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The Notorious Lehigh Valley Serial Vegan has struck.
Memphis Taproom owner Ken Correll came up with the name for the sender of a letter that arrived at his bar last week — one he had to read three times before finally setting it aside with a head shake and a chuckle.
The typed note begs, beseeches and nearly demands the Kensington tavern bring back a discontinued item, referred to as the “spaghetti and meatball hoagie.”
Said sandwich, which is actually vegan (those meatballs are lentils) is semi-famous among Memphis’ many plant-based-diet customers, according to numerous complimentary social media posts. But it was taken off the menu at least two years ago, Correll confirmed.
Why did someone make the effort to send a notice about it now? He’s not sure.
Mailed anonymously, the letter offers few clues. It was stamped with a postmark from Lehigh Valley, Pa., where there’s a big USPS processing and distribution center, and addressed simply to “Owner” on a printed address block taped to the envelope.
“We get a lot of requests from local parishes and organizations that need fundraising help, so I thought it was one of those,” Correll said. “Then I open it and it’s this kidnapper-style letter.”
One part of the message especially gave him pause. As part of the argument for bringing back the dish, the analog troller uses a racist Trumpism to refer to the pandemic. “If anything is going to get us through this Chinese Virus,” the note reads, “it will be the Carbs on top of Carbs Hoagie.”
Memphis Taproom recently received some backlash for posting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Correll said, which the hoagie-focused missive does not mention.
Either way, when he shared a pic of the note on his personal page, fans of the spaghetti sandwich immediately showed up in the comments, agreeing that it was a favorite. Good news if you’re in that camp: you can still order it as an off-menu special.
“We still make spaghetti and vegan meatballs, served [as an entree] with garlic bread,” Correll explained, so it’s easy to turn that into the hoagie version, which comes with vegan mozzarella melted on top.
The bar, located at the corner of Memphis and Cumberland between Fishtown and Port Richmond, is currently serving lunch and dinner Thursdays through Sundays.
A spacious backyard beer garden — considered one of the first in the city when it opened back in 2008 — has made the pandemic business model tenable, according to Correll. About 80% to 85% of staff has been hired back, he said, with additional positions opening up now. The outdoor dining area, outfitted with some plexiglass barriers, will safely seat 50 or so guests.
Memphis may try indoor dining after Sept. 8, assuming the city maintains its date for allowing the expanded service, but they plan to take things slow. “We’re unsure…we’ll dip our toes in.”
As for the carbs-on-carbs monster, if there’s high enough demand, it could also make a comeback. Its popularity doesn’t approach another sandwich that has stayed firmly on the menu: a veganized BLT with smoked coconut shavings taking the place of bacon.
“If we took off the coconut club,” Correll said. “I can only imagine the kind of letters we’d receive.”