The only vegan I ever dated loved the veggie patty at Beef Burger. When I pointed out that its deliciousness was at least partially due to being drizzled with meat drippings on the trademarked Roto-Grill, she swore at me for ruining what she called one of the biggest pleasures in her life. I wondered how I rated on that scale, and found out when she dumped me shortly thereafter.
I’ve never been a vegetarian or vegan myself, but I can appreciate a good meatless dish. Here are ten particularly delicious local ones, none of which, as far as I know, have been marinated in meat juice.
Captain Chen’s Gourmet China
Brassfield Shopping Center (3709 Battleground Avenue, Suite E), Greensboro
When I was taking kung fu over a decade ago, our teacher loved the Panda Inn that used to be in Friendly Center (before being forced out to make room for something more upscale), saying it had the best vegetarian Chinese in Greensboro. I need to take him to this terrific homestyle restaurant, which I wrote about here. In that article I mention the radish salad with crushed garlic, but the Chongqing Style Spicy Vegetarian Noodles are also wonderful, and you get a lot of it for $9.50.
Crafted the Art of Street Food
600 C Battleground Avenue, Greensboro
Chef and restaurateur Kris Fuller is the Triad’s culinary rock star and most things that come out of her kitchens taste damn good. Her two taco joints have some excellent meatless options, but for vegetarian dishes, I prefer her “Street Food” location. They have an excellent vegan burger and their “Snacks” menu includes Mexican street corn, chile relleno and papaya salad.
Indu Chaat House
4925 Market Street, Greensboro
For a fuller description of this vegetarian Punjabi grill inside the Indu Grocery Store in the first row of shops facing Market Street at Fanta-City, check out my list of lunches under $5. The “five dollars or less” qualifier kept me from writing about their Punjabi Thali, but it’s an excellent bargain at $7.99 for regular and $9.99 for large. “Thali” literally means plate, and refers to a serving of all the six different flavors of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy on one single platter. According to Indian culinary tradition, a proper meal should be a perfect balance of all of these.
Manny’s Universal Café
321 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Greensboro
Margarita Delgado, who runs Manny’s with her son Manuel Polanco and cooks all the food, is like the El Salvadoran mom you never knew you had. Their little restaurant is as known for its Norte Americano fare as its Latin, but her pupusas and tamales are not to be missed. A pupusa is a thick handmade cornmeal tortilla stuffed with a variety of ingredients, and for vegetarians, Margarita offers them with black beans and topped with curtido (fermented cabbage slaw). Her vegetarian wrap is also excellent.
Mooney’s Mediterranean Café
101 W. 4th Street, Winston-Salem
Kudos to Sarah (aka Boba Fetish) from the Greensboro Arm Wrestling League for recommending Mooney’s, which I wish I’d known about when writing the $5 lunch list, as their great falafel burger is $5 on Tuesdays. But it’s more than worth the $8 it costs the rest of the week, or the $10 for a platter with four patties with pickled turnips and hummus. If you want to go vegan, try the Tempah Pita, and rest assured they have excellent shawarma and kafta for carnivores.
Saffron Indian Cuisine
1500 Mill Street, Suite 104, Greensboro
A good Indian restaurant is often a sure bet for tasty vegetarian cuisine, and Saffron is one of the best. My friend Suzanne says it’s worth the four and a half hour drive from her home in the mountains just for their Bhindi Masala, a savory vegan entrée of okra with onions and tomatoes. Even when I give in to the meaty lure of their bone-in goat, I make sure to get a bowl of the best tomato soup I’ve ever had in any restaurant.
5318 West Market Street, Greensboro
Back in the 90s, I took a Korean-American adoptee unfamiliar with her native cuisine to a now-defunct establishment where she eyed the menu photos of rare and raw beef dishes before asking if anything was vegan. The K-Stoner waiter laughed and said “dude, are you sure you’re Korean?” It’s true that Korean cuisine can seem meat-centric, but Seoul Garden has some delicious vegetarian choices, starting with the banchan, the free appetizers that include several varieties of kimchi. The not-free appetizers include Pa Jeon, a pancake with kimchi and scallions, of which the $8.99 portion is practically a meal for one person. I also recommend the Dwen Jan Chigae, a spicy soybean paste stew with tofu, zucchini, onions, potatoes, and jalapeños.
1216 Bridford Pkwy #M, Greensboro
579 Huffman Mill Road, Burlington (Moving soon to 3252 S. Church St., Burlington)
My Indian friends say this is the most authentic local restaurant serving the Subcontinent’s cuisine (they think Saffron is good but Americanized). Unusual for this area, Taaza offers some South Indian specialties, of which I recommend the Dosas (crispy crepes) and the Onion & Chili Oothappam (savory pancakes). The Chef’s Specials include vegetarian Phaal Curry, a ferocious Anglo-Asian dish that originated in Indian restaurants in Birmingham (England, not Alabama) and which the menu admits offers “more pain and sweat than flavor,” saying that if you manage to finish your serving, you get a free drink.
Taste of Ethiopia
106 N. Westgate Drive, Greensboro
One of the big tactile as well as gustatory pleasures of Ethiopian cuisine is sharing your stewed dishes on the rolled-out injera bread that also serves as your plate and utensils. The seven-item vegetarian combo includes red split lentils, yellow peas, collard greens, cabbage, potato alicha, green lentils and a house salad. If you eat dairy, be sure to try my favorite appetizer, Ayib Begomen, which is Ethiopian cottage cheese made with buttermilk curds mixed with collards, pepper and herbs and served with sliced bread. There’s also a $10.99 lunch buffet and an $8.99 lunch special. Whatever you get, make sure one of your sides is the collards, and try the Ethiopian coffee or spiced tea.
3064 Healy Drive & 22181 Cloverdale Ave NW, Winston-Salem
Coming soon to 903 Hwy 66 S, Kernersville
Even the notoriously carnivorous writer Anthony Bourdain acknowledges the deliciousness of Thailand’s vegetarian cuisine, and you’ll find some good examples of it here. Try the Nam Prik Prow or Prik Khing with tofu or just vegetables. If you eat egg, the pineapple fried rice is delicious.