The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
Ever since the 18th century, when an easy-to-eat bread-and-filling combination earned the name "sandwich" after John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich (who didn't want to leave the gambling table to take a meal), the sandwich has become the most popular form of lunchtime calorie absorption for busy Americans. And if you're really hungry, get something on the side, like french fries. And yet -- if only someone would take the french fries and actually put them on the sandwich. Crazy? Until you've had the "Fries Sandwich" at the Vine Mediterranean Cafe and Market (3171 South Grand Boulevard; 314-776-0991), you might think so.
The Vine is known for its tasty shawarmas, kabobs, kaftas and falafel. But its most original contribution to St. Louis cuisine is a weird-sounding but delicious sandwich whose main ingredient is the Vine's seasoned french fries.
Technically it's a wrap, if you want to quibble. But a wrap, being easier to eat and still a wheat-flour container of tasty goodness, is arguably an evolutionary improvement on two pieces of bread precariously surrounding a lot of messy food destined for your lap and your mouth in equal measure.
The "Fries Sandwich" is simple. A tightly rolled flour wrap contains seasoned french fries, tabouli, pickles, tomatoes, garlic sauce and a little ketchup. The pickles provide brightness and a satisfying crunch. The garlic sauce is creamy and delicious, and there's ketchup because you can't have fries without it. It's a surprisingly great combination. If you want to get really crazy you can add cheese, babaganouj, hummus, or even rice for a serious carb overload.
The whole idea of the "Fries Sandwich" makes lunch even more convenient, because you don't have a side of fries and a sandwich. But the fries are so good you'll probably want to get a side of them as well. Either way, this is a lunch worthy of an aristocrat. The fourth Earl of Sandwich would be proud.