We took a road trip to Atlanta, Georgia this weekend, and ate at some really great restaurants. Who knew Atlanta was so veg friendly? Well, maybe others did, but I didn’t think any city in the South would have so many great options.
We arrived around lunch time and I was pretty hungry (sitting in the car reading the Hunger Games can make a girl hungry!). We were headed to stock up at Lush in the Perimeter Mall and I figured I’d scrounge up something in the food court. I was expecting to have to get by with a side salad and fries or some cold sub sandwich with paper-thin slices of tomato, but I was pleasantly surprised that I had numerous options. Hovan Gourmet is a little Mediterranean stand that has vegetarian roll-up sandwiches, tabouleh, hummus, and falafel wraps. They also had a Farmer’s Basket, which has lots of veggies to choose from like collard greens, black eyed peas, cabbage, okra, and roasted potatoes. A third option was something with the word “Grill” in the name, and they had grilled veggie plates with a variety of options to choose from. I decided on Hovan Gourmet because I love falafel and they claimed to have the best in town. I still haven’t found anyone who makes better falafel than Purple Onion, but Hovan came relatively close. The falafel was warm and crisp and was fried in its own little fryer, separate from the meat. It wasn’t wrapped in traditional pita bread, but this warm, soft flatbread that was fluffy and about 3x thicker than pita bread. It came with lettuce, tomato, hummus, and tahini sauce. Their homemade lemonade was excellent as well. The falafel wrap was $5.99 but they also had a plate for a dollar or two more that included a Mediterranean salad, hummus, and pita bread.
For dinner Saturday night, we went to Café Sunflower, which is 100% vegetarian and mostly vegan. They won the Vegetarian Times awarded for best “dining out” option in 2010. It was so wonderful to be able to walk into and order anything off the menu without having to search out a few sparse options with a little green “V” beside them. In fact, I had the opposite problem as it was hard to choose just one entrée! Their dinner menu featured sweet and sour chicken, wild mushroom fettuccini with sundried tomatoes, stuffed acorn squash, black bean quesadillas, spicy pad thai, baked samosas with mango chutney, and a garden steak salad drizzled with homemade BBQ sauce. Everything was reasonably priced for a nice, “sit-down” restaurant at dinnertime. Most of their entrees were around $15-18. We ended up getting the veggie loaf with rosemary mashed potatoes and the Jamaican black bean cakes with pineapple jerk sauce and coconut sour cream. Both were incredible! The meatloaf tasted exactly how I remember it tasting when I used to make it with ground beef. It was seasoned really well and the texture was familiar. It had a homemade tomato sauce on top. The rosemary mashed potatoes were delicious, and the fried black bean cakes were amazing with the pineapple sauce and coconut sour cream. Both entrees came with sautéed veggies. We both had pomegranate limeade, which was served slightly chilled and tasted mostly like pomegranate juice. However, the fresh zip of lime really added something extra.
For dessert, they brought us a tray with a sample of each of our options to view, which included coconut cake, double chocolate cake, carrot cake, a chocolate ganache tart, and a chocolate raspberry mousse (all of their desserts are vegan!). We chose the double chocolate cake (OF COURSE) and it was hands down the B.E.S.T chocolate cake I’ve ever had! I mean this is like the vegan version of the great wall of chocolate cake from P.F. Chang’s that led to my downfall in my 30-day vegan challenge. Not only do you have multiple layers of chocolate cake underneath a heavenly, creamy chocolate frosting, but you have chocolate chips INSIDE the cake and chocolate sprinkles on top as well. The whole plate is drizzled in melted chocolate. HEAVEN.
As if I didn’t have enough sugar in my bloodstream already, I had the best pancakes I’ve ever had (no exaggeration….voted best pancakes by the NY Times!) the next morning at Ria’s Bluebird. Ria’s is pretty casual. Their parking is pretty limited, so we had to park on the street in the neighborhood behind the restaurant. You walk in and sign yourself in and then wait outside for your name to be called. The seating area was technically outside, but in an area that I suspect used to be a patio that is “walled” off with thick tarps. There is a running heater, so it was pleasantly warm considering was cold outside. Ria’s isn’t 100% vegetarian, but they have numerous options to choose from such as the tempeh reuben sandwich, BBW veggie riblet, and blackened tofu salad on their lunch menu or the southwest tofu scramble, country fried tempeh with gravy, and “bionic breakfast” (skillet potatoes, mushrooms, roasted corn, peppers, and tofu sauce) on their breakfast menu. I admit that while my breakfast was vegetarian (of course) it was not vegan. I got their buttermilk pancakes with caramelized bananas and toasted Georgia pecans with hot maple syrup. I can’t even explain to you in writing what it was like to eat these pancakes. They are like edible ecstasy! The pancakes are as big as dinner plates and the caramelized bananas are whole bananas, sliced lengthwise, not just a few wimpy slices. The pancakes were fluffy, packed with chopped pecans, and pre-drizzled with real maple syrup. They just melted in my mouth! Was them down with coffee with vanilla soymilk and 30 minutes later you’re coming down into a sweet, sugary coma!
As if I haven’t bragged on the food at these restaurants enough, I must mention that their staff was amazing. Even though they were busy (which I was excited to see) the waitresses and waiters were very pleasant, accommodating, and friendly. Our waiter at Café Sunflower even brought out their binder full of recipes so that we could see every ingredient that went into our dessert. Not once did anyone get impatient or neglect to come back to the table to re-fill our glasses, ask if we needed anything else, or see how we were enjoying our food. Needless to say, I highly recommend all of the places that we ate.
I wish I had more restaurants to tell you about, but this was pretty much just a day trip. Atlanta has many other 100% vegetarian and veg friendly restaurants such as Soul Vegetarian, Urban Pl8, Green Sprout, and World Peace Café. I will definitely have to try more of them out during our next annual trip to Lush!