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  1. Vegan Swansboro

    May 19, 2013 by Danielle

    Ahhh… the “friendly city by the sea.” All this shopping, kayaking and yoga makes me hungrayyy. I’ve been living in this small town in the Southern Outer Banks of Eastern NC for almost 2 years, and I think I finally have a few good gems up my sleeve. Now that touristy season is picking up, I imagine there must be an older couple, looking toward the vegan lifestyle to improve their heart health – or, more likely, a moody, defiant 14-year old insisting she’s a vegan now – passing through town in the next few months. There are just a few options actually in town, but if you include the surrounding areas you’re sure to find a new favorite.

    SWANSBORO:

    Church St. Pub: Great for a quick lunch or a light dinner; to-go deli side, or bar area and outdoor seating with service. Serve Beer & Wine only. Get the veggie-in-a-wrap, hold the feta, add avocado, with housemade italian. Served grilled on a sundried tomato wrap, with potato chips & a pickle.

    Boro Cafe: They don’t offer soymilk, but do have a vegan wrap very similar to the one above – only difference is they offer hummus. No vegan in-house bakery items, but they do offer Liz Lovely vegan & gluten free cookies!

    Icehouse Waterfront: Shares a building with Boro as it is owned by the same people. I have a love-hate relationship here – they have certain “vegan” items on the menu but 1) the pita has honey in it (not vegan) and 2) one time I ordered something vegan and was told they didn’t have the ingredients for it because “no one ever orders the vegan stuff.” Aside from that I have had some OK meals here – the pasta primavera, hold the cheese, and the Asian noodle salad, hold the chicken. They used to offer falafel but it was really mushy and kind of greasy. Veggie burger is not vegan.

    White Oak Bistro: Pasta Primavera with red sauce is spot on! Focaccia is amazing, dipped in oil topped with herbs fresh from the garden out back.

    Trattoria Pizza: Get the Primavera or Bruschetta pizza, no cheese. House salad with the housemade balsamic vinaigrette (ask for no parmesan!) is awesome. Personally, I like to get take out from here, add my own Daiya and pop it in the oven for a few minutes. The bread is also very good, though I’m pretty sure it’s just square-shaped pizza dough. Yum.

    Bake Bottle & Brew: A really cute wine/beer/souvenir shop that has a small bar serving wine, beer, mixed drinks, coffee and ice cream. Point here is that they have soymilk for coffee, yay! And the owners are super friendly, so stop and have a seat on the balcony when you’re there. Also sell locally roasted coffee, wine and beer accessories, brewing supplies, recycled crafts & jewelry & vegan/gluten-free baking mixes. Side note – check out the free wine tasting every Friday, 6-8pm.

    New Bridge Organic market: Tiny satellite store of its bigger sister in Jacksonville (see below).

    Yana Mama’s: A small, wildly popular diner in the heart of downtown. Nearly nothing is vegan, but I highly encourage you to go in and enjoy a cup of black coffee (or some juice) & a plate of nice greasy, legit down-South homefries (they are fried in veggie oil). Just a super cool place and their gift shop next door is really cute, stuffed wall to wall with novelty paraphernalia.

    CEDAR POINT

    Fuzzy Peach: Another one of those trendy pay-by-the-pound FroYo places. This one always offers atleast 2 vegan options; most recently it was mango and watermelon sorbet. A variety of vegan toppings offered including nuts, Swedish Fish, licorice, Fruity Pebbles, Oreo crumbs, Ghiradelli dark chocolate sauce (yes I checked the ingredients) and more.

    MOREHEAD CITY

    The Ruddy Duck: A diamond in the rough, I tell ya! Get the house-made vegan burger – a yummy brown-rice based burger topped with lettuce & tomato on a roll..which looks and tastes like it is buttered but the server double checked and it is a butter substitute. French fries are cooked in their own non-meat/dairy fryer. The Carribbean coleslaw is a delicious coconut-milk based (yes, no mayo!) slaw with pineapple…soooo good & creamy.

    Circa 81 Tapas and Cocktaileria: God this place is awesome. Everyone who works there is so friendly and knowledgeable about what’s vegan or not. An extensive cocktail, wine and craft beer list. Don’t be shy, ask for the lunch menu even at dinner – there is a great mushroom ragout sandwich (hold the cheese). Other must-haves are their sweet potato fries, bibb salad (hold the cheese), black bean soup (no chorizo or sour cream topping!), house made potato chips, & potatoes brava (skip the aioli).

