Chef Jose Navarro hosted vegan pop-up in Burger Joint

Updated May 9, 2017 - 6:04 pm

By 7 p.m. Monday, the dozen or so tables at Henderson’s Burger Joint were packed, and there was a line for a seat in the dining room. The restaurant had filled up a couple of hours earlier, and would remain that way until its final hour of service.

It’s the kind of night that would satisfy any chef. But for Jose Navarro, it was even more special because none of the restaurant’s signature burgers were on the menu. Each meal he sent out from the kitchen was 100 percent plant-based — aka vegan.

But have no fear Henderson burger fans. Burger Joint has not gone anti-meat. Monday’s event was the first in a series of plant-based pop-ups called Plant(ivore), and the meal — a special five-course, prix fixe spread — was a way to test whether the Eastern Avenue neighborhood would accept a restaurant concept that spares animals. Based on its success, it is likely to be the first step in Navarro’s move toward opening a plant-based restaurant in the vicinity.

The crowd had been drawn by social media buzz and word-of-mouth in the local vegan community.

Attendees included major players such as Chef Mayra of the late Pura Vida Bakery & Bystro (currently looking for a new location in Summerlin) as well as newcomers to the lifestyle. The latter included Dani King, who said that, although she eats meat, “I’m apt to eat vegan food when I have the option, and I just wanted to see what they had.” Everyone agreed the town needs more dining options that forgo animal protein.

small pic description goes here

For Navarro, a 20-year food and beverage pro who spent 10 years in the kitchens of Caesars Palace before moving on to chef positions at Morel’s, D. Vino and Beso and a front-of-the house gig at Gordon Ramsay Steak before opening Burger Joint, it’s a chance to take his love of vegetable-based food to a new level.

“Ever since I’ve been planning menus, I’ve always started with what’s in season vegetable-wise,” the chef explained. “I always wanted to do something that is vegetable-forward because that’s more micro-seasonal, if you will. The landscape here in Vegas is getting to that point where it’s making it easier to do the things like that. Urban farming is becoming more of a thing.”

small pic description goes here

Navarro hopes the proliferation of farms in or near our valley will allow him to create menus that let the plants shine.

“One of the things that I’ve noticed (about local vegan cooking) is that everybody is trying to emulate something, or convert a traditional dish into a vegan dish,” Navarro said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. Everybody cooks in their own style. But for me, it’s got to be inspired by the vegetable.”

Each dish on Monday’s menu was inspired by the plants on the plate. The first course was a crispy potato amuse bouche — sort of a giant Tater Tot adorned with jalapeno chutney. That was followed by Latin American escabeche of rainbow cauliflower, pickled onions, purple corn, serrano peppers, avocados and tomatillos on a crispy cracker.

small pic description goes here

Rainbow cauliflower with escabeche, pickled onions, purple corn, serrano peppers, avocado and tomatillos. Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal @

Next up: a plate of trumpet mushrooms on rye toast with curry pineapple.

small pic description goes here

Trumpet mushroom with rye toast and curry pineapple radish. Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

And the entrée was a large artichoke segment over 10-bean stew.

small pic description goes here

Ten beans with artichokes and corn nage. Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

The meal concluded with rice milk panna cotta topped with bright fresh berries.

Given the crowd, it seems like Navarro will have no problem finding an audience if he decides to make this experiment permanent. Although he hasn’t set a time frame or a location, he hopes to stay in Henderson.

“I feel like the area had a renaissance of good dining about five or six years ago,” he said of the neighborhood. “And then it seems to have kind of died down a little.”

Navarro said he hopes plant-based cooking may help to rejuvenate that movement.

Contact Al Mancini at Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter.

Pleasing vegans’ unique palate

Chef Jose Navarro thoroughly scrubbed down the Burger Joint kitchen the night before his Plant(iovore) takeover, and kept it closed until the pop-up began. He hoped the move to prevent any cross-contamination of animal products would ease any vegans’ qualms about visiting a burger spot.

Based on the turnout, it seems to have worked. But Navarro knows that may never be enough for a tiny, but increasingly vocal, subset of the vegan community — people who demand complete orthodoxy to the plant-based lifestyle.

This extreme wing of the movement made headlines in California last year after it was revealed that the husband and wife who owned popular vegan chain Café Gratitude had reverted to eating eggs, milk and meat. While their decision did not affect their restaurants, they still received negative reviews on Yelp, and even death threats, when the news broke.

Shane Stuart, former vegan and owner of the primarily plant-based establishment Panacea in Boca Park (the only animal product he uses is local honey), was surprised when he experienced similar wrath about a year ago, after he began consuming meat again due to personal health concerns.

“When I went on my little meat journey, I decided to announce it and talk about my health,” he said. “And people just went (expletive). And it got really vicious.”

Stuart is quick to point out those attacks don’t represent the views of most vegans he’s encountered.

“It’s definitely the minority, not the majority,” he said. “But it is a little out of control.”

The people who run the Las Vegas Vegans page on Facebook, where Stuart encountered some of that negativity, are working to keep things under control. On April 28, a moderator for the page, which has more than 3,400 members, posted an announcement warning, in part, “any bullying, insulting, personal attacks (on people and establishments) will not be tolerated.”

So is Navarro worried that if he opens Plant(ivore) without separating himself from Burger Joint, he’ll encounter similar resistance?

“It’s obviously a concern,” he conceded. “I’d have to be blind to not see that.”

“But what I’m hoping will happen is that they will see that I do have respect for the vegan lifestyle. I understand what they’re trying to do. I understand the belief system. … It doesn’t mean that I have to participate in it. But I respect it, and I believe it, and I see where they’re coming from.”

You can visit the speakeasy in The Mob Museum's basement... if you know the password
6 new foods hitting movie theaters in 2018
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
This boozy milkshake is big enough to share with seven of your best friends
Fiddlestix makes an "8 Man Milkshake" that's packed with alcohol. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five Chris Stapleton songs you need to hear
D. Michael Evola opened E-String to make New York style pizza
Shamrock Macarons at Morels at Palazzo
Zuma serves a sushi roll topped with 24-karat gold
La Cirque covers their quail and foie gras in real gold
Jean-Georges Steakhouse seves chocolate gold bars
3 ways you can eat gold in Las Vegas
Artist Kathleen Nathan On The Virtues Of Library Galleries
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s art galleries offers artists a more relaxed vibe for showing their work. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada SPCA Competes In Tournament Of Tails
The NSPCA and its mascot cat, Prince, are competing in an online voting challenge for a $5,000 grand prize.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Eureka's cocktail comes with a "buzz button" that will shock your taste buds
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed Deadline reports that New Line has purchased Chase and Lawrence Konner’s screenplay for their “Sopranos” prequel film. The working title for the prequel is “The Many Saints of Newark.” Chase created the HBO series, which ran for six seasons, and Konner served as a writer. “The Many Saints of Newark” is set during the 1960s riots in the New Jersey city between the African-American and Italian communities. Multiple characters from the series, albeit younger versions, are expected to star in the film. The Sopranos won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards during its run.
The Big Bounce America is coming to the Las Vegas Valley
The Big Bounce America. (Courtesy Big Bounce America)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like