Fuel Pizza – 214 N. Tryon Street (Hearst Tower)
Soho Bistro – 214 N. Tryon Street (Hearst Tower)
It was lunchtime and I was again pounding the streets of Uptown Charlotte.
From somewhere behind me, I heard the faint cry of a coworker. “Catherine! Wait up! Wait up!”
Usually, when a coworker does that, I quicken my step, stare intently into the distance, maybe even start talking into an imaginary Bluetooth phone, and duck into the closest storefront I can find.
But that Thursday, it was V., one of my favorite coworkers. She’s a little older than me, one of the wittiest people I’ve had the pleasure to know, and the sharpest dresser in the office. She also recently adopted two puppies who are always getting into trouble. And I have one puppy, and one older dog who THINKS he’s a puppy – and they are both always into mischief as well. Some people have terriers; I have terrors. We have plenty to talk about.
I did what I rarely do – actually stopped and waited for her to catch up with me.
Turned out, she had worked Uptown previously (the Banks like to move people around) and knew a lot of restaurants. She was headed for Chinese food. Sounded good to me, so I fell into step beside her.
On our way, we passed by Fuel Pizza. This is a local Charlotte chain that originated in a vacated gas station. Hence the name. Fuel – like most other pizza places in Charlotte – offers vegan pizzas.
What You Need To Know About Fuel:
Fuel has two marinara sauces – one is vegan and one is not. So always be sure to specify the vegan marinara. Garlic oil sauce is another vegan option.
Fuel is famous for pizza-by-the-slice, but I’ve never known Fuel to include vegan pizzas. (Fuel, get with the times – you might be amazed how much vegan business is out there!) You’ll be buying a whole pizza (the smallest is eight slices). So come with a hearty appetite, a vegan or veg-curious friend – or be prepared for leftovers.
Many pizzas come with more than one kind of cheese, so you’ll need to be explicit when ordering. For example, the Riviera Pizza has mozzarella and feta, so you’ll need to not only tell them you want vegan cheese, but also to hold the feta. The Whole Wheat Veggie Pizza has both mozzarella and garlic herb cheese, so you’ll need to remember not only specify vegan chese but also ask for no garlic herb cheese. You get the idea.
Fuel is expensive compared to other pizza places. There is a $1.59 charge to sub vegan cheese. (Brixx has never charged for vegan cheese and Mellow Mushroom recently stopped charging.) Additional toppings are $1.59 each. (Mellow Mushroom charges only $1.05 per topping, and there is no charge at Brixx for additions/substitutions, with the exception of Impossible sausage). Are you gluten free, perchance? That’s another $4.00 upcharge ($2 at Mellow Mushroom and $3 at Brixx).
So, if you get the smallest “cheese” pizza with only two measly toppings, that will run you $15.56 before tax. A specialty pizza, with Daiya cheese subbed, will run $16.58, before tax. Gluten-free will add another $4 to the bill. Keep that in mind when your omni friends invite you to lunch there. They are probably going to get a slice for $4.50, or split a $14.95 pizza several ways, while you will be spending close to $20. One workaround, if you do not have an allergy and are not too freaked out about cross-contamination, would be to split a veggie pizza with a friend and order Daiya cheese on just your half of the pizza.
Anyway! We were not going for pizza that afternoon – I just wanted to point out that Fuel is another Uptown Charlotte vegan option I’ve found. The pizza is good, if expensive. (At least it’s good at their other locations!) So if you are dining with vegan friends and can split the cost, it’s worth checking out. Otherwise, be wary.
Onwards to Soho Bistro!
Soho Bistro turned out to be an upscale Asian restaurant located at Hearst Tower. It’s small, but has a good amount of seating – Internet research turned up 88 seats. Definitely an option for anyone wanting to “dine in” as long as you are … ahem … not too muscular or curvy or long limbed. (Tables are verry close together!)
There weren’t many people actually sitting and dining, though. Most of the business appeared to come from take out – and the vestibule was packed!
V. knew what she wanted and ordered. I plucked a paper copy of the menu but the vestibule was very dim. After squinting helplessly at the teeny-tiny print in almost total darkness – and well aware of the restless crowd behind me – I decided to play it safe. “Sauteed mixed vegetables, spicy, please.” I knew every Chinese restaurant in the world has some version of that.
We took our food back to the office to eat.
And my food was … fine. Not the most exciting Chinese food I’ve had (it was no Ma Ma Wok) but that was partly my fault for playing it safe.
Here’s what I liked about it:
- A nice assortment of vegetables. Broccoli, carrots, mushrooms (lots of ’em), celery, snow peas, cabbage.
- Vegetables were neither over-done nor under-done.
- Not greasy – AT ALL!
- Sauce was not too salty, and not too sweet!
- Soho Bistro actually DID make it spicy!
It was a tad boring, however – and as I said, that’s mostly my fault for playing it safe. In the daylight I perused the menu and saw they had a wide variety of items marked “vegetarian”. All of those except the ones with honey would also be vegan. These included: Scallion Pancakes, Spring Rolls, Buddha Rolls, and Veggie Tofu Lettuce Wrapture; Vegetable and Tofu Soup or Mixed Vegetable Noodle Soup; an okra dish and an eggplant dish; Spicy Curry Noodles.
Soho Bistro also has notations stamped on their menu. “Make any entree vegetarian by adding veggies or tofu!” “We can add spice to anything for you!”
There’s also a helpful little note under the Vegetable Fried Rice. “Make it vegetarian, ask for no eggs!” I mention this because FRIED RICE IS TRADITIONALLY MADE WITH EGGS, and egg is what you’re gonna get unless you specifically request otherwise. Newbie vegans are constantly ordering fried rice and then having meltdowns on Facebook when they are served egg in a traditional egg dish. So kudos to Soho Bistro for being aware of vegetarian and vegan diets and making their menu clear and easy to navigate – at least when a little lighting is available.
Prices are very reasonable for Uptown. All the vegetarian items were under $8.00 for lunch. It’s slightly more expensive at night, but on the flip side they do offer many more veg options in the evening. Below is the nighttime menu.
I’ll definitely be going back to Soho Bistro and trying something a little more interesting!