Pig Minds Brewing Co.: Don't Knock It Until You Try It

This establishment may only sell vegan dishes, but the general manager wants people to give this unique food a chance.

Pig Minds Brewmaster and General Manager Carson Souza encourages customers to give the brewery’s vegan menu a chance.
Pig Minds Brewmaster and General Manager Carson Souza encourages customers to give the brewery’s vegan menu a chance.

The name Pig Minds Brewing Co. may conjure the image of a barbecue joint, but don’t let the sign fool you.
The restaurant, located near Route 173 in an industrial area of Machesney Park, is a microbrewery that sells only vegan food.
Before you completely write off Pig Minds, 4080 Steele Dr., Machesney Park, give the food a chance, says Carson Souza, brewmaster and general manager.
“Don’t knock it until you try it,” Souza says. “Our food is not far from what anyone else would eat.”
There are no animal-derived products on the menu – not even eggs, dairy or honey.
Owner Brian Endl developed the concept of a brewery/vegan eatery and opened Pig Minds in 2012. He and his wife Kelly have been vegans for about 25 years and their teen son, Everett, has been vegan all his life.
“A lot of people come here for the beer, at first, and they come back for the food,” Souza says. “People will be sitting here drinking a beer and they’ll see something on a tray and they’ll say, ‘that looks good, what is that?’”
The name Pig Minds make you think of a smoke house, but the name is part of the vegan concept.
“Even though we are a vegan restaurant, we are all pigs in the mind,” Souza says. “Everyone has a little pig in them. The pigs we’re referencing are all happy because they’re not being slaughtered.”
The beer at Pig Minds is brewed, bottled and distributed on site. There are 10 beers on tap, and eight to 10 bottle choices. Larger, 22-ounce bottles can be purchased throughout northern Illinois.
Customers enjoy watching the beer-making process from the dining area, Souza says.
“Some places have big walls up and you can’t see the brewing process, so you have to go on a brewery tour,” he says. “We’re not hiding anything, so you can eat and still see them brewing.”
Instead of hamburgers on the menu, Pig Minds serves The Pig Mind Burger, made of black beans and quinoa, with guacamole spread and chipotle aioli. Instead of a traditional BLT, Pig Minds serves a TLT, with smoked, fried tofu, lettuce and tomato.
The restaurant also has a fried green tomato sandwich, served with chipotle barbecue and coleslaw on a toasted baguette.
Other menu favorites include tempura cauliflower, fried avocado tacos, hand-cut fries, sweet potato wedges, bruschetta, onion rings, various salads and sandwiches, and fresh hummus of the day served with warm pita bread.
“The proteins are all veggie-based,” Souza says. “The ‘cheese’ is made with almond or coconut milk.”
Some folks avoid the pub because of the vegan menu.
“You can still come for the beer,” Souza reminds them.
Over the next few months, Pig Minds plans to add 6,000 square feet to its establishment for a production facility. The project is being held up because of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Right now, we’re caught up with FEMA, because they’ve declared this a flood zone,” Souza says. “We already have the building concept designed and finalized. We’re just waiting on FEMA before we can start construction.”
Souza wants people to visit Pig Minds with an open mind. He says the high food quality may surprise some people.
“We’ve been at this for almost five years now. People enjoy the food, the atmosphere and the beers.”
Pig Minds is open 3-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., noon to 1 a.m. on Fri.-Sat. and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Learn more at pigmindsbrewing.com or call (779) 423-2147. Pig Minds can also be found on Facebook.