The Mobile Broccoli Bar Sprouts a New Outpost at the University of Vermont | Dining on a Dime | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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The Mobile Broccoli Bar Sprouts a New Outpost at the University of Vermont


Published February 27, 2024 at 1:38 p.m.
Updated February 28, 2024 at 10:03 a.m.

Gabe "the Broccoli Man" Marcolini (left) with the UVM mascot - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Gabe "the Broccoli Man" Marcolini (left) with the UVM mascot

Who knew that broccoli was a party animal? Ahem, make that a party vegetable.

Fans of the seasonal, mobile Broccoli Bar did. Operated since 2015 by the team behind Burlington's two-location Pingala Café, the vividly painted truck arrives at summer festivals and events with a built-in DJ booth and fog machines to accompany its vegan menu of the mop-topped veg: barbecued, stir-fried, tempura'd and blended into sauce for veggie dumplings.

It might sound crazy to eat a meal of all things broccoli, but it works. From the party in your mouth to the dance party vibe, "it's an all-in-one party," declared Pingala chef and co-owner Trevor Sullivan, 36.

Last fall, he and his wife, Lisa Bergström, invited more people to join the "broccolution," as Sullivan calls it. In September, the couple launched a Broccoli Bar outpost in the second-floor Marketplace of the University of Vermont's Dudley H. Davis Center. It feeds students and staff, plus anyone who can navigate their way onto campus and, critically, find parking if traveling by car.

The kiosk is tucked in a corner of the food court amid sparkling disco balls, cartoon-bright graphics and a bumping soundtrack. Two spirited, broccoli-costumed employees cook and serve heaping piles of the veg Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday until 2:30 p.m. during the school year.

Broccoli Bar options - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Broccoli Bar options

Broccoli bowls come in two sizes. The "big sexy" ($12.85) weighs in at a hefty two pounds and fed me almost two full meals. Even with a 90 cent parking fee for a spot in front of the Davis Center, it was a bargain. (Just don't exceed the 30-minute limit or you risk a ticket; chatting with my lunch date, I went six minutes over and received a warning.)

The UVM cashier who rang me up said she gets a chuckle out of students who blush when she confirms that their brown cardboard box contains a "big sexy." The smaller, one-pound portion ($9) is called the "cutie pa2tee," for the two choices it includes.

According to Sullivan, the broccoli-centric approach keeps things ultra-simple and provided a fun creative challenge. "Broccoli is very versatile," the chef said.

Customers select among four choices, all served over golden curry rice. Chile-rubbed, flash-fried barbecue broccoli is appetizingly charred and warmly spicy. Stir-fried broccoli and other vegetables get a generous dose of garlic and secret seasoning. Crunchy tempura florets come with a sticky maple-sriracha sauce. And thin-skinned tofu-mushroom-veggie dumplings receive a dollop of creamy coconut red curry sauce with broccoli blended in.

Topped with toasted coconut crunch and ginger-sweet chile pickled vegetables, my combination of all four overflowed with a globe-spanning cornucopia of flavors and textures. Sullivan described this as an "orgy" of deliciousness.

A first-year student in front of me had returned for her second time to the Broccoli Bar. She said she liked the food and the "happy" vibe. "I'm not vegan," she added, "but I think this is an excellent way to get people to eat more vegan food."

Dining on a Dime is a series featuring well-made, filling bites (something substantial enough to qualify as a small meal or better) for around $12 or less. Know of a tasty dish we should feature? Drop us a line: [email protected].

Broccoli Bar, the Marketplace (second floor) at the Dudley H. Davis Center, University of Vermont, in Burlington. Find it on Instagram: @thebroccolibar. The Broccoli Bar will be closed for UVM spring break, March 11 to 15.

Both Pingala Café locations (1 Mill St. and 1353 North Ave. in Burlington) have recently expanded hours to open daily and until 7:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Join the 'Broccolution' | The mobile Broccoli Bar sprouts a new outpost at the University of Vermont"

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