The husband and I just returned from a trip to Atlanta and Tuscaloosa to see some family and attend a HUGE southern wedding. I must say I'm not a big fan of the south, in large part because of the lack of vegan options. I am totally spoiled by life in the Bay Area, but I was happily surprised by some of the good eats we found on our journey.
First, I must give a shout out to Subway. Traveling via interstates has never been easier for vegans with Subways being so prevalent. Amen for the Veggie Delite. Alas, one can not subsist on Subway alone, so on my first day in Atlanta, my Aunt and I searched out Cafe Sunflower. Set back from the road in a strip mall, I had my reservations, but once inside the warm-hued walls, I was instantly at home. Sunflower is a vegetarian place, but has a lot of vegan options. I had the Portabella Burger with Baked Sweet Potato Fries, and it was awesome. Totally spot-hitting, it left me deliciously fueled for the rest of my site-seeing day. I highly recommend it to all Atlantans.
Even though I have no pictures, I also think highly of The Spice Market. We had dinner there and our knowledgeable waiter pointed out the numerous items that were vegan or could be made so. The focus here is Asian street food, and all our dishes were highly flavorful and with just the right amount of spice. The space itself is just nice to look at, so check it out. If dining out just ain't your thing, I suggest you do your shopping at Sevananda in Little 5 Points. This huge co-op has everything your vegan heart desires, and lots of raw food goodies too. Plus, a stroll around the eclectic neighborhood will help burn off any indulgences you may have purchased. :)
Atlanta is a large metropolis, so I wasn't too surprised to find vegan fare there, but I was a little worried about Tuscaloosa. As it turns out, I had nothing to fret about. This university town has plenty of eating and drinking options, and as we strolled around we saw a number of places with menus that could be easily veganized. There were a bunch of Italian and Thai places - both good bets for vegan options. But then, as we were looking at menus and deciding, we saw one that had the words "can be made vegan" next to a few items. Done. Any place that knows enough about veganism to put it on their menu is a winner. Into the Mellow Mushroom we headed.We opted to make the most of the laid back atmosphere of this place and sit at the bar. After we settled in with some Hoegaarden, we looked over the menu and placed our order. Good call since the bartender was on point. I had little faith that she'd actually remember all the items I wanted on my "build-you-own" salad but she did indeed. My greens with tempeh and veggies galore was so tasty, and I rounded out the meal by ordering their famous giant pretzels. Vegans must go with the plain variety because the garlic/parmesan is out and even the plain salt has butter (to help the salt stick I guess). Plain was just fine, however, and even though I had to ask for mustard (they were served with marinara!?) they were awesome. Warm and soft and wonderful.
The rest of the weekend, we were at the mercy of our hosts in terms of food, but I must say I was kept well-fed. Even when dinner was just some steamed veggies and hummus, I really appreciated the thought, especially considering "vegan" is still a pretty foreign word down there. The only time I was left food-less was at brunch on the day of the wedding, so me and the hubby bounced early and hit up Manna Grocery in town. I had discovered this place earlier and the deli was hoppin' when we got there. I didn't have my camera, but my veggie sandwich and black bean soup were delicious! Everyone in Tuscaloosa should shop there.
Finally, after an amazing wedding, and with good memories freshly made, it was time to head back to Atlanta for one more meal before heading back to SF. My Aunt (smart lady that she is) chose the R. Thomas Deluxe Grill for the occasion and I'm quite happy she did! Complete with quirky exterior and dining area, R. Thomas is a feast for all your senses. The atmosphere is truly welcoming to all, and the menu reflects exactly that. Serving up food for vegans and others alike is their specialty, and if my Thai Bowl was any indication, they know what they're doing. Places like this are little gems in a big sprawling city, and I love coming across them when I travel.
So, I guess that the south ain't so bad after all. If you head there anytime soon, fear not your stomach's fate. The more people know about food as it relates to their health and the health of the planet, the more people demand healthy options, and I think this trip illustrates that point. Let's hope the trend continues!