So … drumroll, please! … It’s the 2013 VegCharlotte Awards, celebrating the best vegan (and occasionally vegetarian) food in the Charlotte, NC area!
Let’s whet our appetites with a few appetizers, shall we?
The Appetizer category received a ton of votes, and there were a couple of clear winners.
It probably won’t surprise anyone that Zizi’s Buffalo and BBQ Wings ($3.99 for two) took the top spot. These generously sized “wings” have an almost disturbingly realistic texture and are molded around a stick, so you have to pick them up with your hands and gnaw on them like a caveman or cavewoman – in other words, you have to eat them just like you would the real thing! Comments included, “I could eat these wings every day,” “Even my carnivore friends love these,” “Utterly delish,” “Better than I remember the real thing,” “Soooo good,” “Appetizer? I eat these for my main,” and “Blows every other faux chicken wing completely away.”
Coming in a strong second … Fern, Flavors From The Garden’s Squash Blossom Hush Puppies ($10). Described on the menu as “Vegan Mozzarella & Roasted Tomatoes, Caramelized Onion “Butter.” They’re really more like “poppers” than hush puppies – squash blossoms filled with vegan cheese, then lightly breaded and fried. Voters described these as “So good, there are no words,” “One of the best vegan cheese fillings I’ve had – and I’ve had a lot of vegan cheese,” “If you order only one thing at Fern, make it the Squash Blossom Hush Puppies,” and “Awesome. Just awesome.” One caveat: “Order these as a personal appetizer. You only get three squash blossoms and believe me, you won’t want to share.”
And coming in third … Bean Vegan Cuisine’s Fried Pickles with Ranch. “A Southern Classic! Battered and fried dill pickle chips piled in a basket with vegan Ranch on the side.” $6.50. Most of the voters gave some rendition of this statement, “When I was an omnivore/vegetarian, I loved the pickles at Jackalope Jack’s/The Diamond/The Penguin, but then I became vegan and realized the batter contains egg/the ranch dressing contains dairy/the pickles were fried in the same oil as the chicken/fish/other meat. Thanks to Bean I can eat fried pickles again!”
Those were the three clear winners, but there were many other nominations.
Several people nominated Pinky’s Westside Grill – for their White Bean & Rosemary Hummus, Waffle Fries, and Chili (also someone nominated Waffle Fries with Chili & Mustard). The White Bean & Rosemary Hummus ($7.25) is described on the menu as “marinated artichokes, calamata olives, red onion, lettuce, and tomatoes served with toasted pita chips.” Waffle Fries are listed as a side for $2.50 and a bowl of Homemade Veggie Chili (with cheddar and onions – you can leave off the cheddar) is $3.25 (I am not sure if the Waffle Fries, Chili, and Mustard sometimes come together as an appetizer or if you have to order the fries and chili separately and combine yourself.)
At the Dilworth Neighborhood Grill, the Tremont Hummus (aka Three Hummus or Tri Hummus Plate) is a popular appetizer at $5.95. The menu describes it as, “Our homemade traditional, roasted red pepper, and black bean hummus, served with warm pita bread points.”
If you love avocados, how about the Crispy Avocado & Asparagus with Sweet Balsamic Chili at Bistro La Bon ($8)? Note: Bistro La Bon is open for dinner only Monday – Saturday; brunch Saturday and Sunday – no weekday lunch.
Or try the Guacamole Stack ($5) at Soul Gastrolounge – avocado, red onion, cilantro, and fried garlic chips. Note: Soul Gastrolounge is open for dinner only, 5:00 pm – 2:00 AM. Food and service is better on weeknights – weekends are packed but great for people watching.
At Cuisine Malaya – a “Malayasian Japanese Hibachi Grill and Sushi Bar” – the Roti Canai received recommendations. At $3.95, the menu describes it as, “Favorite Malaysian crispy Indian style pancake. Served with curry as a dipping.”
Zada Jane’s Corner Cafe, noted for their vegan and vegetarian fare, was recommended for Kool Kip’s Nachos – “A Zada Jane’s favorite! Organic blue corn chips heaped with grilled veggies, black beans, roasted corn, pepper jack queso, layered with chopped lettuce, finished with sour cream, guacamole and our own delicious salsa” ($6.75). Obviously, with pepper jack queso and sour cream it’s a vegetarian appetizer, but leave those off and it’s vegan. (I think, but am not 100% sure, that their guacamole is dairy-free.)
Finally, vegetarians need to check out 300 East – a charming old house that’s served as a restaurant for a quarter-century now. It’s very vegetarian friendly and I understand has a few vegan friendly dishes as well. The vegetarian Sweet Potato Ravioli with Gorgonzola Cream and Toasted Walnuts ($12) received several recommendations.
So – how did your favorite veggie appetizer do? If it wasn’t listed in this post, that means you didn’t vote! Make a note in your planner or smartphone to vote next December, and in the meantime feel free to leave your two cents in the Comments!