    The Old Siam: Beware – they have a “vegetarian menu” but almost everything has fish sauce in it! Many have egg as well. Some dishes can be made without, such as the Pad Thai and Pad see ew, so ask for either of those without fish sauce,  no egg & add tofu. I also love the fried tofu appetizer and house salad with peanut dressing.

    Mykonos: Meditierreanean place. Falafel sandwich served with either fries or greek salad (ask for no feta). Pretty standard fare but good for a quick cheap lunch.

    Garden Gate Cafe: Good place to stop for breakfast if you’re OK with carbs carbs carbs – think hashbrowns, fruit salad and toast/a bagel with peanut butter or jelly. For lunch they have a rotating menu of cold salads sold by the pound, which are often vegan by nature (pasta, olive, black bean, etc). Offer soymilk but it kind of curdled in my iced coffee (usually due to the acidity of the coffee).

    Panera: Mediterranean veggie sandwich on sourdough, hold the feta and add extra hummus. Get it with a black bean or garden veggie soup in a bread bowl and prepare to leave STUFFED! Also offer soymilk for coffee.

    Starbucks: Offer soymilk for coffees and many locations have vegan snacks – popcorn, gluten free/vegan cookies, fruit snacks, sometimes even a vegan hummus or Asian tofu/noodle plate.

    JACKSONVILLE

    Tandoori Bites: Indian Restaurant, amazing lunch buffet everyday from 11-3pm which is more than half vegetarian dishes! All staff is knowledgeable and eager to accommodate. Naan has butter on it, but simply ask for it with oil instead and they’d be more than happy to make it. Chana Masala (chickpeas in a spiced tomato base), Bainghan Bhartha (eggplant) are must-try entrees, and the Gobi manchurian (spicy fried cauliflower) and vegetarian samosas are our favorite appetizers. Attention vegan n00bs: stay away from anything “Korma” or “Paneer” as those mean cream and cheese, respectively. Also steer clear of the light green dipping sauce; it is yogurt-based.

    Wasabi/Osaka/Sake: all standard sushi places which offer sweet potato rolls, avocado rolls, edamame, miso soup, agedashi tofu (skip the benito fish flakes!!) etc. Biggest differences are that Wasabi has a tofu teriyaki dish and awesome vegetable gyoza, though I’m pretty positive their house dressing has mayo in it; Sake has a tempura pumpkin roll (OMG); and Osaka has a “Japanese spaghetti” noodle dish which is vegan.

    Marrakesh: Mediterranean restaurant with a great atmosphere. Sit in the lounge side if you can! Falafel, mujadara, fattoush salad, babaganouj, hummus and fried cauliflower are all awesome. Baklava has honey in it. Full bar too!

    Old Siam: A sister to the other one in Morehead (see above). Only difference is this one does not have outdoor seating.

    Forkful: Subway-style fast food place offering wraps, salads, rice or pasta dishes with good, wholesome add-ons. Staff is very knowledgeable on what’s vegan and what’s not, and alot of stuff is clearly marked! All wraps are vegan except the honey wheat. Offer lemon-basil tofu, guacamole, salsa, black beans, veggies and more. All wraps come with Stacy’s pita chips, housemade hummus or salsa & a drink for $9. When I was there they also had vegan black bean & minestrone soups.

    Red Robin: Has vegan boca burgers! The sesame bun is vegan. I get it “simple” with sauteed onions and mushrooms, guacamole added, ask for no butter on the bun (still unsure if it is real butter). Most places cook fries separate from other non-vegan items, but ask to be sure. They microwave the boca burger which means it’s not cooked on the same grill as beef, however sometimes it’s a little over-cooked at the edges. They sprinkle it with their Red Robin seasoning which is a nice touch. This location also offers hummus, a side of seasoned black beans & soft-baked pretzels, all of which are vegan.

    New Bridge Organic Market: Cute little all natural grocery in downtown J-ville. Plenty of vegan snacks, bulk items, frozen meals and prepared sandwiches. Kinda pricey but has the essentials, can’t complain! Also has a much smaller satellite store in Swansboro.

    Starbucks: see Morehead city location, above.

    Buffalo Wild Wings: Virtually nothing is vegan here as they fry their fries in LARD. However, if dragged here by your family or boyfriend or friends, make them drive, fill up on draft beer & get the soft-baked pretzel dipped in regular mustard (the one it comes with has honey). They also have celery and carrot sticks for your enjoyment.


