Baby Got Jackfruit | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Baby Got Jackfruit 

It's tres leches without milk and birria without beef at Yumz Vegan Bakery and Café.

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It wasn't that long ago that mainstream diners amused themselves by perpetuating unfair stereotypes about plant-based diets. In fact, I still hear people crack jokes about vegan food being dull and unexciting.

Though I don't practice a strictly plant-based diet, I've broadened my horizons enough to know that Utah doesn't mess around when it comes to inventive vegan cuisine. Anyone who lives here and still thinks that practicing veganism is practicing gastronomic masochism needs to get out more. For starters, you could check out Yumz Vegan Bakery and Café (3490 S. State Street, 801-590-8092) for a peek at how traditional Latin eats like tres leches cakes and chile verde are getting a plant-based spin.

At first glance, I figured Yumz would be more bakery and less café, but it's honestly an impressive mixture of both. Owner Cecilia Armenta and her family have worked to make Yumz a bastion for plant-based Latin comfort food, both sweet and savory. I'm always fascinated with the creativity chefs display when putting a plant-based spin on food that traditionally relies on meat and dairy. In this case, Yumz has set its sights on birria tacos, those cheesy, beefy tacos you can dip into beef consommé that have been taking over our local social media feeds as of late.

As birria is something that Latin restaurants and chefs have been doing for decades, Armenta and her team had a solid foundation from which to recreate the dish with some well-seasoned jackfruit and vegan cheese. While the menu includes all kinds of Mexican favorites, I had to give the birria platter ($16) a whirl. All of the meat-based birria I have tried really relies on those juicy cuts of protein dipped into a steaming bowl of beef consommé, so I was looking forward to seeing how Yumz was going to approach this dish.

Upon arrival, these tacos looked the part. They had the crisp tortilla, tinged orange from the stewed fillings within. They had the gooey cheese oozing onto the plate from behind a pressed pile of birria. Honestly, I would be hard-pressed to tell these apart from their carnivorous counterparts. Instead of beef consommé, the birria tacos at Yumz come with a richly flavored tomato-based broth swimming with chopped onions and cilantro.

So how do they stack up flavor-wise? Based on the look and aroma of this plate of tacos, I knew they were going to taste good. What I was not expecting was for them to nail the texture. Jackfruit is a wonderful addition to the plant-based chef's arsenal, but the trick to a good birria comes from the stewing process. Beef, goat, chicken—whatever—will add a level of flavor to the broth, but jackfruit doesn't offer the same benefit. So to make a birria that maintains its traditional flavor, while keeping the slightly bitter flavor of jackfruit in check, takes some talent—and it's a talent which the Armenta family has mastered. These tacos absolutely nail the flavors that make birria such a soulful and satisfying bite. Even the vegan cheese was melty and mild enough to make a decent supporting player. I have had some frightening experiences with plant-based cheese, but they've done everything right at Yumz.

Fans of the birria will also want to check out their selection of chili verde burritos ($14.99), fries ($10.99) and enchiladas ($13.99) for another plant-based revelation. Again, I'm so used to a protein like pork being the focal point of good chili verde, but the Yumz team continues to harness their talents to capture savory flavors from elsewhere within the plant-based world.

It would be a crime to visit Yumz and not snag some dessert to finish things off. I elected to get a few Napoleon cakes. Again, at first glance you would not be able to tell that these creamy, flaky desserts were made without eggs, cream or butter—they're absolutely beautiful. I got one mixed berry and one biscoff, and I am here to tell you that neither dessert skimped on the good stuff. Thick layers of pastry cream sandwiched between thin sheets of pastry and topped with a liberal dose of whipped cream.

Once I dug into these, I definitely appreciated the sheer volume of rich pastry cream. It was a dead ringer for the filling within a good Boston cream doughnut, an impressive feat considering there is no dairy involved. The whipped cream and toppings were also excellent, though I did think the pastry was a bit difficult to cut through, which caused the cream to smoosh out on everything—but it was a small gripe in the grand scheme of things.

With the birria and chile verde at Yumz gracing our state with their presence, I think it's safe to say that our plant-based comfort food game just went up a few points. Whether you're looking for some tasty vegan indulgences or just after a solid interpretation of traditional birria, it's time to check out Yumz.

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More by Alex Springer

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