Food News

The Wild Chickpea Offers Fully Plant-based Street Food

Shannon Maloney helping her dad.
Shannon Maloney helping her dad. The Wild Chickpea
While exploring the Downtown Phoenix Farmers Market on a Saturday or Uptown Farmers Market on a Wednesday, you may have walked by The Wild Chickpea. On Saturday, the father/daughter teamwork the stand.

When you first see the baguettes and focaccias, you might do a double-take. But you saw it correctly. They all have chickpea flour and are gluten-friendly. The chef uses the term gluten-friendly to mean the food is gluten-free, prepared with separate equipment. The facility is not certified gluten-free, though.

There’s more. The food here is also vegan and soy-free.

The Wild Chickpea’s executive chef and owner, Don Maloney, a Chicagoan, decided to become a vegetarian at age 18. “I was having lasagna at a nice restaurant and looked down and realized I was eating an animal I didn’t want to be eating,” he said.

Shortly thereafter, he switched to veganism.

The paucity of vegan options in the '90s Chicago forced him to get creative. He had worked at a few restaurants. His restaurant background helped him find his culinary direction.

“I find it interesting that we Americans think veganism and vegetarianism is a new trend,” Maloney said. “Yet, there are cultures who have been living this way for a long time. Working at a Vietnamese restaurant, I learned that fresh components and cooked components are amazing together, so I try to do a little bit of both."

Maloney moved to Arizona in 2004 after losing a friend to cancer.

In 2010, he discovered he was also gluten- and soy-intolerant. Having to eliminate even more foods drove him to take courses about plant-based cooking.

But it wasn’t until 2020 that he started The Wild Chickpea. Initially, because of the pandemic, he focused on packaged baked goods. He still offers those.
click to enlarge Shannon Maloney helping her dad. - THE WILD CHICKPEA
Shannon Maloney helping her dad.
The Wild Chickpea
At his stand you can find three types of crispy baguette chips, baguettes, pizza crust, and focaccia. If you are interested in burger or hotdog buns and dinner rolls, you’ll have to pre-order them on the website.

Maloney chose chickpeas for their versatility and flavor in creating both bread and “eggs.”

Speaking of eggs, try the “Bacon, Egg, and Cheese” Breakfast Sandwich. All of the components are vegan and made from scratch. It’s served on gluten-free herb focaccia and comes with a delicious salad whose vinaigrette is the perfect balance of tart and sweet to the sandwich’s umami and salty flavors. It also provides harmony with the sweet hint the sandwich offers. We’ll let you discover the components. It’s hard to fathom how vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free be so flavorful.

Seven-inch woodfired pizzas are also available at the Wild Chickpea. Margherita (cashew mozzarella, basil), Three Cheese (cashew mozzarella, almond parmesan, Follow Your Heart Mozzarella), and the most popular walnut sausage and cheese pizza are some examples.
click to enlarge The breakfast sandwich - BAHAR ANOOSHAHR
The breakfast sandwich
Bahar Anooshahr
Maloney uses ingredients from local farmers: Hypha Foods truffles for his Truffle and Thyme baguette crisps and Blue Sky Organic Farms for the vegetables.

There will be more specials as he settles in and finalizes his farmers’ market schedule. He’s considering moving to Uptown on Saturdays as well.

For the fellow food sensitives, we highly recommend The Wild Chickpea. You’ll enjoy a tasty meal without the ensuing gastrointestinal discomfort.

"I always say the plants are where the flavors are coming from," Maloney said. 

Stay up to date with The Wild Chickpea’s whereabouts by checking the website and Instagram. Come to the Saturday market to meet the chef’s young helper.

“My business is a one-man show, but my daughter, Shannon, is always there with me, helping me every Saturday, working the cash register. I don’t know many 13-year-olds that put the kind of effort that she does.”
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