  2. Vegan Greensboro

    May 18, 2013 by Danielle

    I’ve had the chance to visit Greensboro, NC recently and I can already sense an unhealthy relationship blooming….one which eventually causes me to break down and get up at 7am to make a 4 hour drive for a good lunch.

    Since this is my premiere “vegan (enter city here)” post, I will make this article a hybrid of my standard methods: Topography, Research, Execution, Qualitative interview, Secondary Execution as well as the actual city review. The next of it’s kind will be a lot more succinct without all the explanation and methods of my madness. So without further ado, here is how a vegan does “vacation”…

    Topography: Also know the “tune” of the city you’re visiting. Is it artsy? Is it gay-friendly? Probably vegan. Is it in the deep south (or deep north)? Is it in a very beachy-touristy-boardwalk-y area? Good luck with that one..hope you like french fries and cheeseless Papa John’s pizza.

    Greensboro is just over an hour from Raleigh and a little less than an hour from Winston-Salem, which is somewhat disappointing to me because I was really looking for a good excuse to use the word “equidistant.” Maybe another time. Anyways, at 131 square miles and a population of 273,425, Greensboro is the third largest city in NC. It’s also home to UNC Greensboro and about 10 billion hipsters. However, despite this fact, a quick google search of “vegan greensboro” produces a pathetic TWO results: “Boba House” and “Jack’s Corner Mediterranean Deli.” Happycow.net offers both these establishments, as well as Mellow Mushroom (a pizza chain which offers Daiya cheese & tempeh..been there done that), Phe Hien Vuong Vietnamese/Thai, Saffron Indian, Sticks & Stones Clay Oven Pizza and The WORX.  As for vegan-friendly groceries, Happycow suggests Deep Roots Co-op and Earth Fare.  Lastly, it also lists Green Bean, a coffee shop which offers soymilk and treats from ZenCat (a Greensboro-based vegan, gluten-free bakery).

    Research: There is nothing worse than getting yourself all pumped to visit a new vegan restaurant, only to get there and find out it’s only open for lunch, closed inexplicably on Wednesdays only, or closed indefinitely. So I like to get a good idea of hours and the menu. Some places which are “vegan friendly” really just mean “we offer a salad that is vegan when you remove cheese, croutons, hard boiled eggs, and use oil and vinegar as dressing.” NOTE: I skipped the Vietnamese Restaurant research as I kind of hate Vietnamese food, as well as the Indian place since they’re all kind of standard. Chana masala, vegetarian samosa & naan without butter thaaaaaanks.

    Boba House: Mon-Fri 11:30am-3pm & 5pm-9:30pm, Sat 12pm-9:30pm (see what I mean? God forbid you’re hungry at 4pm on a weekday.) Only menu offered on their website is the to-go so it’s kind of hard to feel out the vibe. Fast food or sit down? Full bar or juice-bar (ugh)? Entire menu is vegan minus a couple items with cheese on them, but nearly everything can be veganized. Mostly Asian-inspired with a All-American options (burgers, “chicken” drumsticks), and almost every dish contains a faux meat (“chicken,” “steak,” “calamari,” “duck.”) A few tofu things. 3 vegan desserts, 4 not-vegan.

    Jack’s Corner Mediterranean Deli: Mon-Sat 10:30-9:00, Closed Sunday. Menu denotes vegetarian & vegan and has a HUGE Mediterranean offering as well as deli sandwiches (none of which are vegan).  Falafel burger piques my interest.

    Mellow Mushroom: Didn’t even look at the menu since I’ve been here before, only in Wilmington, NC. Open Mon-Thurs, Sun 11am-10pm. Fri & Sat 11am-11pm. Crust as well as red & white sauces are vegan, and they offer Daiya, tempeh & tofu. Lots of craft beers as well, pretty neat little place.

    Sticks & Stones Clay Oven Pizza: Monday-Thurs, Sunday 11am-12am. Fri & Sat 11am-2am. Menu doesn’t denote what’s vegan or not, but they do offer Daiya cheese, local NC vegan chicken & a gluten-free crust. Also a housemade veggie burger with miso soy mayo, which leads me to believe it’s vegan…then again….vegans hate to be “lead to believe” on anything so, yeah.

    The WORX – Tues-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 11am-10pm. Besides the fact that the name totally sucks (why are you screaming), I decided to give this place a once-over. Only thing specifically “vegan” is the “Vegan Lover’s Pot Pie.” Aside from that, I see a few other promising items: homemade hummus, vegetarian seasonal soup, and a portabella sandwich (hold the swiss). Also offer a “house made veggie burger,” but with a lime sour cream on a buttermilk bun. Why. Why. Why.

