Archive for the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Vegan Twinkie alternative exists!

Monday, March 10th, 2014
Vanilla Canoe Boats

Vanilla Canoe Boats

In junior high school, I was so known for loving Twinkies, that my friends used to buy them for me by the box for my birthday. There have been vegan versions of just about every childhood treat, except for Twinkies. Until now, that is.

X’s To O’s Vegan Bakery has “Vanilla Canoe Boats” available for sale. They aren’t allowed to call them Twinkies, but that’s sure what they look like to me. They’ve got a whole category of canoe products.

Loaded with gluten and sugar, I am completely opposed to eating these for health reasons. Oh, but I AM going to eat these.

Thank goodness they aren’t easy to get (unless you live in NYC) because my health would go out the window.

Special thanks to Noelle of Republic of V in Berkeley, CA for alerting me to the existence of these.

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Dobra Tea: Secret veg, gluten-free restauant

Monday, May 6th, 2013
Dobra Tea

Dobra Tea

Going out for tea has never appealed to me, so when Dobra Tea opened in Asheville a few years ago, I never bothered checking it out. I finally went there this evening at the invitation of a friend and was surprised – no, shocked – to find out that (1) they have food, (2) a lot of it is vegan, and (3) all their food is vegetarian and gluten-free.

Their gluten-free pita bread is delicious on its own. Their hummus is amazing. Yeah, I know, who cares about hummus? But seriously, this is the best hummus I’ve ever had. They have a number of sweet treats as well, and of course lots and lots of wonderful teas. Not all of their vegan options are labeled on their online menu, so go to Dobra and check it out in person.

If you walk on by, like I’ve been doing for a couple of years, you’re really missing out.

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New brunch menu at Plant

Sunday, August 5th, 2012
French toast at Plant

French toast at Plant

Plant introduced a brand new brunch menu today, and it is fabulous. If anyone else was unimpressed with Plant’s old brunch menu, make sure to go back and give them another chance. They have many more options that are gluten-free, and they are far more interesting.

The two best items, in my opinion, are the hemp bread french toast and the summer crepe (hold the soysage). The crepe falls apart a bit when you eat it, but it taste great. It reminds me a little bit of the vegan omelet that Laughing Seed use to have, but this is better. The french toast is made with a hemp bread and comes loaded with fresh berries, but the sugary vanilla-orange cream destroyed any illusion I might have had that this was a healthy breakfast.

Summer crepe at Plant

Summer crepe at Plant

Ironically, the one thing I really wanted to try on my recent trip to Montreal, was a vegan crepe. Couldn’t find one anywhere. Then as soon as I’m back in Asheville, I finally come across one. It’s good to be home.

Also, the mate latte, with coconut cream, was sensational.

Brunch at plant is every Sunday, 11am – 3pm. They are located at 165 Merrimon Ave. in Asheville.

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Vegan food in Montreal

Sunday, August 5th, 2012
Mock duck at Yuan

Mock duck at Yuan

A couple of things to know about the restaurants in Montreal. (1) It’s expensive to eat here. Plan on spending about $20 per person, per meal. More if you go for desserts and appetizers. Don’t skimp – you’re on vacation. Just plan for it. (2) There is no early morning vegan breakfast anywhere that I could find. So pick something up at the grocery store for the morning. See my previous post for where to find the good grocery stores in Montreal.

Here are the restaurants in Montreal that I tried, in order of preference:

