Nashvegan

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

Qdoba October 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 9:15 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Chips & Guacamole, Black Bean Taco, and Tortilla Soup

Chips & Guacamole, Black Bean Taco, and Tortilla Soup

I will just come right out and say it: I hate Qdoba.  Not because the food is bad, but because when I was an undergraduate, Qdoba replaced Baja Burrito Kitchen in my Student Union.  Baja Burrito had the best queso (now irrelevant, for obvious reasons).  They had an epic salsa bar.  Their vegetarian options were unmatched elsewhere on campus.  And Qdoba stamped them out!  At Qdoba, your meal does not come with free chips and salsa.  This is basically blasphemy as far as I’m concerned.  I mean, seriously, doesn’t all Mexican food come with complimentary chips and salsa?  What is the world coming to?

So why, with all my vitriol towards Qdoba, did I dine there on this particular day?  Well, my friends, Qdoba has a rewards card program and I got an email with a coupon for free chips and queso.  Since I am totally a sucker for coupons, especially coupons that provide me with things that are free, I moseyed on over to The Dobe (let’s make that name stick) for my free food.  Obviously, as a vegan, I do not dine on queso.  The staff was kind enough to let me have complimentary guacamole instead.

The guacamole was average.  Nothing to write home about, but it’s not like it was bad.  I decided on a taco-and-soup combo to go with my chips.  Above you see a black bean taco.  With pico.  And that’s it.  The line was moving so quickly, the person asked me if I wanted pico and I said “yes” and then he pushed my food on along and no one offered me anything else.  Since I don’t really know what all the strange Qdoba condiments are, as I do not dine there often, I just let them all pass me by.  There’s something with corn in it that looks pretty good, and it probably would have gone great with my little taco.  The most fantastic thing you can order at Qdoba is the Tortilla Soup.  Yes, it’s vegan.  Order it EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU GO or you are missing out.  I’m not kidding.  I could eat this stuff by the gallon.  It’s especially amazing now that the weather is changing.

Will I be back to Qdoba?  It’s almost a certainty.  Do I miss Baja Burrito Kitchen?  Yes.  Would I rather have Moe’s, with its tofu and complimentary chips and best salsa ever?  Yes.  But I can walk to Qdoba, and that soup is awesome.  Furthermore, Qdoba is super vegan friendly.  You can basically eat anything except the meat and the cheese and the sour cream.  I recommend you refer to this list of vegan offerings before you visit.  And get the soup.  For real.

Qdoba

2019 West End Avenue

Nashville, TN 37203

615.340.2822

Website

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

 

El Rey September 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 4:43 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

 

Cantina Laredo August 26, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 10:54 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Margarita

Margarita

Went to Cantina Laredo for a birthday dinner.  You may look at the Cantina Laredo menu and think to yourself “hmm … there are literally zero dishes on the menu that are vegan, aside from the guacamole.”  This thought will be entirely accurate.  That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to eat at Cantina Laredo.  I called ahead to ask questions about the menu, and I would suggest that you do the same.  You can order what I ordered and consider it to be vegan, but you really should call ahead and ask to speak to the manager and/or chef about vegan options: this sends the message that there is a demand for vegan options, and who knows, a new dish may find its way onto the menu.  Also, you see the lime and avocoado in the bowl there, by my margarita?  Yeah, they’re going to become guacamole later, at your tableside.  And trust me, even if there wasn’t another vegan option on the menu, you would still want to come here to eat this.

Chips & Salsa

Chips & Salsa

Your meal at Cantina Laredo begins with chips and salsa (duh).  They bring out two different kinds: one is spicy and one is mild.  The spicy one is better.  Our server was really good about keeping the chips and salsa coming.  The service at this restaurant is just fantastic.

Cantina Laredo - Guacamole 1Cantina Laredo - Guacamole 2Cantina Laredo - Guacamole 3

So it’s really really neat that they make the guacamole right at your table.  I’m pretty sure the waitress felt awkward while I took these photos, but such is the price of my “profession.”  BEHOLD, the finished product:

Guacamole

Guacamole

Eating this guacamole is basically like having  a party in your mouth–a party to which everyone is invited.  Unfortunately, said guacamole costs about $9.  Seriously, $9??  That’s just ridiculous.  I suppose I was in a fancy restaurant and should expect such things.  It was super fresh, clearly.  Our table of six demolished both those bowls long before our entrees came out.  Speaking of entrees, by the time I was done with all the margaritas and chips and salsa and guacamole, I basically forgot I ordered one.

