Sometimes, somewhere, some place when I least expect it … I have an unexpectedly wonderful vegan dining experience!
Most recently that happened at the Treetops Cafe at the Doubletree Hotel by Hilton – Charlotte Airport.
I was taking a two-day financial seminar at the hotel. The first day of the seminar was gray, cold, and rainy. We’ve been having a quite a lovely winter in Charlotte this spring! When lunchtime came, I didn’t really feel like walking in the damp to the nearby Salsarita’s. Nor could I really justify hopping in my car and burning gas to drive a single block.
So I decided to give the hotel restaurant a try.
I know what hotel restaurants are typically like, and I was fully expecting to have to do the old vegan mix-n-match – maybe a side salad, fruit cup, and an order of steamed vegetables sans butter.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. There were a number of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu – including Chips with Salsa and Guacamole ($8), Black Bean Quesadillas with Salsa and Guacamole ($10), a Greek Salad and Mixed Berry & Nut Salad (both $10), several varieties of vegan salad dressing including Raspberry Vinaigrette and Balsamic Vinaigrette, and a Vegetarian Pasta entree on the dinner menu ($18). There were also a fair number of side items, most vegetarian and a few likely vegan.
Since it was a chilly day, I decided to order the Black Bean Quesadillas without cheese. A generous portion of beans and a truly excellent house-made salsa (with a touch of something citrusy?) were layered inside the tortillas. The quesadillas came with an equally generous side of guacamole. I peeled apart my tortillas and smeared a thick layer of the guacamole on top of the beans and salsa. I had to eat them with a fork, but who cares? My modified quesadillas were warm, hearty, creamy, comforting – a perfect meal for a dark, chill day. I left confident that I’d had a vastly more satisfying meal than I would have at Salsarita’s.
Day Two of the seminar: Sunnier, but I’d had such a positive experience at Treetops I went back to try it again. I am not usually a big fan of “salad” when I eat out. However, one of my fellow seminar participants had ordered an unusually delicious looking fruit cup as her side item, so I was curious about the Mixed Berry and Nut Salad.
Treetops Cafe seriously needs to teach some other restaurants in Charlotte, NC how to make a salad.
And HERE is what $10 will buy you at Treetops – a huge salad with not just spinach but baby spinach; at least a cup and a half of fruit – strawberries, raspberries, and my favorite BLACKBERRIES; a generous sprinkling of slivered almonds; and the most delicious raspberry vinaigrette made from fresh pureed raspberries.
And if that wasn’t enough, all the fruit was GOOD fruit – clean, unblemished, ripe, sweet not sour. Spinach was likewise fresh, not wilted, and free of brown spots.
Let’s take another look, closer up, shall we?
I also have to give props to Treetops Cafe for the wonderful service. I had the same waitress both days. She appeared to be perhaps Hispanic but spoke English very well. She had a warm smile and overall pleasant attitude, striking that perfect balance between friendly and professional. She apparently kept her eye on the customers because she took my order as soon as I put my menu down, kept my water glass filled, and only brought my bill once I had finished eating – yet I never felt she was “lurking.”
The ambience was pretty much that of your typical hotel restaurant. Quiet, calm, mostly neutral colors. A small bar area. Floor to ceiling windows with drapes that were always perfectly adjusted – more open on the rainy day, strategically closed in certain windows on the sunny day so sunlight didn’t glare into customer’s faces as they ate.
I can’t vouch for the rooms, as I didn’t stay there overnight, but I will definitely eat at Treetops Cafe again if I have another seminar or business meeting at the hotel. One of the most unexpectedly pleasant vegan dining experiences I’ve had in a long time.