If you are a vegan, you are used to skimming the perimeter of a menu looking for a leaf symbol or a bold-faced V to find those couple of entrees meant for you. It isn’t that you can’t find good vegan food in Wilmington, but why must its procurement feel like a treasure hunt? V-Trap Kitchen and Lounge, the new restaurant at 607 N. Lincoln Street in Wilmington’s Little Italy, turns that model of food service on its head. The entire menu is filled with vegan fare, but Ssh! you don’t have to tell your carnivorous friends. That’s the “trap” part of the restaurant’s name. The food is so healthy and addictive, it will ensnare those people in your circle who regularly dismiss the plant side of the menu.
Kristin and Milton Bowen, owners of V-trap, first came on the Wilmington food scene through their food truck, Nude Food, which offers fresh, healthy fare that caters to special diets, but is delicious enough that a family of picky eaters will clean their plates. As parents to four daughters, it was important to the Bowens to provide food that was accessible to family members with different palates, not just the those with food sensitivities or aversions. The food truck is gold to Wilmington diners because it means that the Bowens have already done their homework. They field tested their menu and have narrowed in on those recipes that people clamor for. As a result, their evolving seasonal menu is anchored by five favorites: Loaded Chili Nachos, Pulled BBQ Jack Wrap, Fiesta Tacos, Cheez Burger, and Mushroom & Pepper Cheez Steak.
During the restaurant’s soft opening, I sat down at the counter to try some of the food and chat with Kristin about what is in store for the new eatery and the neighborhood of restaurants that make up the Little Italy section of Wilmington. First thing first—the food. I had situated myself next to the self-serve order station. People were filing in, excited to finally get a chance to taste the fare. This restaurant has had a buzz about it for months. (Here is where I cop to begging to get this writing gig. I wanted to be one of the first people in the door and at the table.) When it was my turn to order on the iPad, I zeroed in on the Fiesta Tacos which happened to be gluten-free. Instead of using traditional vegan fillings, the taco meat in these tacos consists of walnuts and sundried tomatoes. V-trap then tops their tacos with guacamole, kale, cheddar “cheez” and a creamy chipotle dressing. The goal of the tacos is not to trick you into thinking you are eating ground beef or chicken, but for diners to eat them without missing the meat. I am not a vegan; neither am I vegetable averse. I am an ominivore with an umami-tooth, which means I crave savory, brothy flavors whether they come from sautéed mushrooms or a grilled steak. The Fiesta Taco satisfied my appetite on all levels. The combination of nuts and sundried tomatoes had a nice heft, deep earthy flavors, and mouth feel that we food sensationalists seek. I especially liked the accompanying fresh salsa. It imparted a brightness that heightened the flavors and brought the whole dish to the next level.
One of the Bowens' daughters, 8-year-old Cailin Mihok, ordered after me. Her favorite is the Mushroom & Pepper Cheezsteak. When I asked Cailin “what do your younger sisters like?” she answered, “Annoying!” having misunderstood the question. (I get it Cailin, I have a little sister.) The true answer to my question was that each of her three sisters has a different favorite from the menu, but they are all three open to most of it. This means that, on takeout night, it is that kind of menu that kids will love and parents will feel good about serving. Little Italy offers street parking for its restaurants, but V-trap will have two, designated, 15-minute spots out front for those nights when you are between track practice and music lessons and need to make a quick dinner run.
Obviously, family and neighborhood are important to the Bowens in the creation of their restaurant. They have adorned the walls of V-trap with local art, which is for sale—including a piece that Cailin painted and is hanging the bathroom. Community events, such as a June block party, are in the works. In the meantime, you can check out V-trap’s online activities page which lists fun offerings such as live music, kids’ cooking class, game night, and even a spring break event where teachers can enjoy chair massages and mocktails made from V-trap’s selection of house-pressed juices. Personally, I can’t wait to bring my meat-loving husband here for fondue date night. Will I tell him it’s a vegan restaurant? Maybe or maybe not, but something tells me that, either way, he won’t mind the trap one bit.
V-Trap Kitchen and Lounge: 607 N Lincoln St, Wilmington, DE 19805.
Hours Tuesday-Thursday 11AM-6PM, Friday-Saturday 11AM-8PM