  1. Aux Vivres – Hands down, my favorite. We ate here more than any other restaurant. Weekend brunch is worth checking out as well. Everything is 100% vegan and they also have gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free options labeled. I tried a bite of the chocolate apple cake, which was sensational.
  2. Zero 8 – This restaurant doesn’t use any of the top 8 most common food allergens. This means that any vegetarian item on their menu is also vegan, including the desserts (which are amazing, by the way). They also ask you if you have any other food allergies so they can make sure not to let you order something that will make you sick. The food here was excellent. It was pretty expensive though. With tax and tip, and ordering 2 entrees, 2 drinks, 1 dessert, and 1 appetizer, we spent $70. Worth it, but be forewarned.
  3. Lola Rosa – A hippie Mexican style restaurant near the college. The food was very good, but they don’t have any kind of cheese substitutes. Our waiter, who I think is also the owner, was extremely nice and helpful. Not much in the way of appealing gluten-free options.
  4. Ming Tao Xuan – Actually a tea shop but it serves a few food items. Makes for a nice light dinner. I enjoyed this place quite a lot, but the limited menu kept me from going here too often.
  5. Le Commensal – This is a chain with several vegetarian cafeteria-style restaurants around the city. The food really isn’t very good, but they get points for variety and for thorough labeling of all their items.
  6. Yuan – Chinese mock meat kind of place. The food was decent. The ambiance could definitely be improved. If you’re having a fake meat craving, it’s a good place to go. They have a gluten-free mock duck that’s very enjoyable.
  7. Liquid Nutrition – It’s just a mall kiosk that serves smoothies, but it serves really good smoothies. And they have Vega brand protein powder available. They also have those Vega chocolate-saviseed protein bars that I am currently addicted to, plus other energy bars as well. Not terribly exciting food, but this place was a lifesaver for me when I was looking for something healthy to eat.
  8. Le Panthere – Soups and pita sandwiches. Not really my kind of place. I did have an good falafel pita, and the pita bread was really really good (which made my gluten hangover almost worth it). They have a few raw food snacks as well. I probably should have given this place more of a chance.
  9. Mikado – Sushi place that I went to with a couple of omnivores. I tried some veggie rolls. It was good, just like any other sushi place really.
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Advice for vegans in Montreal

Saturday, July 28th, 2012
Old Port in Montreal

Old Port in Montreal

I was only in Montreal for 10 days, so I’m not an expert by any stretch. I’m sharing some advice that would have helped me, had I known. Even with Happy Cow, and other helpful veg websites, it’s hard to know in advance where the good restaurants and grocery stores are, and how to make sure you have access to them when you need them. If you’re a vegan planning a trip to Montreal, particularly if you like to eat healthy and/or gluten-free, here are a few suggestions for you.

Where to stay

Don’t get a hotel in the Old Port area. Sure, it’s incredibly charming, but there’s almost no food there. All the good vegan food is centered around Saint Laurent Blvd. and Rue Saint Denis, and west of Sherbrooke St. You might think you’ll enjoy the 30 minute walk, but it gets old real quick. And when the weather is uncomfortable or you have lots of things you’d like to do that day, you want your hotel to be close to your food.

Are you already stuck with a hotel in Old Port or other inconvenient area? That’s OK, so was I! Here’s the great thing about Montreal – it’s super easy to get around quickly if you’re willing to spend just a few bucks on transportation. Learn to love the BIXI bicycle system and/or the Metro subway system. After suffering through about 10 minutes of confusion, both offer affordable multi-day passes that allow you to easily hop on a bike or subway any time you like to get within a few blocks of wherever you’re going. Montreal has truly got public transportation figured out.

On a related note, think twice about booking a hotel through You pay in advance, and the hotel has no way to reimburse your payment if you want to switch hotels. Expedia’s policy is to give no refunds after your reservation has begun.

Where to shop for groceries

Happy Cow has quite a few “stores ‘n more” listed for Montreal, but most of them are not true grocery stores. If you like to keep some food in your hotel room, rather than eating out for every meal (good luck finding a vegan breakfast), there are 3 groceries I found that can get you through your trip. There do not seem to be any Whole Foods type stores here, so manage your expectations.

Tau on St. Denis has the best variety of groceries. If I lived in Montreal, this is probably where I would do most of my shopping. Take the Metro to Mont Royal and walk from there.

Le Couffin Bio at Sherbrooke and Park Ave. is a nice little health food store that has tons of breakfast cereal, frozen meals, energy/breakfast bars, bread, produce, and more. Tons of gluten-free food. It’s the most convenient store to Old Port, if you’re walking.

Rachelle Bery is a chain of health food stores. The one I went to is located at the corner of Rachel and Berri. It’s a bigger store with a lot of variety, but I didn’t find much more there that happened to be to my liking than I found at Le Couffin Bio. Very convenient by Metro – get off at the Mont Royal station.

