Nashvegan

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

Noodles & Company February 24, 2013

Noodles!

Noodles!

Full disclosure: Noodles & Company was kind enough to send me some coupons for free noodles so that I could check them out.  The free-ness of these noodles in no way influenced my opinion regarding their deliciousness.

Noodles & Company is one of those magical and rare chain restaurants that actually caters to vegans.  It’s like looking at horses off the side of the highway and spotting a unicorn.  For one thing, you can add organic tofu to any dish at Noodles & Company.  And I’m not talking about sad, flavorless, little white cubes.  I’m talking about well-seasoned cubes that are cooked juuuuust right in a way I can never seem to replicate at home.  Also, since all dishes are made to order, a lot of things that seem like they wouldn’t be vegan (say, a dish with a combo red-and-cream sauce) can be altered on the spot (omitting the cream and just using red sauce).  And the vegetables!  Such a bounty!  Let’s take a look at what I ordered on this trip.

The Noodles & Company menu is divided into geographical regions: American, Asian, and Mediterranean.  The American section of the menu is not your friend, but between the other two sections there are seven vegan entrees along with two sides.  How do I know what’s vegan, you ask.  Because they freaking tell you.  The list of vegan dishes can be found here, on the bottom right.  The only thing better than an all-vegan restaurant is a restaurant that just straight up tells you what’s vegan.  No asking confused/uninformed waitstaff, no having to check with the kitchen, no worrying about undisclosed animal ingredients … just the simplicity of ordering food.  Love it.

Japanese Pan Noodles

Japanese Pan Noodles

I got one Asian dish, Japanese Pan Noodles with tofu, and one Mediterranean dish, Pasta Fresca.  The Japanese Pan Noodles feature caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce with broccoli, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms, topped with bean sprouts, black sesame seeds, and cilantro.  When they say “caramelized udon noodles” they aren’t kidding.  These noodles were absolute perfection.  I think we should caramelize more things.  The veggies were super fresh and well-prepared – just the right amount of crispness.  I raved about the tofu above but let me reiterate: delicious.  As an added bonus, bottles of the wonder sauce sriracha are scattered about the dining room.  For those of you who, like me, have considered bringing your own personal bottle of the rooster with you everywhere, there’s no need at Noodles & Company.

Pasta Fresca

Moving on to the Mediterranean section of the menu, I didn’t have particularly high expectations for Pasta Fresca.  A simple dish of penne with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, white wine, roasted garlic, red onion, and spinach, I thought it would be tasty but nothing to rave over.  I was wrong.  This dish is FULL of flavor, mostly thanks to the balsamic vinegar.  I basically couldn’t stop shoving this into my mouth.  My only complaint is that I wish there had been a bit more spinach.

The takeaway?  I love Noodles & Company.  The Green Hills location is close to my work and their online ordering system is my new best friend.  Did you know that when you order online you can add as many vegetables to your dish as you want?  The food here is delicious, filling, and infinitely customizable.  One of my favorite dishes here (not pictured) is the Cucumber Tomato Salad, and now I never eat here without getting a side of it.  Oh and they have one of those freestyle Coke machines.  At Noodles & Company, get exactly what you want, and none of what you don’t.

Noodles & Company

Multiple locations – Green Hills, Cool Springs

Website

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Chili’s August 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 10:31 pm
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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.

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Calypso Cafe August 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nashvegan @ 4:06 pm
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Beans and Three

Beans and Three

Ah, Calypso Cafe.  You are so vegan-friendly.  Possibly the greatest thing about Calypso is the fact that all vegan menu items are clearly marked.  Plus, the food isn’t half bad.  I had “beans and three” on my most recent visit–you get Cuban beans with three side dishes for $6.  In the photo above, you can see that I chose St. Lucian Rice, Martinique Callaloo, and Spiced Sweet Potatoes as my sides.  They also have a Boca Burger, for less adventurous vegans.

This food was okay.  It didn’t blow my mind or anything, but it was filling and there was a lot of it.  The greens were especially good, and I usually don’t like greens.  Other sides to try are the Bean & Corn Salad (with garbanzo and kidney beans, black eyed peas, and corn in this super amazing dressing) and the fresh fruit (but only April – September so hurry!).  I personally want to try the black bean dip, but I always seem to miss out on ordering it.  Their website is really informative, with a full list of all their vegan offerings (including condiments).  Take your omni friends and, while they enjoy their charred flesh, shove your delicious sweet potatoes (with shredded coconut!) in their faces and make them savor the flavor.

Couva Calypso Cafe

Multiple Locations – Vandy, 100 Oaks, Belle Meade, Cool Springs, East Nashville

Website

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