Ethical Business Spotlight: Sunflower Diner

Hello again!

This week’s Ethical Business Spotlight features Hayette Bouras, Co-Owner of the all-vegan Sunflower Diner in Asheville, North Carolina! Discover more about Sunflower Diner’s journey to create scratch-made, vegan comfort food!

Let’s jump right into the interview!

Sunflower Diner, Asheville, North Carolina

1. What inspired you to create Sunflower Diner and what makes it unique?

Sunflower Diner is the culmination of a lifetime of interests for me. I have always been a lover of food and health and spent 20 years working in many different restaurants. Having been a vegetarian since age 7, it wasn’t until a few years ago that a nutrition course in college inspired me to go vegan. Sunflower Diner is unique in that it is the only 100% vegan diner in the area and that it is situated in an awesome local natural foods market.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup IG @sunflowerdineravl

2. Your IG feed features mouthwatering dishes like cornbread waffles with organic sweet potato and black bean chili, tacos with maple dijon seitan crumbles, Cuban sandwiches, baked goods, burgers, pancakes, and much more. If you had to choose just one menu item to represent what Sunflower Diner is all about, which would it be and why?

So hard! The mission of Sunflower Diner is to create vegan comfort food that anyone can enjoy, regardless of dietary preference. With that in mind, I really love our Westside Hot Mess dish. It’s one of our fluffy coconut cream biscuits, smothered in our savory mushroom gravy, topped with our tofu scramble, drizzled with our sunflower-cashew queso sauce and served with a vegan sausage pattie. It’s so comforting and yummy.

3. On October 1st, you celebrated Sunflower Diner’s one year anniversary. Congrats! What has been the biggest challenge and biggest surprise during your first year?

Not only was it the first year that we were open, it was my first time opening and co-owning a restaurant. There was no way of knowing what 2020 would bring and so navigating the pandemic was definitely the biggest added challenge to this already challenging learning experience for me. Luckily, we had the support of our customers, our staff, and the community of people who make the West Village Market continue to thrive. The biggest surprise for me has been the overwhelming enthusiasm for our vegan menu. The vegan community of our area and beyond are showing up and showing support – it has really been heart-warming and encouraging.

4. Asheville is a fun and artsy city situated in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains that is quickly becoming a destination spot for delicious vegan food! How has the community played a role in the diner’s success during this year’s shutdowns and restrictions?

As I mentioned before, we would be nowhere without the amazing community of vegans in our area. So many people reached out to us to buy gift certificates, and continued to support us through our curbside and takeout options. As restrictions were lifted, we were surprised to have many people from other cities and states coming to dine with us and appreciate every single person who makes the trip to our tiny little diner.

5. What’s next for Sunflower Diner?

Well, in the near future, we would love to expand our hours which were greatly reduced as a result of the pandemic. Further out, we hope to outgrow our little space and think about a stand-alone brick and mortar in a couple of years.

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Sunflower Diner is now open for take-out orders and delivery. Check out their Facebook page and Instagram for info and updates!

Head on over to my Instagram to enter to win a $20 gift card to Sunflower Diner!

Review: Simple Cafe & Juice Bar in Asheville, NC!

Hello, hello! I’m here to share my thoughts on a brand new café and juice bar in the cute and trendy West Asheville area!

Location: Simple Cafe & Juice Bar, 643 Haywood Road, Asheville, NC 28806

Atmosphere: Simple Cafe & Juice Bar definitely draws you in. The overall vibe is laid-back, despite a steady stream of customers! The interior design is clean, comfortable, natural, and  minimalistic (totally my scene!). There’s seating at the bar along the window and cushioned seats in the main eating area. Upon ordering, we received a nice, friendly greeting from Suzie, one of the owners, who also let us know they would be launching some new seasonal items very soon. 

Food:  When I write these reviews, I usually take a few notes while I’m in the restaurant and wait a few days before posting. However, I enjoyed the food SO much, I wanted to post right away! You can find their menu here.

