Bean Vegan Cafe

Jackfruit carnitas tacos, rosemary beans, grilled zucchini

We’ve already been over the fact that if the city of Charlotte were a real girl, she would not be vegetarian. She’d be all barbecue and bacon and momma’s green beans with chicken stock and fatback. She’d be a God-fearing girl except, ironically enough, on Sundays when she’d curse His name for closing Chic-fil-A. She’d pronounce vegan “vay-gan” and say it with so slow and sweet a Southern lilt it seems time stands still while she takes a second to add five or six syllables to the simplest of words.

Despite Charlotte’s decidedly carnivorous leanings, I find the city to be surprisingly vegetarian friendly. In fact, I’ve written two features for Charlotte Magazine about veg-friendly dining in the Queen City:

Veg Out on Upscale Vegan

Three Diners Dish Up Vegetarian Comfort Food

 

If you know where to look–both geographically and on a menu–you can find plant-based food just about anywhere.

My favorite spots (and dishes) in Charlotte include:

  • Fern: OM burger, bruschetta, all the soups, Buddha bowl, vegan carrot cake
  • Luna’s Living Kitchen: Clinton classic burger, Lunasagna, yin yang macaroons
  • Krazy Fish: Lemongrass tofu tacos (GOOD LORD)
  • Flying Biscuit: tofu and tater salad (every single time no matter what)
  • Cantina 1511: taquitos vegetarianos
  • Zeitouni: FALAFEL.
  • Amelie’s: vegan soups, tartines, French pastries (hello.)
  • Intermezzo: grilled veggie pizza, garden fresh pizza
  • Cowfish: build-your-own sushi, any salad with grilled tofu instead of chicken/fish
  • Crisp: build-your-own salad with grilled tofu

As of last week, I’m adding a new hole-in-the-wall to my animal-free, must-eat list: Bean Vegan Cuisine.

Bean Vegan Cuisine (Charlotte, NC)

It’s in a weird location in a weird building that I can only assume used to be a Mexican restaurant that used to be a dry cleaners with the weirdest/best sign I’ve ever seen; it’s just a giant bean. One lone bean towering there over Independence Blvd. like a bat-signal calling to vegans far and wide.

The menu is small but mighty. Think straight up Southern comfort food–macaroni an cheese, meatloaf, mashed potatoes–sans animals but seriously good.

Adam got the jackfruit carnitas tacos and we swore up and down this whole operation was one big Punk’d episode and that at any minute Ashton Kutcher would pop out peeing his pants in delight over the fact that two vegetarians had just consumed meat.

Not meat. WHAT.

If it smells like meat, looks like meat, shreds like meat and tastes like meat… I assume it’s meat. But it’s not. It’s jackfruit, a strange tropical fruit with a starchy, fibrous flesh that, if seasoned properly, stands in as a frighteningly suitable meat substitute.

I got the reuben after watching some Food Network show about reubens the night before and announcing that if presented with a pile of corned beef I would probably eat it. No questions asked. At Bean I got to have my beef and eat it too, no cows necessary.

Vegan reuben

The “beef” in this sandwich is a seitan base that’s topped with vegan cheese and sauerkraut and slapped between two slices of “buttered” bread.

We also went to town on the sides with the Northern rosemary butter beans, steamed kale and grilled asparagus.

I seriously had my doubts, but Bean delivered. I love this place. They’re a brand new restaurant with a relatively radical concept ’round these here parts so you know they could use some support. Go see them so we can start seeing more places like this pop up. Charlotte needs it.

Procrastination

Luna's yin yang macaroons YES.

Well. I did that thing again where I wait until the night before a presentation to start said presentation. Naturally, this means that I am blogging instead of researching the effect of sugar on the body. Woof. It’s gonna be a long night.

I had a lovely little day, though. Woke up, went to class, hit the gym, ran into Adam, grabbed lunch, went to work, taught yoga, ate dinner and now here I am. Camped out at the 24-hour coffee shop UH-gain.

I look like this.

It’s ok. At least sugar is a subject of great interest to me if for no other reason than that I made six dozen cupcakes in the last week for three different birthdays. I love birthdays.

Adam's hoarding them all.

Speaking of birthdays, I never do this (lies) but I’ve started working on the list of demands for my 27th year of existence:

  • Nespresso maker (I will save so much money and be so much more productive.)
  • iPod, iPhone, iPad  (I’m not even kidding. No one told me that EVERYONE has all these things and that they change your life. I still listen to the radio. And read books. What year is it? Siri would know…)
  • Groomer gift certificates (For the cats. I don’t get my hair cut. Ever. You heard me. EVER.)
  • Yoga mat (Jade Harmony Pro 3/16″.)
  • New apartment (With 12 months rent paid in full. Please and thank you.)
  • A platypus (Duh.)

Those seem reasonable enough, yes? My birthday is in July so you have lots of time to save up for my platypus. They’re probably expensive to ship…

Lunch at Luna's. Clinton Classic burger.

And this, my friends, is what we in the business call “procrastination.”

I Got Sick

Gaia's Treasure at Luna's Living Kitchen

The best part about only getting sick once every 18 months or so (do not tell my employers this, as it does not align with the number of sick days I take) is, well, just that. Rarely getting infected. The worst part about only getting sick once every 18 months or so is that when it happens I think the world (or my life) is ending.

I’m pretty sure I just have a cold but judging by last night’s dream about the BOOB JOB I got I’m kind of thinking there were some fever-related hallucinations going on in my brain. After my boob job I joined the cast of Jersey Shore and we got all slutted up like we were going to Karma but then just got pizza. Analyze that.

