Formerly a temporary pop-up vendor in Trinity Kitchen, Wanderer Junk have been serving up seitan burgers & loaded fries to the grateful citizens of Leeds since the start of summer. I think I speak on behalf of literally every Leeds vegan when I say we were all dreading the day their residency would end and we’d be left with a Wanderer-shaped hole in our heart(/stomach).
However, in September, they saved all our asses and announced they had taken over the Chapel of Church, which is right next to the Leeds Uni campus. God. Bless. These. Guys.
The team behind Wanderer are also those who run El Marchador Tacos, which, according to Fat Gay Vegan, have the best tacos in the UK, so they are definitely next on my list. I first tried Wanderer’s food when they were in Trinity, so you might remember them from my Top 10 Vegan Dishes I’ve Eaten Up North post – I still stand by that, by the way.
The restaurant has a very cool, laid-back vibe; the walls are still decorated in the same pop culture paper from former residents Get Baked, which is incredibly loud and garish, but works pretty well given how sizeable the space is. Due to the size of the restaurant, you can choose whether to sit in natural light or dimmer corners lit by pendant lights hanging from the ceiling (someone’s been to IKEA!). I always choose natural light because I am a disgraceful human being who cares too much about Instagram-worthy photos, but it’s cool that they have slightly darker corners and sofas to chill out on if that’s your kinda thing.
The way it works is you just choose your food from the menus already on the table, order at the bar, get given a number, then the guys in the kitchen shout out your order when it’s ready and you go pick it up. I personally love this style of service – for someone who eats out as often as I do, I don’t really like how most restaurants are run. I like to be able to take my time looking at the menu without feeling bad that I’m annoying the waitress coming to our table every 5 minutes, and I also love paying at the start so that once you’ve eaten you don’t have to awkwardly wait around half an hour for the bill. Despite the laid-back service, the bartender didn’t hesitate to fuss over Remy and offer him a chair, which I thought was really sweet (it was a big cosy chair not a highchair). She also came back a few more times and gave him an origami bird she had made – little touches like that are really cute and we definitely appreciated it. Apparently Remy’s way of showing appreciation was to eat it immediately. Poor bird never had a chance.
Onto the food! I’ve been twice now, so I’ll just quickly go into what I liked the most and least. Spoiler alert: everything is amazing and you should just order it all. The first time we went, we were with my sisters, and the three of them all ordered the WFC sandwich, which is obviously a fried “chicken” burger – I split Danny’s with him and it was really lovely, but I think I have overdone it with vegan fried chicken, as we order it everywhere we go, and so personally I was after something a bit different. I got the Blackened Tofish Sandwich, and I regret absolutely nothing. I was a little worried as faux fish can taste super bland, but Wanderer’s cajun spiced fish had so much flavour! I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again next time, although I do have my eye on their other fish burger, the Filet of Ish – it’s served with cheese and tartare sauce, so I’m thinking it’ll taste just like the McDonald’s burger. Apparently I am the only person ever who thinks that’s the best thing on McDonald’s menu. Big Mac who?
We also all ordered the Junkyard Fries – we had originally planned to order mac and cheese too, but they were all out so we got twice as much fries. Regretted this, as although the toppings were great, the fries are really thin and therefore incredibly crunchy, and it was sort of like eating loaded crisps. They were hard to pick up on our forks, and I’m unsure if this is the style of fries or if we just got an overdone batch, but I don’t think we’ll be ordering them again. Which is fine, all the more room/money for burgers!
Next time we went, it was just me and Danny, and we were very hungry so we went all out. We’d planned to go for brunch but got there literally 3 minutes after their brunch menu ended. Luckily, they have a few breakfast type items on their main menu, so we both got their U Ok Bun? which is a bacon and potato hash roll with black coffee and orange juice for just £6! I think this is an amazing idea, as I don’t really get drunk much anymore but in my hungover uni days I would have killed for a hangover cure this amazing and cheap. I don’t tend to like bacon (or facon), as I think it’s super salty, but this was the right amount of savoury without being overpowering, and the potato hash was a good addition to balance it out. Pretty sure the potato hash was just cut up fries, and they didn’t seem overdone or crispy this time, so maybe I was too quick to write them off… we’ll see.
Our side of cauliflower wings were really tasty, but also really oily. I know a bit of grease is to be expected with junk food, but this was a bit too much for me personally. I love deep-fried food but when it’s dripping into the basket, it’s overdoing it slightly, which is a shame as they tasted good, and the buffalo sauce alongside them was perfect – not like that horrible Frank’s buffalo style that was so popular a few years back. My only (other) criticism would be the celery, too. I know it’s a typical style to serve wings with celery, but I’m sure most people aren’t going to eat it so it just seems a waste. Maybe it’s my fault, next time I will order without!
We also got the Return Of The Mac, which was topped with bacon, crispy potato, scallions and cream cheese. This was incredible! On a level with Temple of Seitan’s mac and cheese for sure. London restaurants are always going to get more attention than those up north, but it’s actually frustrating how much good food I’ve eaten that’s better than Temple of Seitan…anyway, this was actually very similar, but there was more of it and it was cheaper – win, win! I’m very fussy with vegan mac and cheese, as the cheese sauce is obviously such an overpowering element of the dish, if it tastes wrong or weird then you’ve fucked it. But this didn’t try too hard to be cheesy, it was more creamy and then got the majority of the flavour from the toppings, I would say. They have another topped Mac on the menu, think it’s a pizza flavoured one, so we will definitely try that next time!
I’m aware my list of “try this next time”/”try this again” is very long at this point, but that’s the beauty of it existing right next to uni!
I always find myself wanting to return to my favourite food places every week but can’t as they’re usually in different cities, so it’s mint that this is literally next door to where I’ll be every day. Feeling blessed.
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