Nashvegan

A not-very-definitive guide to eating (and living) as a vegan in Nashville.

Khan’s Mongolian BBQ November 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 12:18 pm
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Khan's - buffet 1

Choose your choice!

At Khan’s, you decide EXACTLY what your dish will include.  That makes it paradise for vegans.  Khan’s Mongolian BBQ is on 4th Avenue, right next to the entrance to the Arcade.  When you walk in, it kind of looks like a buffet.  You can a choose a large or small bowl and then fill it up with whatever you want.  They have tofu and TONS of fresh vegetables: sprouts, green peppers, carrots, white and purple cabbage, water chestnuts, snow peas, broccoli, onions, zucchini, mushrooms, scallions, baby corn, and more.  Plus you get $1 off for getting a vegetarian bowl.  You should see the art of architecture that takes place here–people build elaborate towers of food, cramming as much food as possible into the bowls.  I have yet to master the art of making a bowl without anything falling out of it onto the counter or floor, but that’s okay because there’s always someone walking around refreshing the bins and cleaning up the messes made by people like me.

khan's - buffet 2

Even more choices!

Towards the end of the line are a wide variety of sauces and seasonings to make your creation complete.  There are recommended recipes taped to the sneeze guard, but I usually just add a little bit of everything.  A little goes a long way with all the sauces–if you add too much, your food will come out too liquid-y.  It has taken me several visits to find the appropriate sauce-to-bowl ratio.  Also, let me tell you, it is awkward to take photos of the food line in Khan’s.  People must have thought I was insane.  Once your bowl is complete, you approach the cash register and hand it over so they can cook it up for you.  You get your choice of rice or noodles, but get the rice because the noodles are made with egg.  The key feature of a Mongolian BBQ restaurant is the large metal cooking area; I read that it’s supposed to be reminiscent of Mongols cooking food on their big metal shields.  If you ask nicely, the proprietors will cook your food in a pan in the back instead of on the big cooking circle thing, to avoid having your food cooked where meat was just prepared mere moments before.  That’s what I always do.

Khan's - entree

Look, it's all steamy.

You get a little paper number and wait for your food to come out, and when it does, you are in for a serious treat.  Rice, veggies, tofu, sauce, all made exactly to your specifications.  And it doesn’t end there.  Khan’s has an arsenal of delicious condiments you can use to top your dish.  There’s soy sauce, duck sauce, sriracha, tabasco, hot sauce, and something delicious and brown next to the register in little cups.  You can choose chopsticks or traditional utensils.  I have to tell you, I’ve never had anything at Khan’s that wasn’t delicious, but the plate you see here was the best I’ve ever had while eating there.  I think I finally got the sauce-to-bowl ratio right.  Just writing this entry is making my mouth water.

Khan’s is a seriously popular downtown lunch spot.  If you show up just after 12:00, you’ll have to wait a while and there probably won’t be any tables left.  If you can, try to head there a bit before 12:00 or a bit after 12:30.  I’m glad to see that so many people love this place.  I am absolutely certain that I will be back, just as I have been there many times before.  The best thing about Khan’s?  Every meal is different.

Khan’s Mongolian BBQ

237 4th Avenue N.

Nashville, TN 37219

615.726.2340

Khan’s doesn’t have a website, but here is a blurb from the Nashville Scene.

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Frist Center Cafe November 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 5:44 pm
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Frist - portobello sandwich

Portobello Sandwich

Who doesn’t love the Frist Center?  I certainly love checking out the art, especially when my student ID will get me free admittance (every Thursday and Friday from 5:00 – 9:00 PM).  What I did not know until relatively recently is that the Frist Cafe is a happening lunch spot.  The dining area is really inviting–loving the fresh flowers on the tables–and there’s a great patio if you’re in the mood for al fresco.  Also, their menu, while not a smorgasboard of vegan delights, is surprisingly veg-friendly.

The Portobello Mushroom Sandwich is supposed to be served with basil pesto and fontina cheese.  Omit these two ingredients and you have yourself a vegan sandwich, consisting of a portobello mushroom cap, sliced tomato, and red onion, served on focaccia.  I specifically had the cashier check on the vegan status of the bread and the mushroom cap.  I asked for balsamic vinaigrette on the side so the sandwich wouldn’t be too dry, and was kind of disappointed when it came in a pouch, but at least I could read the ingredients list for myself.  I really loved this sandwich, even though putting salad dressing on it made a huge mess everywhere.  The mushroom cap was really tasty and filling.  If I was having it again, I would probably add some lettuce.

I had a fruit cup as my side, and it really hit the spot.  It complemented the sandwich quite nicely.  One of my dining companions had the potato chips, for which the Frist is apparently famous, which are made fresh on-site.  I had a couple and they were quite delicious, but I’m still glad I got the fruit.

I liked the Frist Cafe.  I’ll probably be back.  They have some salads that could probably be veganized and they occasionally have vegan soups.  Plus, I love the Frist.

Frist Center Cafe

919 Broadway

Nashville, TN 37203

615.244.3340

Website

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Pita Pit September 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 1:32 pm
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Falafel Pita

Falafel Pita

Did you know that it is basically impossible to take a decent picture of a pita?  I took two photos of it when I got it, but there were boring, because it was just sort of laying on that Pita Pit paper and you couldn’t see anything except the wrap.  So I at some of it and took this picture, which came out a bit blurry.  It’s hard to take a picture of something you can only hold so far away from yourself.  And you still can’t really tell what’s inside it.  Pitas are not photogenic.

