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

 

Jackson’s Bar & Bistro February 2, 2011

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House Salad

A quick glance at the Jackson’s menu doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of vegan option.  Never fear, though!  There are treasures within, and you will be fed.

When I sat down here I was skeptical, so I ordered the shot of the day as a starter.  It was tasty, and I was ready to grill my server about the vegan-ness of various menu items.  Thankfully, my server was pretty knowledgeable, though he did have to go back to the kitchen and ask the chefs a few questions.

Taking a look at their menu online today, I’m not sure that they still serve the exact salad pictured above, which is a shame, because it was really good. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, and chickpeas topped with champagne vinaigrette?  I’m on board!  Their menu now features a “shredded salad” instead which doesn’t sound as exciting: chopped cabbage, carrots, and red onion with the same dressing.  Boring, right?  Yeah.  And it doesn’t have any protein.  Bummer.  Maybe if we all ask nicely we can get the delicious chickpea salad back.

Rosso Marinara

That’s right, it’s a bowl of penne with marinara sauce.  Is it fancy?  No.  Does it hit the spot, especially after all those shots of the day?  Yes.  This is actually really really good for basically just being wheat and tomatoes.  The sauce is surprisingly sweet (in a good way), and it’s very flavorful.  I would absolutely order this again.  Be sure to tell your server you don’t want any cheese on top.  Plus, the hunk of bread that comes with it is vegan, which surprised me.  This portion is a lot larger than it looks, because the bowl is deep–I had leftovers, which meant I had the pleasure of eating this twice.

The Jackson’s menu is pretty inspired if you’re not a vegan.  We vegans have few choices at Jackson’s; there is only one other menu item other than what I’ve described above, the Capri vegetable wrap sans cheese, that’s suitable for people like us.  Still, I’ll probably be back to Jackson’s, if only for the great happy hour specials, and I’m sure I’ll find myself digging into a bowl of Russo Marinara again soon.

 

Jackson’s Bar & Bistro

1800 21st Avenue South

Nashville, TN 37212

615.385.9968

Website

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Proper Eats Cafe October 26, 2009

Spicy Black Bean Quesadilla

Spicy Black Bean Quesadilla

I had an AWESOME time in Portland, Oregon.  It is basically like vegan mecca.  I can only imagine what it would be like to live in such a city, where fantastic vegan fare can be had at nearly every establishment, and nearly every establishment knows exactly what “vegan” means.  I stayed in North Portland (NoPo) while I was in town, and as soon as I got in from the airport and dropped off my luggage my host and I popped over to Proper Eats Cafe for my first Portland meal.  Proper Eats is a natural foods store and cafe, with produce and some groceries in the front and a dining area in the back.  I was famished from spending six hours on and off various airplanes (but Southwest has some yummy vegan in-flight snacks!), and I had to restrain myself from ordering basically everything on the menu.

We started with the above Spicy Black Bean Quesadilla.  It was stuffed with vegan cheese, spinach, and black beans.  It was spicy, too!  The salsa served on the side was incredibly fresh-tasting and helped to cut through the spice a bit.  As you can see from the photo, it was topped with corn, red onion, and pumpkin seeds.  Talk about awesome!  When was the last time you had a vegan quesadilla?  I don’t think I ever had one until this moment.  I thought it was totally delicious, but it was kind of hard to eat–looking back, I should have used a fork and knife.  I ended up getting it all over myself.

Hazelnut-Arugula Penne Bake and Side Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Hazelnut-Arugula Penne Bake and Side Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

For my entree I ordered the day’s special: Hazelnut-Arugula Penne Bake and Side Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Wow, that’s a mouthful!  Seriously, this was SO. EFFING. GOOD. and I am still reminiscing about it.  I wish I could get this at a restaurant in Nashville.  I mean, I could probably cook something similar from scratch but who wants to go to all that trouble?  The pasta was just the right texture.  The cheese topping didn’t exactly melt right, but the flavor was great.  The pesto was divine.  The salad itself was pretty standard (spring mix, broccoli, carrots), and the dressing complimented it nicely.

Sesame Peanut Noodles

Sesame Peanut Noodles

My host, an omnivore, had the Sesame Peanut Noodles.  He loved it.  The noodles are cooked in a peanut sauce and served warm with ginger lime tofu, all over a bed of spinach and garnished with asian slaw, broccoli and lime.  You can see the little lime wedge in the photo, just waiting to be squeezed over the whole thing.  He let me eat a little bit of it and it was even better than it looks in the picture.  The noodles were perfect.  The tofu was amazing.  This whole dish was well-executed, well-presented, and well-made.  It also kept well and made for an excellent second, reheated meal.

If I lived in Portland, I would dine at Proper Eats Cafe all the time.  The menu is varied, covering a lot of different types of food, and their daily specials are always interesting.  They are almost entirely vegan (they offer a choice of a few dairy-based condiments), and every dish can be prepared vegan.  If you have the good fortune to make it there, be sure to check the bakery case on your way out: I got a vegan chocolate truffle.  Sorry, I didn’t take a photo.  I know that next time I’m in PDX, I’ll be stopping by.

Proper Eats Cafe

8638 N. Lombard Ave.

Portland, OR 97203

503.445.2007

Website

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