27 August 2013

Hills Market Downtown

The Hills Market Downtown is a little bit smaller than the original location outside 270. It brings the same focus on fresh, local produce to the heart of Columbus, with an excellent hot bar and deli fare to eat in the store or to-go.

There is a salad bar, a warm bar and a deli at The Hills Market that prepares pizza and sandwiches. The deli sign says that they will heat anything you buy at the Market.

Regular specials are on an ever-changing rotation at the Hills Market. They are a good follow on social media to help keep up with the latest thing they have had delivered.

The dining area is small but makes great use of the space. It should be bustling with Columbus State and CCAD students as well as Downtown workers.

The Hills Market Downtown on Urbanspoon

17 August 2013

Mai Chau

Mai Chau is a Vietnamese food truck. It has a fairly limited menu, but luckily for vegetarians and vegans, it offers a vegan pate bahn mi sandwich on a regular basis that makes it a destination worth tracking down.

The pate is vegan mushroom walnut. It is a meatless equivalent of cha lua, the classic Vietnamese pate, though it has a deeper savory essence that mimics truffles.

The bahn mi is served on a perfectly soft French bread that is hollowed out and filled with pate, cilantro, daikon, carrots and hot sauce. It is a substantial sandwich.

The staff is receptive to vegan and vegetarian requests. Mai Chau can be tracked via Twitter, Facebook or related food-truck social media. 

Mai Chau on Urbanspoon

07 August 2013

Scratch Brick Oven Pizza

Scratch Brick Oven Foodworks fits right in its setting near the campus of Eastern Tennessee University in Johnson City. The decor is whimsical, the staff is fun and the pizza is way too good to pass up.

There are different ways to order pizza at Scratch. Diners can select from the list of specialty pizzas, or they can choose to build their own pie. They can also have Scratch staff build a pizza for them. At the counter, tell the pizza maker what ingredients they don't like, or even leave the experience completely in the hands of the kitchen. There is vegan and gluten-free pizza.

The wood-fired pizza oven puts a nice char on the medium-thick hand-tossed crust. This oven was built by the owners, and it also comes in handy with the bread sticks, which are essentially olive-oil-dressed pizza crust with a fresh pesto dipping sauce. 

The kitchen created a veggie pizza with red and green peppers, banana peppers, kalamata olives, squash, zucchini, spinach and mushrooms. The sauce was evenly balanced, and it supported the deep roasted vegetable flavor of the toppings. 

There is seating for about 20 inside Scratch. The order was announced via microphone when it was ready in the best impression of Casey Kasem. Diners are free to browse the store collection of records, which can be played in the dining room.

Scratch is BYOB. They also serve pop, including Cheerwine, the coolest cherry soda ever.

Scratch Brick Oven Foodworks on Urbanspoon

06 August 2013

Vegetarian in Vegas

Las Vegas is a city where money can by just about any pleasure that a person can imagine. The food, in particular, is an extraordinary array of international flavors prepared by some of the world's most talented chefs. Vegetarian dining, though, can sometimes be a little tougher than average when considering the hedonistic reputation of Sin City.

Luckily, when you know where to look, vegetarian and vegan diners can find meatless breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks that can easily fuel whatever type of bender is underway (check out other Las Vegas reviews here). While most places will be able to cater to dietary restrictions, these places go above and beyond with their fare, or are just too good to otherwise pass by.

Breakfast - hands down, the one place that vegetarian diners must stop is 
Ronald's Donuts. The small doughnut shop tucked into Chinatown makes delicious fried breakfast pastries, two-thirds of which are vegan.  

Most of the non-cake doughnuts are vegan, including the heralded apple fritter. A dozen costs $7.50. Save money on the Strip resort breakfast and eat vegan doughnuts for a few mornings. 

Chinatown is a great area for vegetarians who are adventurous eaters. There is a wide range of Asian cuisines in the neighborhood, and some places are exclusively vegetarian.

In Chinatown, the other most famous item is the house-made tofu at Raku. It was on an episode of the Food Network's Best Thing I Ever Ate. Every visiting chef talks about it. It is part of why Raku is one of the most talked about restaurants in Las Vegas.

The tofu is set in a round basket, and it carries visible basket ridges on its faces. Diners should be careful because some of the dishes are prepared with bonito fish flakes.

Lotus of Siam is one of the nation's premiere Thai restaurants. Its flavors are deeply authentic, and they take care with vegetarian dining requests.

Chef/owner Saipin Chutima prepares traditional recipes that have been passed down in her family for 100 years. It is a worthwhile stop for lunch or dinner seven days a week.

Go Raw Cafe is Las Vegas' resident old-fashioned hippie vegan restaurant. It has two locations, and offers raw, vegan fare.

Luv-It Frozen Custard is not vegan-friendly, but it is a good old-fashioned way to cool yourself in the hot desert sun. The favorite sundae is the Western, topped with hot fudge, caramel, pecans and a cherry. It is located North of the Stratosphere near The Strip.

I also had a great experience at Ferraro's, an Italian restaurant on the city's East Side. It was a great environment and the staff took great care of a large party. It offers pretty traditional Italian vegetarian options, but it's fresh and carefully prepared. The Italian singers are an added bonus.

Those that want to make their meat-eating friends jealous can also get a grilled cheese from In-N-Out Burger. This is the West Coast retro burger operation with a rabid fan base. The menu is minimal, augmented by a secret menu that allows for full order customization.

The grilled cheese is essentially a cheeseburger without the burger. Accompanied by greasy animal fries, thin fries topped with melted cheese, grilled onions and Thousand Island dressing. If it is washed down by a milkshake, a vegetarian diner can be provided with a vegetarian (in the loosest sense of the word) artery-stopping unhealthy calorie bomb from 10 in the morning until after midnight.