VEGAN TABLE FOR TWO
By Karen Pullen
If you are vegan, as I am, you may have felt that little pang of anxiety when going to dine at a restaurant. Will they have something on the menu you can eat? If not, will chefs and waitstaff treat you like a demanding member of a fringe cult? Eating out, for vegans, can be challenging. Even in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, where a plant-based community thrives, most restaurants are heavy users of meat and dairy. So, when out with friends, I scan the menu and find a dish that is mostly plant-based. I point to it and say, “I’ll have that without the cheese, please.” I sigh wistfully, since cheese might be the only ingredient that adds flavor to the dish.
I have embarked on a quest to dine well while plant-based, at all points on the price spectrum and share what I find with The Local Reporter’s readers. My preferences are for whole foods, not fried, and no processed fake meats, thank you. I like vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes!
Recently, I and a companion felt in need of a quick meal on a Friday night in Carrboro. We had to squeeze it in after cross-country practice and a dog walk and before a soccer game, so we had little time. Furthermore, it had to be vegan, because that’s how we roll. Carrburritos on W. Rosemary Street was suggested, but since I had never been there, I had my doubts. Parking . . . weekend night . . . wait time . . . vegan options . . . .
But all doubts were dispelled. Carrburritos has parking! It was packed, as expected on a Friday evening, but the line moved fast, our orders went right in and within a few minutes we were enjoying burritos on their small patio. In my vegan burrito I chose pinto beans, rice, grilled vegetables, guacamole, and lettuce. It was a more-than-generous amount of food. The ingredients seemed quite fresh and it was just what I wanted in a burrito though I could only consume half; the rest went into a to-go box.
During Vegan Restaurant Week, Nov 1-7, Carrburritos will be offering tofu, stewed with garlic, onion, tomatoes and jalapenos, as a filling option for their tacos, burritos and tostadas. If there’s enough demand, maybe they’ll keep it on the menu. I hope so — I’m always delighted to see tofu as an option.
Last night we went to Mosaic, on W. Weaver Street in Carrboro, which also has parking. There were no vegan options in the large plates section of their menu, but the small plates/tapas section had a half-dozen or more, all priced at $8 or $9 each. We therefore made a fun al fresco meal of sharing beautiful small plates, which the server brought to us two at a time. We started with the borscht — refreshingly cold, garnished with a cucumber salad. A cremini mushroom salad came with a salty vegan aioli. Another salad, with fennel and apples, was served over spicy arugula. The three vegan “meatballs” with marinara sauce prompted me to ask the knowledgeable server about the ingredients. The answer: seitan, softened with chickpeas and vegetables. No Beyond Meat here. We also split a plate of Ethiopian roasted parsnips and carrots. The food was creative and fresh.
For Vegan Restaurant Week, Mosaic will add sweet potato latkes and Lionsmane “crab” cakes to their menu. I will be there for those Lionsmane patties!
I recommend both restaurants for their vegan options. Both offer imaginatively-seasoned whole foods — not processed. Carrburritos is quick and inexpensive; Mosaic is more leisurely and the vegan options are reasonably priced.
Carrburritos is located at 711 W. Rosemary St. in Carrboro. They are open Tues-Thurs, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., and Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. They are closed Sunday-Monday.,
Mosaic is located at 203 W. Weaver St. in Carrboro. Café hours are 10 – 2, Wed-Friday and 9-2 Saturday. Bistro hours are 5-9, Wed & Thurs and 5-9:30, Friday and Saturday. They are closed Sunday-Tuesday.
Karen Pullen is a certified Food for Life instructor who teaches plant-based cooking. Learn more at http://www.everydayplant-based.com