Anyway, the infection is mild at worst but I still cut out of work early to go home and go to bed. And by “go to bed” I mean play around on the internet all night. My browsing was consistently interrupted by the borrowed stolen connection cutting out every 90 seconds. I eventually gave up and passed out only to be awakened by a violent banging on my back door, back windows, front windows and front door. For a solid 15 minutes.

I panicked, texted Mitch to see if she was locked out, learned it was not her and then proceeded to tweet my concerns. Because this is logical. We eventually learned that it was our lunatic neighbor trying to yell at murder me for parking in his spot. In my defense, Mitch was in mine. My plan is to go sneeze on him in retaliation.

I do believe my illness came on as a result of having completely depressed my immune system with a lack of sleep and excessive stress. I was all over the place this week, staying at another apartment to house sit, living out of my car and, you know, panicking about that first class. Due to never being home, however, I got to eat exquisitely…

MACAROOOON. (Luna's)

Cowfish visit numero uno

Cowfish visit numero dos

So much Earth Fare.

I have been rotating my meals through three establishments: Luna’s Living Kitchen, Cowfish and Earth Fare.

Talk about financial irresponsibility. Worth it. So good.

I’m off to not listen to three hours of lecture about food addiction. (It’s actually really interesting.) Last weekend of teacher training starts tonight.

Ugly Breakfast, Pretty Lunch

Quinoa-kamut burger at Luna's Living Kitchen

I am having a very productive day.

First, I woke up at 5:30 and realized I got kicked out of my last grad class (that started today) because I didn’t pay for it. (Story of my life.) I went to yoga to mull it over (read: run from it) and finally got it sorted out. I think I was kind of hoping the course requirement and/or my unpaid tuition would just magically disappear or someone would offer me a job without noticing I was just one class shy of my Masters. That was a stupid idea.

Anyway, back in business and with my debts paid (or at least temporarily displaced), I enjoyed this hideous breakfast of soysage, avocado and leftover Chinese takeout.

Do not judge me.

Breakfast of champions. It was really good. I can’t stop eating those soysages. I’m ashamed.

I dropped off my laundry (a task that I always feel deserves a round of applause) and hightailed it down to class. I know I made a big deal about being done after last semester, and I do consider myself done, but technically on paper I have this one final three-week summer intensive seminar to cross off my list. It’s easy and exam-free so it doesn’t even count in my mind. Mentally, I have checked out of the academic sphere and am in 100% job hunt mode.

Seminar fuel.

Speaking of job hut mode… that is going very well. I had quite possibly the most productive 30 minutes of my life between the hours of 2:30 and 3pm today. While in a meeting that is very exciting I scheduled another meeting for tomorrow that is also very exciting and also got some news that is squeal-inducing. The pieces are falling into place. It’s happening.

Before my meeting I had lunch with a friend at the happiest place on Earth: Luna’s Living Kitchen. I could eat here every single day. I got the quinoa-kamut burger and macaroons and we shared hummus. That bread for the cranberry walnut crostini is made at a local bakery and can totally stand alone, which means that pairing it with their outrageously good hummus is pretty much the best idea ever.

Hummus and best bread ever.

Yin & Yang chocolate and almond macaroons

After that excitement I ran my boss-teacher-friend-person to the airport, stopped by to visit his nugget pugs that I’ll be taking care of for the week (I cannot even look at these dogs without laughing; wait until you see their ridiculous faces) and am now running to assist Jen’s class at Y2.

She’s letting me teach the first 10 minutes. Watch out, world.

Gravity

Mihammara - bread crumbs, walnuts, chili, cumin, olive oil

I think there are things in our lives that bear such weight they have their own gravitational force, pulling us back down to the ground time and time again without regard for our silly delusions of flight.

It’s not a bad thing, not always, to be grounded. For me there’s my family, a firm (and sometimes frustrating) reminder of who I am. I come back here when I seek humility and history and, you know, a hug. There are my college friends who know me at my worst and somehow still insist on celebrating my best. I come back here when I need to know I can do no wrong. There’s my yoga practice, a discipline that roots me firmly in the present, dragging my mind down from wherever it wanders. I come back here for everything. It is the most constant thing in my life right now.

Other times I think it can be limiting at best and damaging at worst to be dragged down to the ground over and over again. I’m thinking perhaps a bad habit or a not-so-good relationship that, if it’s not serving you joy, isn’t serving you at all. But I bet you come back anyway, don’t you? It’s that familiar tug back toward something we let get really, really big in our lives. I think I’ve got a little of this going on in my life right now.

You know, like Menchie’s. (Right.)

We meet again...

I ate here twice today. Don’t even worry about it. Set me free from your icy embrace, Menchie, you conniving little bastard…

Mmmhm.

So I ate at Kebob Grill tonight. First time for me. I know, I know. How was this my first time at a place that serves falafel? You’d think I would have eaten all the falafel Charlotte has to offer by now, but no. You know why? No one loves falafel as much as I do so when I suggest it (every single time I get to suggest anything edible), I get shot down. In time I’ll make believers out of you all…

Vegetarian sampler. So much food.

This feast is big enough for two people but was consumed by one and was, of course, followed by (more) Menchie’s. Because why wouldn’t you do that? I got pretty much the same mix I had not six hours prior minus anything with chocolate because some poor unfortunate souls are allergic to chocolate. This cramped my style ever so slightly until the gummy worms made an appearance. I guess that’s a fair enough trade.

Munchies. Get it?

The response to this shitshow of cake batter, peanut butter, dulce de leche, peanuts, pretzels, Cinnamon Toast Crunch (hello.), marshmallow sauce and gummy worms was, “What are you, high?”

No. I’m on the ground. Did you not read the dramatic beginning to this tale about dessert?

Of course not. Because blogs are for scrolling.