Enchiladas de Espinaca

Enchiladas de Espinaca

This is a heavily modified version of the Enchiladas de Espinaca – spinach enchiladas.  The menu description for this dish reads as follows: “Sautéed spinach, monterey jack cheese and mushroom enchiladas topped with sour cream poblano sauce.”  These enchiladas have just spinach and mushrooms inside – no cheese.  Also, they clearly do not have any sour cream poblano sauce on top; I topped each of them with a different flavor of salsa.  They come with veggies on the side (be sure to specify no butter) and black beans (ask for no cheese).  The verdict?  It was pretty good.  It wasn’t fantastic.  The vegetables were really good and had slivered almonds.  The black beans were standard.  The enchilada was kind of bland, even with the salsa.  If someone I knew really wanted to go here I would probably go with them, but I likely wouldn’t pick it if restaurant choice was up to me.  Vegans can definitely eat here, but it’s kind of complicated to explain your order to your server and when I called about vegan options, I was put on hold for a while and eventually had to be called back later by someone who could answer my questions.  The guacamole is amazing, the margaritas were tasty, and the service was awesome.

Cantina Laredo

592 12th Ave. S.

Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 259-9282

Website

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

 

Chili’s August 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 10:31 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
My "entree"

My "entree"

I’m not a big fan of chain restaurants (unless they are SUPER AWESOME), but sometimes you’re with people and they want to eat at one, so you do what you have to do.  Also, a lot of them have standardized menus with informative websites about ingredients, so you’ll know in advance what is vegan and what isn’t.  Furthermore, I like to go to restaurants with few vegan options for two reasons: (1) I want to show that there is, in fact, a demand for vegan dishes in “mainstream” establishments and (2) I want to show my co-diners that vegan food is relatively easy to find, appetizing-looking, and delicious.  I recruit future vegans one meal at a time.  Anyways, on to the food.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and Salsa

Who doesn’t love chips and salsa?  It is one of the things you can practically always order as a vegan.  Now, the chips at Chili’s may not meet some people’s definition of “vegan” as they are fried in oil also used to fry other non-vegan foods (so are the fries).  Not to delve too much into my personal politics, but I’m vegan to reduce animal suffering, and refusing these chips does nothing to stop the slaughter of animals for food, so the chips are fine by me.  If you don’t like to eat food that may or may not have been deep fried right after chicken tenders, avoid the chips.

The salsa at Chili’s is really not that good.  It’s quite runny, and it doesn’t really taste “fresh.”  Still, it’s Chili’s; what did you expect?  I like the chips because you can totally tell they were just fried mere moments before you were eating them, but ours had way too much salt.

See, vegans can eat at Chili's ... kind of.

See, vegans can eat at Chili's ... kind of.

I decided what to eat here based on an extremely informative post on the blog Vegan Restaurants Master List.  They have a great post about Chili’s here.  As you can see, that post is from 2007, but as far as I could tell from the questions I asked at the restaurant it still holds true.  On my plate above is the following: pico de gallo, guacamole, corn on the cob, black beans, and rice.  Off to the side of the picture (you can see them in the first photo of the post) is a dish of corn tortillas.  I made myself some interesting taco-like constructions, but the tortillas kept breaking open (as corn tortillas are apt to do) and I got frustrated and just started eating stuff with a fork.

And now, for your reading pleasure, I shall break the meal down bite by bite.  First, corn tortillas are weird.  They don’t wrap the way that flour tortillas do and they split open and you get guacamole all over yourself (don’t ask how I know that).  It seemed that the restaurant did the best they could to soften them, but they quickly got hard and icky.  I would say don’t even bother.  Second, the pico and guac are mediocre at best.  I personally prefer a nice, chunky guacamole, and this was basically a puree.  It didn’t taste fresh at all (likely because it wasn’t).  But hey man, it’s Chili’s.  Third, the corn on the cob was awesome.  I was so pleasantly surprised.  It was really sweet and tasted “grilled” if that makes any sense.  It blew my mind.  Make sure you order it with no oil or butter.  If you pick the corn up and there is a pool of yellow liquid underneath it, that’s oil and butter, send it back.  I know because this happened to me (not like the guacamole-tortilla-shirt mess, which totally did not).  Finally, the beans and rice … the beans are not as awesome as many other black beans I’ve had, partially because the liquid they’re in is really thin and watery, but that rice.  I could eat nothing but that rice for a week and be happy.  I don’t know what they put in it but I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of crack cocaine.  Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Bottom line: if you’re sitting around asking yourself “where can I get some awesome vegan dinner tonight?” the answer is not “Chili’s.”  But if your crazy uncle Phil is in town and change makes him act like he’s gone off his medication (or you just don’t want him to ask the waitress what “TAPE-nade” is), humor the man and go with him to Chili’s.  Who knows, he might even want a bite of your delicious delicious vegan super rice.  And you will tell him to back off because you need every last grain.

Chili’s

Multiple locations – they are everywhere!

Website

Vegetarian Menu (PDF) – you may find this helpful in making a food choice.  It’s a new addition to their website, which used to only have an extremely confusing and unhelpful allergen list.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine