Monday, January 6, 2014

Rach’s Restaurant Review for Vegan and Gluten-Free Dining in Asheville/Black Mountain

Rach’s Restaurant Review for Vegan and Gluten-Free
Dining in Asheville/Black Mountain 
Sunny Point Café

                There are many, many reasons why I love coming down to the Asheville, NC area.  For one, there are the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I fall in love with them every time I see them…and once you’re in Asheville that’s pretty easy as it seems like they surround the city.  Then there’s the warm(er) weather, the fact that dogs are everywhere, and the relaxed/artsy/ liberal culture.  It all just makes me feel completely at home.  And the other major reasons I love coming is…the food! 
                The food and options available in this part of North Carolina are amazing.  I eat 100% vegetarian and about 80% vegan and gluten-free.  That can make it tough when eating out in Ohio, but here, it’s almost the norm.  The other added bonus is the support of local farmers and organic food (I’d say about 1 out of 10 cars has an “Eat Local” or some type of organic bumper sticker).  Anyway, the food (and coffee!) here is awesome.  (I’m pretty sure it’s a crime to eat at a chain restaurant or get coffee from Starbucks)
                The list below includes only restaurants I’ve been to.  It’s a very small list in the grand scheme of things.  There are so many more places I’d like to try, and at the same time go back to some of the same restaurants again to get something else off the menu.  Also, my ratings also include restaurant vibes.  As long as Steve’s not really hungry and crabby, I’ll walk out of a restaurant for one of 2 reasons: the options stink, or the atmosphere is off.  I prefer restaurants “in the middle”…not very pricey, with a decent amount of people.  It probably annoys Steve a bit, but I really dislike going to expensive places to eat.  For me, I just feel out of place and I hate paying a lot for a little bit of food.  And I like enough people there to make the place lively, but not so much where I find myself in a maze of people trying to get to the bathroom (I’d take crowed over empty though.  At least I know the food’s good).
                This probably makes me seem really picky.  I guess I kind of am.  But, I really do enjoy good food, both in taste and how it nourishes my body.  Anyway, here my food review for this Asheville adventure:

Dripolater Coffeehouse (Black Mountain) *****
This place has just about the best coffee ever.  Steve swears they put “something else” in it.  All I know is it is really, really good –and pretty strong.  Also, while they just serve pastries for food, they have gluten free (gf) and vegan (vg) free options by the register.  I tried some type of gf breakfast bar and I loved every bite of it.  However, while the ingredient list didn’t list eggs or milk, the main label didn’t say vegan.  I decided to ignore this fact. (Side note: I brought a banana with me for a “complete” breakfast)  As far as atmosphere goes, it is the perfect place to chill before or after a run.  I could stay there for hours! 

The Trailhead (Black Mountain) ****
Probably the best bar I’ve been to, for several reasons.  One, I had a tempeh sandwich with a kale salad! Yes, at a bar!  Two, they had live entertainment.  Its karaoke night every Wednesday, which is usually a few local guys getting together singing folk music-they were awesome!  Three, that vibes were relaxed and we had a great waitress/bartended that really made for an enjoyable dinner (minus Steve having his phone out for half of it).

Louise’s Kitchen (Black Mountain) ***
We stopped here for breakfast one morning before heading out for a run/hike with Pacer to Catawba Falls.  The place was really cool and cozy in a little house where you order up front and then sat down in one of the side rooms.  However, I was a little disappointed in the menu as I was hoping for oatmeal and they didn’t have a whole lot of gluten free or vegan options.  I ended up with a bowl of granola with fruit on top (it comes with yogurt but obviously I skipped that) and a hot cup of Dynamite* coffee (no almond or soy milk).  It was pretty good, but definitely lacked a bit.  I’ll have to go back for lunch next time.

*Dynamite coffee is local (and very good) and a lot of places serve it.  They also have a little café just out of town, but I haven’t stopped there yet.
Ole’s Guacamoles (Black Mountain) ***
I ended up just getting soup here because it was already almost 4 and I can’t wait that long to eat like Steve, so I had already had a salad leftover from the day before.  Anyway, if your vegan and gluten free you usually can’t go wrong with Mexican food.  And like all Mexican places (except the fancy ones that really stink) they bring out a nice big basket of tortilla chips, this time with a bean dip, that I could simply eat without ordering anything else.  They also had a salsa bar so you could pick your own salsa.  My vegetable soup was really good too, but pretty spicy (for my taste buds at least) meaning I drank a lot of water in between. In the end though, I guess this was about your average Mexican restaurant.  There is a place in Asheville I know I liked better the last time we visited (it was a bit more unique), but I can’t remember the name of it.

Veranda Café (Black Mountain) **
We just made it in time for a late lunch (like a lot of other café’s in town, they close at 3.  I probably should mention that a lot of the shops close at 5 or 6 as well.).  It was cute place, but a little too “tea room” and “red-hat” for me.  There was a limited gluten free/vegan selection, meaning salads.  The cool part was that you can pick 2 or 3 salads for the meal.  I can’t remember the 2 salads I picked, but they were decent (meaning it was more than iceberg lettuce and tomatoes).  With that said, it was one of those meals where I was still quite hungry afterward.

My Father’s Pizza and Pasta (Black Mountain) **
We actually stopped here on our last visit after a run, when I first fell in love with Black Mountain.  Steve loves the place.  I, on the other hand, did not feel like going back this time because I remember ending up with an “okay” salad last time.  But you don’t have any diet restrictions and like a good pizza and beer after a run, this is probably the best local place to go.

Laughing Seed (Asheville) *****!
5 stars, hands down.  This is my favorite place to eat in Asheville.  It located in the heart of the city but on a little brick road one-way street.  In the summer, it’s perfect for eating outdoors.  Inside the atmosphere is warm (as in cozy) and chill (as in relaxed), decorated with local art and bright colored walls.  There’s usually some type of live music too (don’t worry if you sit outside, you’ll have street performers to entertain you).  But of course, the best part is the food.  There are gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options galore!  And believe me, it’s delicious.  Even you meat eaters will leave there full and satisfied.  On this trip, I went with a gf pale ale and the Buddha Bowl, a raw meal full but no less tasty then any cooked meal.  I’m definitely making a trip back next time to try the hemp burger!

Tupelo Honey (Asheville) (Yes, like the Tim McGraw song) ****
Obviously, this place is known for its honey.  Instead of bread of chips for an appetizer, everyone gets a biscuit with jam or honey.  And this is where my 80% vegan and gf comes in…I had to try a bite!  (Yes, it was good, though I actually enjoyed the fresh jam rather than the honey).  This was also the most packed place we went to, but it wasn’t bad as the wait seemed to go quickly and we had a great waiter.  As a few other places, they have menu options for vegetarians to pick 3 or 4 “sides”.  I went with a mixed greens salad, grilled asparagus, and tofu.  Sometimes I worry about options like this, thinking I will leave hungry, but I was proved wrong here.  I actually couldn’t even finish all my asparagus (which Steve neglected to try as he did not want his pee to smell) and left content.  Also, I was a bit worried about my salad dressing as it looked creamy when it came out and hesitated asking our waiter about it as I didn’t want to get any funny looks, but he ended up being more the gracious and promptly asked the cook about it.  (It ends up that certain oils take on the creamy texture when whipped.)

Rosetta’s Kitchen (Asheville) ****
Really good food, a little bit of a weird atmosphere…the back room smelled a bit “funny”.  Anyway, this is another place that is all about local and vegetarian food, which did not disappoint.  We went for dinner but it has more of a café feeling, and also serves Dynamite coffee.  It’s also a place where you order at the counter and then you find a seat and they bring the food to you.  Many of the meals are around the $9 mark, which is mainly because the food is grown locally and filled with a ton of veggies that do tend to be a bit more expensive.  Here I think I got the “Dragon Bowl”, another raw meal with amazing flavors.  It came with rice and vegan gravy.  I’ve never been a fan of gravy, even during my turkey days.  But with this gravy, I cleaned the plate.  I’m guessing they used cashews in it, but I can’t be sure.  Regardless, I was awesome.  Next time I’d probably go back for lunch and try one of their other salad bowls.  (Additional note:  Steve, as usual, got a pop here.  However, I didn’t not disapprove as it was all natural and the ingredient list featured a few simple things, all of which I could pronounce!)

Restaurants from our previous trip, all in Asheville:

This is one of the top places that come up in internet searches for vegetarian restaurants in Asheville.  While, it is one of the pricier places on the list, a trip here is worth it.  The menu is a bit more limited, based more on daily specials of whatever fresh ingredients they have, but that’s a good thing.  I believe most of the ingredients are organic as well.

The Noodle House
Also in the main part of town, it a pretty popular place and I recommend sitting outside in the summer to listen to the street performers and people watch (again, Asheville is a very artsy/liberal town with an interesting mix of people).  Has a good list of options too, but I remember wishing I had gotten something with more veggies last time I went.

Sunny Point Café
Located a bit outside of town, this is a place to fuel up before a run…or hike on the Appalachian Trail (as Steve and I did).  They even had their own garden outside.  And I just pictured a dog sitting at a table next to us with its own water bowl…did I mention the majority of restaurants in Asheville our dog friendly (given it has a patio).  It’s perfectly normal to walk into a place for breakfast with your four legged friend and eat with her (or him) lying down by your side.

Over Easy Café
I believe we refueled here after finishing our AT hike...all smelly and beautiful looking.  (We were conscious of our aroma and ate outside).  I can’t remember what I ate, but I remember being happy and having enough energy later in the day to rouse Steve into walking around the Mountain Sports Festival with me.
I’m pretty sure I have a lot more trip to Asheville in my future, so if you’ve been to the area and have any recommendations for my next trip, please let me know! 
Eat (and Run) Happy!
Rach J

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