The first menu item I ordered was the Vegan Bahn Mi. Let me tell you, this sandwich was FULL of flavor and I couldn’t get enough! This bad boy featured house-made sietan that had a meaty, sausage-like flavor, tangy Vietnamese pickles, a nutty mushroom walnut paté, crunchy cucumbers and carrots, jalapeños and spicy mayo for some heat, and cilantro… all piled onto a fresh, soft roll. If I had more room in my stomach when I left, I would have ordered another!

Next, I tried the Supa Dupa Acai Bowl. I love a good smoothie bowl, I really do. I just don’t eat them very often because I don’t keep a ton of fresh fruit and toppings on hand. So, when I can get a great smoothie bowl, I truly appreciate it and this Supa Dupa did not disappoint! 

The base was a sweet Acai smoothie covered with bluebs, strawbs, and bananas. For some crunch, there were crispy coconut strips, chia seeds, and some sweet, cinnamon-y granola with pumpkin seeds. This bowl was fresh, healthy, and downright delicious!

Last, and not at all least, was the Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie! I honestly don’t know how this little gem was healthy, but it was! I made sure to ask if it was vegan, because the menu said it contained yogurt. Make sure you ask when you order and they can mostly likely create a vegan version, like they did for me.

Strawberries, bananas, cashew butter, vanilla almond milk, blended together and topped with graham cracker dust? Yes, please! I recommend ordering this for a sweet, rich dessert (it really did taste like cake!) or when you really want a healthy treat but don’t want to throw away all of those hours at the gym!

Dig it or Ditch it? Friends (deep breath), I must tell you Simple Cafe & Juice Bar has become one of my favorite places! Yes, the new kid in town has stolen my little vegan heart! I tend to return to the same handful of establishments because I know the food is great and I will be treated well.  The food, atmosphere, and service at Simple were exactly what I wanted it to be. Everything I ordered was fresh, healthy, and bursting with flavor. The owner and staff were friendly and helpful and the welcoming atmosphere will definitely make me return again soon. I 100% DIG IT!

I overheard they had vegan soup and faux lox and I can’t wait to try out their new seasonal items. I had my eye on their Carrot Cake Smoothie and some of their baked goods and coffee, so I’ll let you know how they are!

Thanks for checking out my Vegan Treasure Hunt! Please follow me on Instagram @VeganTreasureHunter

Del Vecchio’s Chicago Stuffed Pizza – The Answer To My Vegan Pizza Prayers

Helloooo Again! It has definitely been awhile since I’ve done a Treasure Hunt Location review, mainly because I haven’t been anywhere new! Well, my little vegan prayers have been answered and I found the BEST vegan pizza in my area of Asheville, NC.

Let’s jump right in!

LOCATION:

Del Vecchio’s Italian Restaurant

333 Merrimon Ave. Asheville, NC 28801

828-258-7222 delvecchiositalian.com

ATMOSPHERE:

Del Vecchio’s Italian Restaurant is located on Merrimon Avenue, one of the main streets in Asheville, NC. The vibe is laid back, friendly and inviting. It seems to be the go-to pizza spot for college kids. This small pizzeria has a long bar that takes up the majority of the restaurant and they have a few tables to sit down and eat inside and outside. The friendly staff greets you right away and the food is served quickly.

FOOD:

I’m originally from New Jersey, so I have some pretty high standards for great Italian food. I thought all was lost for authentic tasting pizza when I moved to Asheville. I had tried many spots, and the pizza was good, but I missed that zesty NJ/NY flavor.

Ooooh baby, I’ve found what I’ve been searching for at Del Vecchio’s! I ordered the 14″ Chicago Stuffed Pizza with vegan cheese, spinach and garlic for $24.99. It was an additional $3.00 for the vegan cheese. I know, I know, that’s a freakin’ expensive pizza, but I promise you from my head to the bottom of my cruelty-free shoes, it is worth it!

So what exactly is a Chicago Stuffed Pizza? Well, I had no idea but I live on the edge and ordered it anyway. It is a deep dish pizza that has cheese and toppings inside. It is topped with another thin layer of pizza dough and then tomato sauce. It’s baked until it the cheese is a beautiful melty mess and then served to you piping hot!

