Anyone can get their hands on the latest buzzy food craze: You just walk up to the deli at a Whole Foods, tell them you want “that TTLA sandwich” and pay $8 at the cash register.
That is, unless the deli is out of the ingredients, particularly the vegan tempeh “bacon” strips that are stuffed into the sandwich. Between a viral video (vegan actress Tabitha Brown singing and having an apparent religious experience) and the Twitter/Instagram/Facebook-friendly #TTLA hash tag, the nation is apparently experiencing shortages of tempeh bacon,
The whole thing started in January after Brown ordered the sandwich at a Whole Foods in California. It took off, helped along by people posting about the #TTLA Challenge.
At Whole Foods on Fairview Road, there’s been such a run on the Smoky TTLA Sandwich that it took me more than a week to actually find it in stock.
“People come in all day long,” one clerk said. “We ran out of tempeh bacon.”
Kristina Morris of Charlotte was in line behind me at the deli counter, waiting to pick up two sandwiches. She was taking one to her stepfather, who is trying to go vegan at the age of 56. She saw the sandwich on Facebook.
“I’m going to try it too,” she said.
After all the fuss, what’s the sandwich like? Mine didn’t have all the dark leafy greens (or the pickle) that Tabitha Brown got. But it did have a generous stack of seven slices of tempeh bacon (that may explain why it runs out so fast), a pile of shredded lettuce, a generous slathering of roasted garlic Vegenaise (that ghostly white vegetarian mayonnaise), two slices of tomato, six or seven thin slices of avocado and a salt/pepper mix on ciabatta bread.
About that tempeh bacon: Let’s be generous and call it “bacon-ish.” To a non-vegan, it tastes like what bacon would taste like if pigs were made of cardboard. So the sandwich misses that essential soft-tomato/crispy bacon fat-and-salt hit of a real BLT.
Still, there’s enough gushiness from the avocado and the Vegenaise (note to self: get the roasted garlic flavor) to give the whole thing plenty of flavor, especially with the crusty ciabatta adding some crunch to offset the weirdly mushy tempeh slices.
Verdict: Roasted Garlic Vegennaise, avocado, tomato and lettuce makes a really good sandwich. But hold the fake bacon.