted on June 16, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

MellowMushroom

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

Annica Kreider, VP of Brand Development for Mellow Mushroom told us in 2014 that the chain was considering a few more vegetarian and vegan menu options and that they were hopeful that they would be added within a year. http://www.vrg.org/blog/2014/12/17/vegan-options-at-mellow-mushroom/

We recently checked the company website in March 2017 and viewed a “Herb Veggie Burger” featuring quinoa and kale. Roasted Potatoes also appeared on the menu. 

We noticed in May 2017 that the Herb Veggie Burger was no longer on the corporate menu. http://mellowmushroom.com/corpmenu

We wondered if it had been removed from all locations. The Vegetarian Resource Group called several Mellow Mushroom restaurants around the country to find out.
We were surprised that all six Mellows that we had contacted stated that they served the Herb Veggie Burger. What was even more surprising were the different answers we received when we asked if this menu offering was all-vegetable (i.e., vegan).

We first called three Mellow restaurants in the Maryland-Virginia-Washington, DC area. The managers at all of these locations stated that they served the Herb Veggie Burger.

The managers at the Washington, DC and Maryland stores put us on long holds and checked on its ingredients. They both stated that the Herb Veggie Burger was all-vegetable. They also stated that the bun on which it is served contained no dairy nor L-cysteine.

A Virginia Mellow manager said quite the opposite. “The Herb Veggie Burger is not vegan because it contains egg as a binder.” He voiced agreement with the others saying its bun was dairy- and L-cysteine-free. However, unlike the first two managers, he stated that the bun is automatically buttered; guests must request that butter be left off.

We next ventured West and called three more Mellow Mushroom restaurants in Utah, Arizona, and Iowa.

A Utah Mellow Mushroom employee, upon hearing our call requesting a vegan menu item, called a vegan employee to the phone. She put us on hold several times during our conversation to check and double check for us as we repeated our question in several different ways asking specifically about egg and dairy. Finally she stated that dairy, but not egg, was in the Herb Veggie Burger.

An Arizona Mellow Mushroom manager stated just the opposite: the Herb Veggie Burger contained egg but not dairy.

The Iowa manager concurred with the Virginian and Arizonan stating that egg served as a binder in the Herb Veggie Burger. He also noted the automatic bun buttering; visitors needed to request that it be left off.

The Iowa manager volunteered additional information: all of the Mellow menu is “veganizable” except for four items:
• Herb Veggie Burger (egg)
• Pesto (animal rennet)
• Holy Shiitake Pie (butter)
• Stuffed Portobello Mushroom (butter)

Five of the six Mellow Mushroom restaurants which we contacted provided the same information about the Roasted Potatoes: They are prepared in the oven away from meat items. They are roasted with fresh olive oil and no butter. However, the Virginia manager told us that the potatoes were prepared with butter.
Given the variety of responses from these six Mellow Mushroom restaurants, The VRG called them again in June 2017.

Usually the host/hostess answered the phone. He or she would put us on hold; relay our question to the kitchen and/or general manager; and get back with a response. Our goal was to find unanimous agreement among all of the restaurants since we didn’t have an answer from the corporate office. Here is what we learned the second time around:

• The Maryland Mellow Mushroom told us that egg, but not dairy, was in the Herb Veggie Burger. Butter is automatically spread on its bun unless requested otherwise. There is no butter in the Roasted Potatoes.
• A Washington, DC Mellow Mushroom announced that the Herb Veggie Burger had just been taken off of the corporate menu and they had no more left in stock. No butter was used to prepare the Roasted Potatoes.
• A Virginia location of this chain stated that Herb Veggie Burgers had just been removed from the menu. There was no butter on the Roasted Potatoes.
• This time, the host at the Utah location stated that the Herb Veggie Burger had egg in it. He added that there was no butter on the Roasted Potatoes.
• No more Herb Veggie Burgers were available at an Arizona Mellow Mushroom location. The host also said that there was no butter on the Roasted Potatoes.
• An employee at an Iowa Mellow Mushroom told us that there was no egg nor dairy in the Herb Veggie Burger. Recalling what we had been previously told by the manager at that same location last month, we asked him to check into it again. He returned from a brief hold stating that egg served as a binder in the Herb Veggie Burger.

Thinking that we had collected all of the information needed in our second round of calls, we were surprised to hear next, upon asking in Iowa about the Roasted Potatoes, that a butter spray containing “natural butter flavor” and milk was used to coat the potatoes before they were roasted.

So we went back again and called the first five Mellow Mushroom restaurants to find out if they used a butter spray. This time we asked specifically about a butter spray (not just butter).

• The Maryland Mellow Mushroom hostess told us “no.” We asked her to check with her manager. She returned stating that she had checked with both the kitchen and general managers who concurred: no butter or butter spray.
• The Washington, DC Mellow Mushroom host put us on hold then initially told us that a butter spray was used on the potatoes. When we probed further to see if dairy were also in the butter spray, he transferred us to the manager. She stated that the spray had neither butter nor dairy; it contained only soy and canola oils.
• A Virginia Mellow Mushroom hostess told us that she would check with the kitchen and returned saying that butter spray was applied to the potatoes. Then we asked if dairy were in the spray. She said that she would check again and then she put the receiver down. After being disconnected, we called back and asked to speak to the manager. The person identified herself as the manager. We asked “Is there milk in the butter spray on the potatoes?” I heard her relay my question as “Is there milk in the potatoes?” She returned by saying “There’s no milk in the potatoes.” I repeated my initial question. I heard her correctly relay the question the second time. She came back on and said that there was milk in the butter spray used on the potatoes.
• In Utah, the host put us on hold and later said that there was not any butter spray used. When we indicated that other Mellow Mushroom restaurants do use a butter spray he called a kitchen employee over to the phone. The kitchen employee reiterated that there was no butter spray used on the potatoes.
• A hostess at a Mellow Mushroom in Arizona transferred our call to another employee. When I repeated my question about butter spray I heard him ask someone else in the restaurant: “Is there butter on the potatoes?” We corrected him and again he put us on hold. He returned saying butter (not butter spray) was used on the potatoes but a guest can request that it be left off.

Given the differences between the six Mellow Mushroom locations which we contacted, The Vegetarian Resource Group recommends that before ordering, diners ask to speak to the general and/or the kitchen manager about menu items in order to determine how they are prepared at a particular location. Ask to see a list of ingredients if possible.

Note: “natural butter flavor” may or may not be derived from dairy butter. You must contact the company which manufactured the product containing it to be sure. “Artificial butter flavor” is not derived from dairy butter.

Note: The allergen page at the corporate Mellow Mushroom website indicates that the Roasted Potatoes do not contain milk. http://www.nutritionix.com/mellow-mushroom/menu/special-diets/premium?allergens=milk 

The contents of this posting, our website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, donate at www.vrg.org/donate

Or join at http://www.vrg.org/member/cabdacae.php

Information on additional restaurant chains is at http://www.vrg.org/fastfoodinfo.php

You can find vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the U.S. and Canada here.
http://www.vrg.org/restaurant/index.php

1 to “Vegan Menu Options at Mellow Mushroom®”

  1. John Elliott says:

    All of this back and forth, heresay and confusion on ingredients points to the fact that we need an empirical testing device to determine whether there are animal components–even traces–in our food. I, long ago, came up with the solution: a small “litmus paper” that could be put in contact with the suspicious food, and which would indicate if there were offending chemical traces. I only need the funding to produce the test papers. What do you and others think?



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