M.O.B. (Maimonide of Brooklyn)
525 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill
On a brick-exposed trophy wall, little plaques speared with faux fennel bulbs and golden zucchinis commemorate the vegetables that died for us. From the tall, loft-like ceiling, about 20 artfully mismatched pendant lamps hang in single-file over large communal tables. Across these tables, over tidy rows of glowing tea lights, the gluten-averse can stare lovingly into the eyes of their strict-vegan inamoratas, knowing they can share more than just a salad here. Even that rare and impossibly svelte creature, the gluten-free vegan, can down some serious calories at M.O.B. (aka Maimonide of Brooklyn), where every dish is free of animal products and brimming with healthful goodness.
Two doorways, shaped like the gothic arches of the Brooklyn Bridge, lead from the dining area to an expansive kitchen, and the signature menu item, fresh-baked flatbreads called M.O.B.s, are molded into the same sharp-pointed vault. Something between an open-faced sandwich and a slice of pizza, M.O.B.s serve up bold, sophisticated flavor combinations with silly names: the Belly Charmer is a vehicle for a Moroccan-spiced tagine of eggplant, zucchini and carrots, with crunchy pistachios and fresh mint and cilantro; the Iron Man pairs smoky roasted shiitakes with sautéed kale and sharp horseradish aioli. (Add an L to the rating if you’re a vegetarian!) The warm, chewy flatbreads are generally made with locally grown and locally milled organic flour, but M.O.B.s are also available on gluten-free bread.
With its coffee shop vibe and pretty low price-point ($10 for an M.O.B., $15 for a crimini mushroom burger with salad or yucca fries), it’s surprising that the servers at M.O.B. speak of the menu with the pro-vegan gusto usually reserved for higher-end health-food joints like Manhattan’s Pure Food & Wine. Our server enthusiastically recommended the mushroom and chickpea nuggets, gleefully rattling off their ingredients—oyster mushrooms, chick pea flour, garlic, onions, shallots, spices and panko—and concluded that she thought they were more flavorful than any chicken nuggets she’d ever tasted. They were indeed flavorful but also on the mushy side, as they were baked instead of fried. A fine dipping sauce of honey and whole-grain mustard worked as an apology for the lack of crispiness. (For bee-respecting vegans, servers are known to warn you about the few dishes with honey.)
But we’d totally get behind her recommendation for the fennel and sage saucisson appetizer, a porcini mushroom-sunflower seed sausage served with sourdough toast, garlicky aioli and pleasingly bright and sour pickled radishes. We were also glad that she gave us the hard sell on the beet wine, the most intriguing item we tried. The combination of fresh, sweet and earthy beet juice with Fernet, a bitter, aromatic and spicy spirit that is said to have medicinal properties, captured the essence of M.O.B.’s food-for-health philosophy in one small, celebratory, ruby-colored concoction.