It’s a common misconception that vegetarians (those who avoid beef, poultry, pork, fish and all other animal meats) and their vegan friends (those who avoid meat as well as eggs, dairy and sometimes honey) eat nothing but leaves. As a 15-year vegetarian, I assure you if you can make it without an animal, we’ll probably eat it.
Although the bulk of my diet is made up of minimally processed plants, I can get down with some weird fake meat products every once in a while, and they’re becoming easier to find in Charlotte. If you’ve got a craving for traditional comfort food without the meat – think hot dogs, burgers and hearty piles of meatloaf with mashed potatoes – these dishes deliver.
Bang Bang Burgers veggie patty, $10.50. The quinoa and black bean base is studded with substantial chunks of veggies and served on a chewy, locally-made Duke’s bun.
Bad Daddy’s black bean burger. This hefty fried patty can be substituted for any of their specialty burgers or served atop a custom-built salad. They’re also now offering a baked version if you don’t like eating delicious things. (It’s not at good as the fried one, obviously.)
The Diamond black bean burger, $6.95. It’s an old school diner-style burger on a white bun with traditional lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.
Luna’s Living Kitchen gluten-free quinoa millet burger (vegan), $11. It’s dressed with lemon-parsley sunflower hummus, onion, tomato and guacamole, and you can get it on toast or wrapped in a collard leaf.
Mac’s Speed Shop Vespa veggie burger, $6. I don’t expect to find suitable vegetarian options at a barbecue place, but this pan-seared veggie patty served on a toasted bun delivers.
The Liberty veggie burger, $9. The organic house-made patty is topped with goat cheese, organic greens and tomato aioli. I mentioned veggie burgers in the newsletter one time and got about a dozen emails about this particular burger.
Bean Vegan Cuisine Cowboy burger (vegan), $11. Seitan bacon, Daiya vegan cheddar, onion rings, pickles, BBQ sauce and vegan Ranch dressing. If you don’t know vegans or vegan food substitutions, I suspect this item is blowing your mind right now. No animals, eggs or dairy here.
The Diamond Jumbo Soy Dog, $4.95. Served with veggie chili, mustard, slaw and onions.
JJ’s Red Hots veggie dog, $2.99. Get it plain or sub the veggie dog for any of the specialty dogs for $3.99. Veg-friendly specialty dog options include the JJ’s No. 1 (hot relish, diced onion, Weber’s mustard, dill pickle spear), Dirty Jerz (pickle relish, diced onions, deli mustard, sauerkraut), Sonoran (borracho beans, salsa, red onion, cilantro, shredded cheese) and Joliet Jake (tomatoes, sport peppers, diced onions, pickle relish, deli mustard, celery salt, pickle spear).
Pinky’s The One and Only, $4.25. Charlotte’s first vegetarian corn dog.
Pinky’s Stray Dog, $4.50. A vegetarian dog topped with veggie chili, mustard, slaw and onion.
Lupie’s Cafe veggie chili, $5.95. The spicy bowl of simmered soy crumbles, beans and tomatoes is topped with diced onion and shredded cheese. You can also get it atop a bed of noodles for a big bowl of traditional chili mac.
The Diamond meat-less loaf, $8.95. The hearty lentil-based loaf is served with veggie gravy and rice milk mashed potatoes.
Bean Vegan fish-less filet, $10. I honestly have no idea how they do this but it’s a vegan fried “fish” patty with shredded lettuce and vegan tartar sauce.
Fern chicken and waffles, $11. Spelt and sweet potato waffles topped with chicken-fried tofu and maple syrup.
Sir Edmund Halley’s buffalo cauliflower, $8.95. Cauliflower florets are fried, doused in buffalo sauce and served with bleu cheese dressing just like the real deal… except without chickens.
Zizi’s buffalo chicken cheesesteak (vegan), $6.75. Yeah, you read that right. And it’s shown here with vegan macaroni and cheese.
There’s still a long way to go to get suitable vegetarian and vegan options on every menu in Charlotte, but thanks to alternative ingredients and inventive chefs, it’s getting much easier to maintain a meat-free lifestyle here. While you’ll find a handful of strictly vegetarian or vegan restaurants in town, meat-free versions of traditional comfort foods at omnivorous establishments are increasingly more common these days.
I swear I haven’t built my entire adult life around a lifestyle that doesn’t include delicious food. So if you see these options on the menu, whether your vegetarian or not, give them a try. They’re good, promise.