Where to eat a healthy meal

Weekend brunch polenta at Aux Vivres

Weekend brunch polenta at Aux Vivres

Everyone’s definition of healthy is different, even amongst vegans. What I mean by healthy is a meal that is not a pile of carbs, and has little or no gluten. When traveling, I always seem to end up eating a ton of sugar and processed junk, so a few days into the vacation, I’m gittery and dizzy. The following restaurants were life savers.

Aux Vivres on St. Laurent is an all-vegan restaurant. Gluten-free food is plentiful and labeled. They have a nice selection of “bowls” that are healthy and very satisfying.

Liquid Nutrition is a smoothie and juice chain with multiple locations. They have Vega brand proteins available to add to any of their smoothies. It isn’t the most exciting meal, but I ate there a couple of times out of desperate need for a little protein.

Ming Tao Xuan is a tea shop in Old Port that also serves a few light vegetarian entrees. They have a really nice mango and greens salad that is great for a light healthy dinner. Sometimes they’ll put some unsalted cashews on top. The owners are wonderful.

Here’s a separate post listing all the restaurants I tried

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Chai Pani kills off the best simple vegan meal in Asheville

Monday, May 21st, 2012

There are plenty of vegan-friendly restaurants in Asheville that I enjoy. Only one has – had – a meal that I frequently craved, especially on a particularly draining day. A vegan, gluten-free bowl of rice and daal from Chai Pani could always fill my belly, lift my spirits, and soothe my tired soul. Even better, it was a simple, healthy meal that I felt good about eating.

So naturally, Chai Pani changed their recipe so that their daal is no longer vegan. And I was told that while there was some talk of offering a vegan version, they decided against it. Thanks.

Don’t get me wrong – Chai Pani still has a couple of good items on their menu and their food is still good. But nothing I need to go out of my way for like that heart-warming, soul-soothing daal. That magic is gone from Asheville.

The next runner up for that kind of simple but satisfying vegan, gluten-free, healthy meal would be Laughing Seed‘s Harmony Bowl. I recommend getting the sauce on the side.

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100% Vegan Bakery from Black Mountain visits my neighborhood

Saturday, April 21st, 2012
Mixed berry pie by I Heart Veg

Mixed berry pie by I Heart Veg

Black Mountain has a new 100% vegan bakery, I Heart Veg! Jeannie, the owner of the bakery, brought her baked goods right to my neighborhood farmer’s market (not to mention a few others) this week. You can “like” their facebook page to find out the next time they take their baked goods on the road. The bakery itself is on demand / by appointment only – not for walk-in customers.

They don’t have gluten-free options, I’m sad to say, but they do have some spelt items for those who can tolerate a small amount of gluten. I didn’t get to try any of those this week, but Jeannie promises to bring some to next week’s farmer’s market.

I tried a sample of the banana bread which was sooooo moist and delicious. And I took home a little mixed berry pie. Flakey crust, not overly sweet, strong fresh berry flavor – everything one could ask for in a little pie. What really shocked me, though, was my boyfriend’s response to it. I was expecting something along the lines of “I wish you wouldn’t bring junk food home.” What I heard instead was a 5-minute soliloquy on how this perfect pie reminded him of a simpler, better time. Honestly, I’ve never heard him go on about dessert like that.

Perhaps just as important as the tasty treats, was meeting Jeannie. We spent a good while comparing notes on how open and welcoming the people of the Asheville area are, especially compared to where we each came from. And how much there is to do and enjoy here, especially for such a small city. Jeannie is my kind of people, and I Heart Veg is your and my kind of bakery. So go check out their goods with a couple of friends and give them your support.

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Sunny Point Cafe breakfast now even worse than before

Sunday, April 1st, 2012
Sunny Point Cafe Tofu Bacon

Tofu bacon, the only reason to go to Sunny Point Cafe

I never really understood why the wait to get into Sunny Point Cafe in West Asheville was always so long and why they always win “Best Of” awards. I figured maybe people like their eggs. I almost never go there, but on occasion I’ll go just because they are one of the only vegan-friendly-ish places in Asheville that opens early for breakfast, and they are very close by.

They had 2 vegan breakfast options which made it a tolerable place to eat. Sadly, I went in this morning looking forward to the vegan cornmeal hot cakes, which are so delicious but not the healthiest thing in the world, only to find out that they removed it from their menu.

