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!