I’m a big Pita Pit fan.  There are four in the greater Orlando area, so I was always able to get my pita fix.  Aside from Ali Baba, it’s the only downtown vegan-friendly eatery open for late night dining, as far as I’m aware.  And when you get done belting your heart out at Lonnie’s, and all your omni friends are munching down on nasty hot dogs from the guy on the street corner, you can head over to Pita Pit for some veg-a-licious awesomeness in a wrap, and your friends will be jealous.

I pretty much always get the falafel pita with hummus.  Falafel is good.  Pita Pit has pretty good falafel.  Eat it.  Then I add whatever veggies suit my fancy on that particular day and some secret sauce, which is the only vegan condiment that seems to be any good on this particular combination of things (mustard? I don’t think so).  The people working in Pita Pit are always super nice, but there’s not a lot of dining space.  There are but a few tiny tables, and it can get crowded after last call.  If you’re enjoying a pita during your lunch hour, you might very well be one of the only people in the place, which is fine by me.

I will definitely be back to Pita Pit.  I’ve been eating there for years, and they continue to be a reliable standby in my mental library of vegan eateries.  And every pita is a little different if you change your veggies and toppings, so it’s not like eating the same thing every time you go.  An added bonus: delivery!!

Pita Pit

121 2nd Avenue North

Nashville, TN 37201

615.251.9151

Website

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El Rey September 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 4:43 pm
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Chips and Salsa and Pico de Gallo

Chips and Salsa and Pico de Gallo

El Rey is a Mexican restaurant on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Commerce Street.  It’s a pretty popular lunch spot, especially for the suits who inhabit downtown on weekdays.  I visited for lunch on a Thursday, and my dining companion and I chose to sit on the patio, which is pretty nice.  Your meal at El Rey begins with chips and salsa (as it should), and we ordered a side of pico de gallo for our dipping pleasure.  It was all pretty great, and it really hit the spot since I was starving.

Veggie Fajitas with Beans, Rice, and Toppings

Veggie Fajitas with Beans, Rice, and Toppings

For an entree I ordered vegetable fajitas (tortillas are in the aluminum foil).  Often when I eat out, I like to ask specifically about the animal ingredients that concern me.  If I ask if food contains “animal products” I often get told “no” when it does, in fact, include animal products, and if I ask if something is “vegan” I have even less luck.  I asked specifically if the rice contained chicken stock, if the beans contained lard, and if the vegetables were cooked in butter or chicken stock.  Since the answers to all questions was “no” I felt comfortable ordering this dish, but I always recommend doing your own research.  Sometimes different servers will give you different answers, like when someone at Fido told me the veggie sausage was vegan–I found out later that it was not.  Also, recipes and cooking methods change from time to time.  Always ask what’s in your food!  You have a right to know, and asking shows chefs and owners that there is a demand for vegan products.

On to the food.  It was good!  The beans and rice were great, the guacamole (it’s a topping, you can’t really see it in the picture  because it blends in with the lettuce) seemed pretty fresh, and the veggies were nicely seasoned.  I would have enjoyed some more variety with the vegetables as they were just peppers and onions and tomatoes.  Some broccoli or zucchini would have been great, and I sort of expected mushrooms.  I ended up using all the tortillas, as there were only two or three, and while I probably could have requested more tortillas I decided to eat the rest of my veggies and beans and rice with a fork.

I’ll probably be back to El Rey, if for no other reason than the location.  It’s pretty convenient right there on 2nd and Commerce.  So far, Las Palmas on 19th is my favorite “authentic” Mexican spot, but I haven’t tried all that many and I’m open to discovering more.  If you’re downtown and need to grab some lunch down on 2nd, and you want a waiter instead of counter service, head on down to El Rey.  And get some pico, because it’s tasty.

El Rey

139 2nd Avenue North

Nashville, TN 37201

615.726.8862

No website available

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Ali Baba September 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 4:54 pm
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Falafel "Sandwich"

Falafel "Sandwich"

Ali Baba is a relatively new restaurant.  It opened in July.  The coolest thing about Ali Baba is that it is open until 3:00 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.  It’s basically your only late-night downtown alternative to Pita Pit.  The pitas at Pita Pit are bigger and full of more veggies, but sometimes you don’t want a wrap that’s bigger than your face, and they don’t have grape leaves.  The restaurant is kind of hiding, tucked away in a storefront after Big River Brewery: if you weren’t specifically looking for it, you would never notice it.  The interior features some booths and tables with cool stuff hanging from the ceilings, and there are a few plastic tables outside.

On this occasion, I popped into Ali Baba for lunch.  This is the falafel “sandwich.”  It’s more of a wrap than a sandwich, and it’s on more of a tortilla than a pita, but whatever.  It’s still pretty delicious.  It’s not the best falafel I’ve ever had in Nashville–that honor goes to Fattoush–but it definitely hits the spot.  The staff is super friendly as well.  The wrap comes with falafel and hummus and some veggies (lettuce and tomato, etc.) along with some pretty good tahini.  I would prefer it if the falafel was crispier and not as mushy, but overall it’s good.  I will definitely be back.

Ali Baba

105 Broadway

Nashville, TN 37201

(615) 255-5522

Ali Baba doesn’t have a website, but here is a little blurb from the Nashville Scene.

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