    Deep Roots Co-Op: Mon-Sat 7:30am-9pm, Sun 8:30am-9pm. Looks to be a decent size, and a review of their current sale flier is promising.

    Execution: Mangia mangia! Let’s eat!

    My first dinner in town was at Jack’s, since I’d read in a review that they make a vegan mac & cheese. To my dismay they no longer offer that dish, but I soon realized this didn’t matter whatsoever – the food was so phenomenal I quickly forgot what mac & cheese ever was. I feel that I can confidently say all the food at Jack’s is probably just as amazing, mostly because I ordered atleast 30% of their menu. I had the falafel pita with tahini, stuffed grape leaves, mujadara & babaganouj. The cashier was so knowledgeable about what contained dairy and what didn’t, not to mention it was noted on the menu. She also let me know I didn’t have to get a full 6-piece order of grape leaves, but rather individual ones at 75 cents each. Genius! All of that came to about $15 and was enough for dinner and a nice little leftover snack the next day.

    I also stopped at the Deep Roots co-op to get a few groceries to keep in my hotel. A medium-sized grocery, but they had the essentials for the most part; however I kind of griped for 15 minutes in the milk aisle over the fact that no soymilk quart was less than $3. But this place was great for bulk cereal/granola and prepared foods by the pound – I stocked up on perfect long-weekend portions of maple granola, local hummus, red curry tofu salad and “un-chicken” salad (all $3-$4), as well as a half loaf of house-made oat bread for $2. All of this along with some potato chips, 2 soy yogurts and a couple frozen items came to about $35. I also noticed their bakery had a few vegan muffins (sweet potato maple mmmm) as well as some ZenCat goods, which looked dry and boring to be honest. Plus the labels didn’t say what kind of of cookie/bar they were and had no price. Too much of a risk for this careful soul.

    Second night I went to Boba House, in a small downtown area by the college. I dropped $50 on a dinner for myself at this place and I’m not even sorry. Turns out they offer beer & wine which was a nice surprise, so naturally I sat at the bar. I started with the vegan drumstick appetizer and a salad topped with vegan calamari and cucumber vinaigrette. My entree was the Hula Pot – a sweet and SPICY SPICY SPICY curry (apparently it comes in different spiciness levels but I was never asked). The dish consisted of a small pot of curry sauce and breaded vegan chicken (normally comes with vegan “duck,” vegetable or tofu), with rice (brown or white), sliced ginger, red pepper, raisins and diced onion on the side. All of this intermingled with 2 glasses of organic Riesling and a to-go order of raspberry amaretto cake made for a pretty perfect meal.

    Qualitative: Best source of vegan insider info? Ask the locals. The only person I really touched base with was my server at Boba House. He suggested “Crafted” which offers a vegan queso dip and “tofu-rizo” tacos, as well as Zaytoon’s Mediterranean.

    Secondary execution: Did not get a chance to visit Crafted or Zaytoon’s on this trip.

    For you mainstreamers out there, there’s a Starbucks, Moe’s, Chipotle & Red Robin (vegan boca burgers!) also in town.

    Worth mentioning for you fitness freaks – I did a drop-in Zumba class at Lindley park rec center, for $5. Insider tip: bring weights since they use them for a large part of the class. Besides Zumba, another pastime was The Red Collection, a huge antique and furniture store. Super cute stuff to look at and it’s always amusing when other customers inadvertently smash antiques around you. I also had my first experience at World Market, a chain store I’ve never had the chain to visit. It’s like Big Lots meets Urban Outfitters plus they sell wine, beer & international foods. I picked up some mint dark chocolate and an olive-tomato sandwich spread. Lastly, on my final night in town I sat and had a beer at 2 different bars in the SMALL “downtown” college-y area (like literally it’s just 2 streets). New York Pizza and one really hipster place with no name (not even kidding), both with plenty of outdoor seating.

    All in all, Greensboro was pretty cool and had awesome food, although after a few days it might be lacking in non-food-related endeavors. I got a bit bored by day 3. Next time I’m in town with Brian, I plan to visit Elsewhere, grab a taco at Crafted & tour Natty Greene microbrewery. I’m also trying to work up the nerve to take a class at the Bikram Yoga studio of Greensboro – they allow drop-ins for $18. I’ll keep this post updated as I try new things in this neck of the NC woods!