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Beyond BBQ


By Liberty Commons on July 11, 2022 • Blog, News

When you think of Liberty Commons at Big Rock Brewery, thoughts of saucy, smokey, meaty goodness may get your mouth watering. But did you know that we go big on flavour when it comes to our meatless options too? Whether you’re seeking out a group-friendly spot that caters to your vegetarian friends or you’re looking for a lighter plant-forward alternative, Liberty Commons has got you covered. 

We asked Executive Chef Ryan Lister to dish on his favourite vegetarian menu items and how he ensures meatless options remain packed with flavour. Here’s what he had to say:

What is your favourite vegetarian menu item at Liberty Commons and what makes it unique?

I’m a big fan of our Smoked Eggplant Steak. The process is simple but it requires some patience.”

First, the eggplant is brined. Brining is the process of infusing a protein with salt, sugar and flavour to tenderize it. While traditionally a preparation for meat, brining also works incredibly well when working with fibrous vegetables. After letting the eggplant sit for 24 hours in a simple brine seasoned with Montreal steak spice, the brine is also injected directly into the vegetable for maximum flavour penetration. 

Next up, the eggplant is smoked for approximately an hour until softened and then pressed to release excess water, causing it to firm up. When cooled, its texture becomes meat-like, similar to that of a portobello mushroom. From there, the eggplant is barbecued over coals and glazed with a tree syrup barbecue sauce, a deliciously unique mixture of maple and birch syrups that creates a one-of-a-kind flavour, pairing perfectly with char and smoke. Served with romesco, chimichurri potatoes and a barbecued veggie skewer, this steakhouse experience showcases how vegetables can be treated with just as much care as their meaty counterparts.

smokes eggplant steak


What considerations do you take when developing a meatless menu offering?

We try our best to make dishes that are familiar to guests while going big on flavour.” 

Where possible, when developing meatless options, the team ideally uses little gluten and dairy so that vegans and those opting for a primarily plant-based lifestyle can also enjoy. A favourite among vegan diners, the Raw Vegetable Salad features a medley of carrots, cabbage, radishes, celeriac and zucchini smothered in a heavenly ginger and sesame dressing. Another plant-based staple, the Prairie Lentil + Quinoa Bowl, highlights fresh flavours with the addition of mint, dill and tahini sauce. 

When it comes to vegetarian dishes that don’t skimp on spice, the Maple Sriracha Cauliflower is a no-brainer. Reminiscent of hot-sauce smothered wings, the crunchy cruciferous is the perfect vehicle for the sweet-meets-spicy sauce, served with roasted garlic ranch for dipping.

Fire plays a big role in giving vegetable-focused dishes an added oomph as well, incorporating smokiness that is usually found in more classic barbecue dishes that center around protein. For example, the Asparagus Salad features both wood-fired and shaved asparagus. Served with organic lettuce and pickled red onion, the famously green stalks are then topped with the pièce de résistance — a crispy-fried hen’s egg that oozes a rich yellow yolk once broken into. 


prairie bowl


How do you ensure meatless options still pack a punch at an establishment known for its barbecue? Are there any specific cooking techniques that you use?

You’d be surprised with how much better vegetables lend themselves to the barbecue rather than meat.” 

Chef Ryan reveals he likes to keep it simple and shine a light on in-season vegetables that shine even brighter when touched with fire, noting that vegetables can take on a whole other flavour profile when their skin is blistered, their leaves charred or they are simply smoked whole.

“Finally…”, he says, “you can’t forget the sauce”. The addition of a dynamite dollop can make all the difference. For example, the romesco sauce that sits under the vegetable skewer that accompanies the Smoked Eggplant Steak is made from charred tomatoes and roasted red peppers, adding another layer of flavour with every sauce-smeared bite.

The Black Bean Burger offers a hearty mouthful with a patty made from black beans, quinoa, and sweet potatoes, but it is the sweet and smoky aïoli that takes it over the edge. Similarly, beyond the garden fresh tomatoes and cucumber in the Panzanella Salad, it is the green goddess dressing that keeps diners coming back for more. 


panzanella salad


There you have it, as a Canadian brew pub known for its barbecue, there’s no shortage of vegetarian options that deliver on grill-worthy goodness. Whether you’re taking a night off from cooking, grabbing dinner before a game or simply craving some delectable eats on a sunny patio, stop by for a bite and try our veggie-inspired offerings. We promise you won’t miss the meat! 

View our full menu here and reserve your table today! 

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