I recently made my first trip to the Research Triangle and enjoyed some great vegan food while I was visiting. Downtown Raleigh and the surrounding cluster of quaint neighborhoods feature lots of shops and restaurants, including some fantastic veg-friendly places.
The Irregardless Cafe (the Literature major in me chuckles at this non-word people still use so often) has a wonderful energy about it, bustling with diners and some great live music, with a cozy setting of warm woods and local artwork.
There’s a “Vegetarian and Vegan” section on the menu, but other vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-friendly offerings, including appetizers and salads, are clearly marked on the menu for the veg crowd. Someone at our table ordered the vegan Vietnamese Spring Rolls, which looked and tasted delicious. Meanwhile, I ordered the appetizer special of vegan “oysters” (a blend of seitan and soy, with just the right amount of salty to make a convincing substitute) to pass around the table. For our entrees, I had the Happy Bowl, a heaping mix of steamed vegetables — I got extra vegetables in lieu of tofu — with short grain rice and green lentils with ginger miso sauce. SO good. My husband Seth had what may be one of the best vegan Pad Thai dishes I’ve every had — not too sweet, and it came with vegetables and seitan.
Other places to try if you’re in town:
- The Remedy Diner
This bar/cafe in the heart of downtown (that kind of feels more like a British pub) turned out to be the best surprise of the trip. We started with the flash-fried broccoli bites, which are seasoned with garlic and served with a homemade vegan ranch dressing. It doesn’t look like anything fancy, but… wow. Then we ordered two sandwiches. The “Tempeh Tantrum,” voted by PETA as one of the Top Five Sandwiches in the U.S. was a delicious combo of tempeh, pesto, and avocado slices; the tempeh reuben may be the best vegan reuben I’ve had. Finally, we topped it off by sharing a slice of rich, super-moist chocolate cake.
- Thaiphoon Bistro
Sleek, cool zen vibe. I had a mild yellow curry made with coconut milk that came loaded with vegetables and tofu. Seth usually gets vegan Pad Thai when he has the option, but here he ordered the XXX, which I tasted and thought was really good (though more than a forkful would have been a little too spicy for me).
Right across the street from Thaiphoon. I didn’t have time to eat there myself, but there are plenty of veg-friendly options at this contemporary Indian cuisine spot.
- Fiction Kitchen
Sweet Potato Sushi Rolls. Braised Tempeh with pesto Grits. Crispy Fried “Chicken” and Waffles. This vegan haven gets rave reviews. Unfortunately, we ventured over there on a Monday night — the one night it’s closed. But I did get a peek inside, and it was easy to see why — in addition to its fantastic vegan menu — this place would be so popular. Great eclectic feel. If you get there, please let me know via the CFF Facebook page (and please post a picture of whatever you order!)
- Fresh Choice Cafe (Sanford, NC)
Sanford is about 40 minutes away from Raleigh, but I spent a couple of days there visiting a lifelong friend who is like sister to me. We grabbed a late lunch here; the cafe resembles a small diner, and its menu includes several vegetarian and vegan options. I had a very tasty veggie and red roasted pepper hummus wrap. Fresh Choice also has a veggie burger and some vegan salads on the menu.