//Dave Eats: Planet vegan

Dave Eats: Planet vegan

 By Dave Fountinelle | dave@fresnoflyer.com

Planet Vegan began as a food truck run by Fresno native Michael McElroy to provide delicious, high-quality vegan alternatives to traditional drive-in faire. McElroy adopted the plant-based lifestyle when he realized he needed to choose a healthier path for himself and his family after his father’s heart surgery. McElroy often took trips to LA and the Bay Area just to get some decent vegan food, inspiring him to open his own vegan food business. In early 2022, McElroy, his brother Joe Ellis, and Robert January founded Planet Vegan. 

Business took off during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people felt safer patronizing food trucks and options that allowed for outdoor, distanced dining. Tragically, an explosive fire destroyed the truck and severely injured Ellis. With overwhelming support from loyal customers, the Fresno food truck community, and a GoFundMe effort, Planet Vegan returned with a brick-and-mortar location in the Park Place shopping center at Palm and Nees in northwest Fresno.

Full disclosure: I have never eaten at a vegan restaurant. It’s nothing personal; I’m just an unabashed carnivore. I could never imagine being satisfied by any alternative to a juicy, all-beef cheeseburger. That being said, I have always been curious about how closely the vegan alternatives to my favorite drive-in meals would taste. So, when Planet Vegan owner Michael McElroy invited me to try his food, I eagerly accepted. 

Straight away, Planet Vegan is an immaculately clean restaurant, which is a pleasant green flag for me. Once inside, I appreciated how Planet Vegan’s menu reflected its planetary namesake with cleverly named items, like the Saturn Burger, Big Dipper Burger, and customer-favorite Galaxy Fries. My wife and I ultimately decided to try the Saturn Burger in a lettuce wrap, the Spicy Chik’n Sando, the Nodoh Nozzarella sticks, and the famous Galaxy Fries. With a fountain drink, the total was $65 and change, which is a bit high compared to the average sit-down burger spot. 


Biting into the Spicy Chik’n Sando, I was impressed with how close the texture was to a chicken breast. The patty was recklessly slathered in a tangy, spicy buffalo sauce that snuck up on me. It was also dressed with crisp, fresh romaine lettuce, tomato, pickles, and a creamy garlic aioli that demanded extra napkins for every bite. The sauces on the Sando were mind-blowing. It was easily the best buffalo sauce I’ve tasted, with an exceptional balance of vinegary tang and sweet heat. The garlic aioli was rich and creamy, adding a much-needed fat element with enough flavor to keep up with the screaming loud hot sauce. The veggies were so fresh they could have been picked from a garden that morning. When I tell you that this could quickly be one of the top five chicken sandwiches I’ve ever eaten, trust that this sandwich will make you a believer.


My wife is doing keto, so she ordered the Saturn Burger in a lettuce wrap. I bit into the impossible burger patty with an open mind. I was immediately hit with an outstanding savory-sweet, smokey, mildly spicy BBQ sauce that tingled my taste buds. The onion rings were crispy and flavorful. Although the vegan bacon had a very convincing smoke and saltiness, the texture instantly gave it away for me. The vegan cheese was a revelation. I think out of the entire dining experience, I was most impressed with the flavors and textures of the vegan cheeses on both the Saturn Burger and the Galaxy Fries. However, I’m just not a fan of the impossible patty. The flavors are bold, but the texture was too … “not-beef” for me. That being said, the flavors from the sauce, onion rings, bacon, and patty are so robust and harmonious that I can understand this being a must-have for fans of impossible burgers.


The Nodoh Nozzerella sticks were extraordinarily crispy and expertly fried to golden brown perfection. The breading was crunchy and generously seasoned. The marinara sauce had a bright, tangy flavor that sang with herbaceousness. Upon biting into the stick, my brain again went into overload, processing all of the intense, fresh flavors in every bite. But the Nodoh Nozzerella cheese alternative was not it for me. At first, it gave a texture that reminded me of overcooked mac and cheese, which was different yet enjoyable. But the overcooked noodle texture eventually gave way to a slimy feeling, which was unpleasant. For a first-timer like myself, the Nodoh texture was just something I was not quite acclimated to. Although, I can see these being a big hit with anyone who enjoys the texture of Nodoh Nozzerella.


Last but certainly not least were the Galaxy Fries. One bite and it was abundantly clear why they are a customer favorite. The fries are a medley of flavor with a bed of impeccably cooked waffle fries, topped with chopped impossible meat, vegan cheese sauce, fresh cilantro, and jalapeno aioli. The texture of the waffle fries was flawless – crispy on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside, and seasoned to the moon and back. The plant-based carne asada had a texture that reminded me more of diced mushrooms. Still, the flavor was remarkably beefy and delicious. The vegan cheese sauce floored me with its creamy texture and rich flavor, practically indistinguishable from dairy cheese. But the star of the dish was the jalapeno aioli. It was electrifying, shooting lightning bolts of flavor in my mouth, with a heat that took me right to the edge and then gave me a push. I would come back just for these fries. If I lived anywhere near there, Galaxy Fries would definitely be a weekly treat.

Overall, I doubt I could have found a better place anywhere in the Valley to try vegan food for the first time than Planet Vegan. The menu is extensive enough to give plenty of options but small enough not to overwhelm newbies. And the food’s quality is at a level rarely seen in high-end restaurants, let alone a vegan burger place that started as a food truck. McElroy has been quoted as saying he would like to expand his business into a franchise, and from my experience, I think it would be a brilliant move. If you’re a vegan, a fan of vegan cuisine, or just someone who likes delicious food with flavor that is out of this world, then Planet Vegan definitely should be in your trajectory.

Planet Vegan is located at 7845 N. Palm Ave, in the Park Place shopping center. Follow them on Instagram @planetveganburgers, on Facebook at facebook.com/planetveganburgers, or visit their website www.planetveganburger.com.