That leaves only the Huevos Fucheros (vegan option) which isn’t that great but it’s filling and fairly healthy. It’s a tolerable option if you’re dragged there by non-vegan friends.

The only item on the menu that makes Sunny Point worth going to at all is their side of tofu bacon. It’s nothing like bacon at all, but it has to be the best tofu in town.

We figured out today that Green Sage opens for breakfast at 7am. Next time we’ll try there instead.

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Vegan-friendly Restaurants in Charlotte

Thursday, November 24th, 2011
Cafe Luna in Charlotte

Cafe Luna in Charlotte

Maybe it’s because I had more time to spend in Charlotte on this recent trip, but the city seems significantly more vegan-friendly than ever before.

First though, the bad news. Blynk Organic, the super healthy, vegan-friendly, soup and salad restaurant at the Southpark Mall, which I wrote about in a previous post, is no longer there. It was so good that we were actually looking forward to eating there again. I’m sure many readers are thinking, “who gives a crap about mall food?” Well, I hate shopping at the mall too, but the truth is that the only reason I ever go to Charlotte in the first place is to buy clothes, because you just can’t find petite women’s clothing in Asheville. It was nice to have a place in the mall to grab a quick bite to eat.

But on to all the good stuff, some of which is new, most of which has probably been there for years but I just didn’t know about it.

Fern, Flavors from the Garden, is a new all-vegetarian restaurant, a bit on the fancy expensive side.  Plenty of gluten-free, vegan options available. The flavors were impressive. The only complaint is that the portion sizes of the entrees were very small. I think most people would be disappointed with, especially considering the price. I do highly recommend trying it.

Buckwheat Blaster at Luna's

Buckwheat Blaster at Luna's

Luna’s Living Kitchen is a raw, vegan restaurant, open only for breakfast and lunch. Many gluten-free options. They have an extensive breakfast menu, but I was hoping to order something off the lunch menu. Unfortunately it was too early, and I didn’t end up making it back there again later. I ordered the Bombin’ Buckwheat Blaster, which was tasty and full of fresh fruit. For me though, it was way too sweet, which means most people would probably love it. Even so, I could tell the quality of the food was top notch, and I hope to try their lunch menu next time I’m in Charlotte.

I’m sorry to say, I found out too late about Zizi’s Vegetarian Restaurant. It’s 100% vegan, take-out/delivery only, lots of gluten-free options and lots of comfort food. It looks fantastic. It’s #1 on my list of places to go the next time I’m in Charlotte.

Not a restaurant, but I have to mention….

The Greener Apple is a new little all-vegan store. I should really say, The Greener Apple is an all-vegan tiny corner of a large book store. Despite it’s surprisingly small size, I did walk out of there with 3 things I was genuinely excited to find – peanut butter cups, dog bisquits, and something like a sponge but much less disgusting than a sponge. Make sure to look for the “Book Buyers” sign in order to find the store.

There are also plenty of grocery stores in Charlotte that have all the vegan food you could want. Healthy Home Market, where I did my grocery shopping this time around, has 3 locations and a ton of gluten-free breads. Earthfare has 2 locations in Charlotte. Berrybrook Farm is a great little health food store in Charlotte, but it’s pretty small. They also have an excellent sandwich shop inside.

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Vegan Gluten-Free Food Truck

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
Veggie Love (from

Veggie Love (photo from

Veggie Love, Asheville’s own vegan and gluten-free food truck, has been around since this past summer. I finally managed to try them out today, when they were parked a few blocks from my house. For such a small city, Asheville always surprises me with all of its vegan resources. I’ve lived in bigger cities that didn’t have this much to offer vegans.

I was tickled to see, painted on the truck, “gluten-free”. I asked if all the food is gluten-free. She was quite definitive. “Yes, everything is always gluten-free, now and forever.” So great. There were also some raw food options as well. They even sell coconut water, which is my latest addiction.

I ordered miso soup with seaweed and a Dosarita, which was just like a south Indian dosa, as far as I could tell.

It’s no 5-star restaurant and the options are limited (it is just a little food truck, after all), but everything I ate was good and healthy too. Definitely a great place to go if you need a quick bite to eat and they’re parked nearby. I’m happy to report that there was a line for food, so hopefully they means they are doing well and will be around for a long while.

Go to their website,, to find out where they’re parked.

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