Monday, March 18, 2013

Vegan on the Road: Zizi's Vegetarian in Charlotte, NC

According to the Veganesse's Charlotte Vegan Dining Guide, there are quite a few places for a vegan to get a meal in "Queen City." Unfortunately, the way the timing worked out, I only got to sample one. Fortunately, it was a good one!

Zizi's Vegetarian Restaurant is not at all aptly named. First of all, the food is all vegan. Secondly, it's not exactly a restaurant. More of a takeout counter. But the food is worth finding a place to sit and eat.

(Just a hint, Reedy Creek Nature Center & Preserve is less than 5 minutes away. There are plenty of picnic tables, covered pavilions - even with a fireplace! -  and a really charming view of the woods.)

For a little takeout counter, Zizi's really has a pretty extensive menu. They specialize in veganized versions of American food - Buffalo chicken, meatloaf, turkey and gravy, burgers, fried fish, macaroni and cheese. But they also have some conventional vegan fare for those not into analogues, like veggie stir-fry, spicy tofu, or grilled portabellos.

My flexitarian traveling companion, Debbie, ordered the lentil loaf with mac & cheese and mashed cauliflower potatoes with gravy.

Debbie was a big fan of the lentil loaf (which I snitched a bite of and I agree, it was delicious). Having never had vegan mac & cheese before, she was pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was, and really liked the addition of corn to give it a little texture. Her only criticism was that she expected the cauliflower mashed potatoes to be a little more cauliflower and a little less potato.

I also had the mac & cheese and the cauliflower mash. My main dish was the Philly cheese steak sub, which is finely chopped seitan cooked with grilled onions and topped with a 'cheese sauce' of whipped Veganaise.

I cannot emphasize enough how delicious that sub was. It was very much like the original (meat) version in flavor and texture, but without any of the greasiness, grossness, or the guilt.

I also really enjoyed the sides. The gravy on the mash was flawless - much better than mine. The mac & cheese was good, but didn't compare to my homemade. (Of course, that would be really difficult, since I make the VegNews recipe, which is literally the best mac and cheese in the universe, no exaggeration.) But really, it was the sub that got me. So much so that I was tempted to run by to grab another for dinner on my way to the airport. I refrained, but only just barely.

I've got to give Zizi's credit for both the quality of the food and the reasonable prices. If I lived in Charlotte, I think it would be my go-to for takeout food. Should I find myself back in town, I'll definitely be visiting again!

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