If you’re vegan – or vegetarian – you’ve had this experience before.
You’re in a restaurant, looking over a menu, trying to find the one or two options available to you. Of course, there’s always salad … and oh, there’s the ubiquitous black bean burger again … maybe you can put a couple of side dishes together … or maybe you can order that pasta without meat …
That’s why walking into Zizi’s (in Charlotte since 2009) is so exhilarating! To realize you have so many choices when you’ve been used to so having so few is, well, AWESOME!
Zizi’s has 54 items on the menu, all of them not only vegetarian but vegan! And that’s not counting the side items, desserts, or 100% fruit smoothies!
My #1 recommendation is the “wings.” Get the BBQ Wings if you can’t eat hot stuff, but, if you can tolerate a little heat … try the Buffalo Wings! They have a texture and taste so close to chicken it’s a little scary, and the wings are huge. I’ve served these to meat eaters who actually said they were as good as the real thing! (Make sure Zizi’s gives you “white sauce” with the wings; sometimes they forget.)
So far, my partner and I have mainly been working our way through the sandwiches and wraps … and these are very good. We’ve tried:
- Philly Cheese Steak. One of my faves – seitan “beef” with fried onions and “cheese” (actually whipped Vegenaise). Ask for a little hot sauce to give it some kick.
- Buffalo Chicken Cheese Steak. Similar to the Philly Cheese Steak, only with chopped soy chicken instead of seitan.
- Turkey Club. Cold sliced “turkey” with lettuce, tomato, and onion, served on a wheat roll.
- Chicken Parmless. A vegan version of Chicken Parmesan with breaded fried “chicken” and marinara sauce. Another standout.
- Crispy Fish Sandwich. This one’s interesting. The fried faux fish filet tastes a little like fish, not a lot – although, perhaps as much like fish as a Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s! However, it’s quite tasty even if it’s not very fishy and I really like the texture – this is another of my favorite sandwiches.
- Tempeh BLT Wrap. This is the only sandwich I’ve tried that I haven’t cared for. Perhaps it’s because I don’t much like tempeh. (And, incidentally, who “decided” that smoked tempeh resembles bacon in any way, shape, taste, or form? The same “authority” who decided all vegans love black bean burgers?)
- Chicken Salad. Very fresh-tasting, made with onions and plenty of crisp celery and carrots and served with lettuce, tomato, and sprouts. Another standout.
- Italian Sausage with peppers, onions, and a basil marinara. You’ll need napkins with this one.
- Crispy Chicken Wrap. I swear, this is the closest I’ve tasted yet to real fried chicken (and as a native Charlottean I know whereof I speak). Truly excellent; would be a great choice for omnivores.
If you like the Crispy Fish Sandwich and/or the Crispy Chicken Wrap, you might also want to check out the Fish & Chips and Chicken Nuggets on the entrees.
For those who don’t want “transitional” foods or foods that resemble meat, there’s plenty of other choices.
Try traditional items like the Avocado Sandwich, Grilled Portobello Sandwich, Grilled Veggie Sandwich, or Fresh Veggie Wrap.
Zizi’s also has a long list of really creative veggie burgers that make no pretense to be meat – such as the Veggie Soul Burger, made from black eyed peas.
Of course there are salads.
For entrees Zizi’s offers stir-fries, curries, and tofu dishes – try the Mango Tofu!
I haven’t tried the fruit smoothies yet but they look delicious, and can be made with your choice of almond, soy, or rice milk. They are also a bargain for the Charlotte area – $3.75 for 16 oz. (compared to $8 for a smoothie at Luna’s or Smoothie King).
For those with food allergies, items on the menu are clearly marked as soy or gluten free. Sandwiches can also be made on sliced gluten-free bread.
Zizi’s also offers a small selection of frozen entrees to take home, and special Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for pre-order.
Prices are reasonable: Everything’s under $11.00, with sandwiches ranging from $5.99 – $6.99.
The only downsides to Zizi’s:
It’s take out ONLY.
It’s a little hard to find the first time – a small “hole-in-the-wall” spot in a center (“Gold Hill Pavilion”) that has mostly small office space, not retail. Plus, the signage on the wall says, “Vegetarian Takeout,” not “Zizi’s” or “Vegan-To-Go.”
It takes a little while for Zizi’s to prepare your food. And the waiting area is quite small (four chairs) and can be hot in summer, cold in winter. So call ahead.
Some people have complained about service in online reviews. But, hey, keep in mind this is a takeout joint, and half the time it’s a teenager working the counter. So, no, it’s not 4-star service, but everyone I’ve dealt with has always been reasonably pleasant.
The food is very low salt (good for some!) I always add a little extra salt and Vegenaise to my sandwiches, and to me that greatly improves the flavor.
And a small gripe about the Fish and Chips: It’s served with their special “white sauce” (watered down Vegenaise) and their red wing sauce. They could take the fish from good to great with a nice tartar, remoulade, or cocktail sauce. My recommendation would be to make your own sauces at home (they’re amazingly simple to make) to eat with the fish.
One Charlotte Location: 7945 N. Tryon St. #110, Charlotte NC 28262 Closed Mondays