Superman soars through the skies over Metropolis, while in a darker corner of the DC Universe, Batman stalks the rooftops of Gotham. In the Marvel Universe, however, Spider-Man swings between the skyscrapers of New York City. And that, right there, is part of the magic of Marvel Comics: The Avengers, Fantastic Four and X-Men’s adventures all take place in the world outside your window, which makes it all the more exciting when your favorite fictional characters name-drop real-life places you know and love.
This was the case this past July for readers of Astonishing X-Men #13 who also happened to be familiar with Cambridge, MA., vegan and vegetarian institution Veggie Galaxy. It turns out Beast, the X-Men’s resident genius, had been teaching at nearby Harvard University and developed a taste for the restaurant’s Portobello Patty Melt.
As AiPT! is based in Boston, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dig into how two things I love very much–the X-Men and local cuisine–came together. Fortunately, the writer of this particular comic, Matthew Rosenberg, was in town this summer for FAN EXPO Boston. As it turns out, Rosenberg’s decision to make Hank McCoy a regular at this Central Square diner has its roots in his life before comics, when he ran a record label and tour managed bands.
“In punk, hardcore and indie rock, you meet a lot of vegetarians and a lot of vegans,” Rosenberg told me at FAN EXPO Boston. “I’m not those things but a lot of my very close friends and people I care about are vegetarian or vegan. Every town has a great vegetarian restaurant that every touring band knows–especially a few years ago when it was really hard–and Veggie Galaxy is that place in Boston.”
Rosenberg, who said that he likes to put local flavor into his comics to add a more human touch, has had many meals at Veggie Galaxy after concerts in the area. So placing it on the bouncing, blue Beast’s list of favorite dining destinations was a no-brainer.
“If Beast is up here in Cambridge, where’s he going to eat,” Rosenberg asked. “I like to think that Hank is cool and in touch and, yeah, he’s going to eat at Veggie Galaxy.”
Rosenberg was pleased to see many readers recognized the eatery’s name. Among those to see the panels (with a little help from AiPT!), was the team at Veggie Galaxy. Although, due to the current nature of the internet, they were a bit skeptical at first, according to Kathy Tanner, Veggie Galaxy’s co-owner and outreach coordinator.
“Since you see all kinds of Photoshopped pictures on the internet, my first thought was that this couldn’t be real,” Tanner said.
But after getting confirmation from Rosenberg himself, Veggie Galaxy was abuzz with excitement. Of the 50 or so individuals who make up the Veggie Galaxy family, several are fans of the X-Men and comics, in general. The restaurant’s former manager, Thomas Strange, for instance, travels the comic convention circuit giving talks, while Veggie Galaxy’s graphic designer Derek Yesman is a lifelong fan who designed an Astonishing X-Men plaque that now hangs on the diner’s press wall.
Fans of the restaurant were excited as well.
“Once I put the panel up on our social media on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, we got some terrific reactions and there’s been a lot of excitement from folks who are fans of both Veggie Galaxy and X-Men,” Tanner explained. “People seem to think it makes perfect sense that Beast would like and fit in at Veggie Galaxy! We like that.”
So, for those who have never had the privilege of dining at Veggie Galaxy, what’s so special about the Portobello Patty Melt? Tanner referred to the sandwich as “a mouthful of flavor” and “a unique combination of some pretty great tastes” that features roasted portobello mushroom caps, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, pickles and pesto on grilled rye.
“The Portobello Patty Melt is delicious but is honestly not our most popular menu item,” Tanner added. “Maybe that’s why Beast is drawn to it.”
But that’s OK. If some diners’ palates aren’t as sophisticated as Beast’s, they can wait for the possible X-Men-themed menu items the Veggie Galaxy team could roll out soon.
“We’ve had a bunch of suggestions from our staff and you’ll probably see at least one of these during September,” Tanner said.
Readers of Astonishing X-Men know that Beast, unfortunately, no longer works at Harvard due to some shenanigans involving murderous cyborgs… so he probably won’t have a chance to sample the new offerings.
“He got fired,” Rosenberg said. “You can’t get in a gun battle at your day job.”
Fortunately, those who want to eat like an X-Man can swing by Veggie Galaxy anytime (so long as they’re open, of course) at 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA. 02139. And you can follow Beast’s continuing adventures in the next issue of Matthew Rosenberg’s Astonishing X-Men–on sale this Wednesday!