I’m not one of those people that eats pizza with a fork, but I made an exception for this one. Holy $hit this was amazing! Finally, my yankee tastebuds were reunited with zesty and tangy tomato sauce that I have so dearly missed. The cheese was creamy and melted to perfection. I actually asked what brand they used and it was Daiya! I was shocked because there was absolutely no aftertaste whatsoever.

The extra garlic and spinach inside really added another layer of mouthwatering flavor that I am daydreaming about as I type this. The dough itself was chewy and the crust had the perfect crisp to it. The showstopper tomato sauce on top was a train ticket to Flavortown and I never wanted to come back.

DIG IT OR DITCH IT?

DIG IT! I love everything about this pizza and plan to go back and try every vegan thing on their menu. The staff is great about preparing vegan and/or gluten-free options, which is refreshing. I’m not joking when I say that I daydream about this pizza. If you are in Asheville, you MUST try Del Vecchio’s and their fabulous Chicago Stuffed Pizza. It brought my sad, never-gonna-find-great-pizza-again thinkin’ heart back to life!

Nine Mile West

Location:  

Nine Mile West

751 Haywood Road

Asheville, North Carolina 28806

Atmosphere: This vegetarian/vegan spot is right in the middle of trendy, casual West Asheville, and serves up “Caribbean inspired pasta dishes, rice dishes, a handful of traditional pasta dishes, daily specials, and an array of locally made desserts.” As with most Asheville restaurants, they offer locally made microbrews and seasonal wines as well.  This place is super laid back and casual, with Bob Marley providing the sound track for your meal.

Food: Check out their large menu of Caribbean meals here

I ordered the “Jamaican Me Crazy” meal with jerk tofu. The red curry/coconut sauce gave the dish a sweet and smoky flavor which was lightened up with veggies, including; red peppers, roasted tomatoes, red cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, and green onion. The jerk tofu added protein and heartiness, and the fluffy basmati rice soaked up all of the flavors perfectly. 2 big pieces of their wonderful, overly-garlicked (I may have made that word up, but it works) “Natty Bread” rounded out the healthy, filling, and flavorful lunch.


DIG it or DITCH it?

DIG IT! Check this place out if you like Carribean flavors, laid back vibes, and locally made spirits.  There are vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and raw options… So there’s something for everyone. One Love! ❤️

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza

Location: Biltmore Park Town Square, 30 Town Square Boulevard, Asheville, NC 28803

Phone: (828) 654-0046

Menu

Atmosphere: Brixx Wood Fired Pizza is a super laid back and casual pizza sports bar. This restaurant is located right in the center of Biltmore Park Town Square.  It’s the perfect place to order an individual pizza before you catch a movie or just to take a shopping break.  The staff is friendly, and there is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating.

Food: There are no specifically vegan appetizers, so the waitress suggested that I try the Bruschetta on pita bread, instead of their non-vegan bread option.  Well, I think the picture says it all, but this was AWESOME! Fresh Roma tomatoes, basil, and onion piled on crunchy and chewy pita bread, all topped with cheese (I’m pretty sure it was Daiya) and sweet balsamic vinegar. This was fresh, crunchy, chewy, sweet, creamy, and tangy… what more could you want in an app?

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For an entree, there are plenty of 10″ individual pizzas that can be customized to be vegan.  There is an exclusively vegan dough, and vegan cheese can be added for no charge. I ordered the Margherita pizza, which featured roma tomatoes, fresh basil, and Daiya cheese on a crispy and chewy crust. Basically, this pizza was very similar to the appetizer I had ordered, but since it was so good, I didn’t mind at all. Remember to request the vegan dough and cheeze when you order this bad boy!

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DIG IT or DITCH IT?

DIG IT! The friendly staff, casual atmosphere, and location makes Brixx an excellent place to be! The ingredients are fresh and flavorful, and it is always nice to visit a restaurant that has more than salad for us plant-based foodies! Give this place a try!