THE BLOCK off biltmore

Location:  

THE BLOCK off biltmore

39 S. Market Street

Asheville, NC

Atmosphere:  The BLOCK off bilmore (TBob, for short), is unlike any other establishment I have been to.  It’s described as an “eco-vegan, social justice, solidarity bar”, with all vegan alcohol and food.  All of the beverages, food items, and spirits are locally made, which supports smaller businesses in the community.  TBob has only been open for about 5 months, but has already become known for its community-based events, Open Mic Night, and delicious cocktails.

Food:  TBob hires local food artists to prepare and sell 100% plant-based foods on a nightly basis.  This not only supports local cooks/chefs, it exposes customers to a variety of freshly made, creative dishes and snacks.  Locally made gourmet potato chips, pretzels, and dark chocolate truffles are also available, in addition to absolutely fabulous coffee, served in small or large french presses.  The food options are always different, which is part of the fun of stopping by!   I’ve had many meals at TBob, including chana masala, mofungo, tempeh scramble with home fries, falafel, rosemary tofu and small plates/apps.  I’ve had incredible desserts including the best cupcakes I have ever had!

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Dig it or Ditch it?  DIG IT!  What’s better than a 100% vegan establishment that supports local businesses and the community?  I like the fact that the food is made with care from local food artists, and it is always spectacular!  If you’re in Asheville, stop by TBob for live music or a community based event, and order a plate of creative vegan food!

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Tower 7 Baja Mex

Location:

4 N. Lumina Avenue

Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

Website
Atmosphere:  I decided to use my Labor Day weekend to check out Wrightsville Beach, a little beach town next to Wilmington, North Carolina.  This spot seemed to be the place to be… It featured a huge bar lined with a million different hot sauces with a friendly beach bum vibe.  The menu had several vegan options including a veggie bowl salad, fresh Guac, and tofu burritos. 

Food: Well, I’m never the girl that turns down guacamole, so I got a large order for $7.95. It was super smooth, and had very subtle onion/cilantro flavor… It pretty much tasted like straight avocado (no complaints here!).  I tend to like my guacamole on the chunkier side with big pieces of onions and tomatoes, but I liked this! It was light and delicious with the salty, house-made tortilla chips. 

  
Also pictured above is the salsa (free), which was surprisingly spicy. 

Next up, after a heated internal debate between the veggie bowl salad and tofu burrito, I finally decided on the burrito ($10).  I was expecting a Chipotle clone, with seasoned tofu crumbles, rice, beans, and a mountain of guacamole on top.  What I got actually surprised me.  A foot long burrito filled with lightly seasoned strips of tofu, black beans, rice and veggies was a pleasant surprise.   It was light, fresh, flavorful, and pretty damn good. And I didn’t feel like I ate an entire village or felt compelled to contemplate the meaning of life after I finished it, like I do every time I eat Chipotle.

   
 

Dig it or Ditch It? 

Dig it! The laid back attitude, friendly service, and delicious, fresh ingredients makes this place an awesome vacation spot.  Next time I visit, I’ll get some food to go for a picnic on the beach. Try this place out, and get a few margaritas for me! 

Ipanema Café

Location:

917 W Grace Street

Richmond, Virginia 23220

Website

Atmosphere:
I can only imagine what my face looked like as I had no choice but to step right into the middle of the lake-sized, ankle deep puddle that was located in the entrance of this place. As I attempted to shake out the water from my flats, I looked in to see a sight like I have never seen before. This place was like a little dungeon. Dimly lit, rope lights hanging, a long bar to drink at, and booths that looked like they could have been (or were at one point) confessional booths. 

This underground sight to be seen is located underneath a tattoo shop and was quite crowded! The strong scent of Incense hits you immediately as you check out the chalkboard menu on the wall of the entrance way. 
  
This menu is the only one in the place, so you have to remember what you want to order when you sit down. This sounds simple, since all the vegan items have a heart next to them, but I was so distracted by the funkiness of this place (check out the old phone and unicorn piñata below), that I had to get up and check the board out again. 

  
  
Food:

  

 After a very heated battle in my brain, I ordered the Eggplant and Kalamata “Sausages” for $5.00. These were slightly tangy, smoky, and perfectly crispy. The rosemary infused balsamic added sweetness and earthiness to this otherwise savory app, and the sautéed onions were the perfect addition to brighten the flavor up a little bit. I’ve never had anything quite like this dish before.

  
Next, I tried the fried artichoke for $5.00. They were fried until deeply golden brown and served with a zesty marinara sauce that did not skimp on garlic. The squeeze of lemon on these crispy yet soft artichokes, paired up with the show-stealing sauce, made this a flavorful treat.

  
Next up was the Grilled Focaccia bread (5.95). Light, chewy, and grilled, the bread was delicious and paired with a ramekin of a similar marinara sauce, but with a strong fennel flavor. What I thought was cool about this was that it was served with minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. I love garlic and would have garlic babies if I could, but just in case people don’t, this would nice to control how much of it they were eating. The red pepper added some heat, and rounded out an overall delicious side dish. 

  
Next, (Yes, I ate even more, don’t judge me!) was the Twin Oaks Tofu sandwich for $8.95. I didn’t originally order this, but after seeing it I had to try it. This baby featured a thick slab of tofu on a fresh white bun with hummus, roasted red peppers, onion, and spinach. The tofu had a strong grilled flavor, while the roasted red pepper and onions added texture and tang. The hummus was strong in garlic (Yay!) and vegan mayo added necessary moisture to the extremely flavorful and filling sandwich. I have nothing to note about the side salad or fries… But who cares? This was awesome. 

DIG IT or DITCH IT?

This place, by far, is the strangest place I have ever eaten. Built in the early 1800’s (according to the friendly waitress), this place is quirky, cute, and weird, all in a good way. Since it is strictly vegetarian/vegan, it’s nice being in a place where there’s no need to add disclaimers to your order ( the obligatory “I’m vegan, I don’t eat this, this, or this”). The food was just like the decor, unusual and awesome. Fresh ingredients, lots of creative menu items to choose from, reasonable prices, and friendly service makes me want to crawl into a corner of this little dungeon and stay there forever to eat. If you ever are in Richmond, don’t skip this place! You’ll love the food and most likely never forget it. I know I won’t! This is a definite DIG IT

Look they even have a little tea menu!

   

 

Guads Mexican Restaurant 

Location:

200 21st Street #106

Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451

(757) 961-4011

Atmosphere: This oceanfront location is Super casual, laid back, and gives off come here and party vibes.  There’s pleny of indoor and outdoor seating, just steps away from the water. Gigantic margarita bowls, frozen daiquiris and piña coladas make it easy to stay here awhile after a nice day on the beach.

Food: Upon arrival, we were served free chips and salsa, pictured above. The tortilla chips didn’t appear to be made in-house… but hey, they were crunchy, salty,and held up the salsa, so job well-done Chips!  The mild salsa was fresh, had chunky pieces of tomato and onion, and a great cilantro flavor.  Check out the poncho on the Corona!


I ordered the “Fresh Guacamole” for $8.00, pictured above. At first taste, I got a mouthful of lime flavor, then onion, and last avocado. I describe this as more of a salad than a traditional creamy guacamolé, because the avocado, onion, green pepper, and cilantro were not blended together whatsoever. The ingredients were extremely fresh, and I did noticed a subtle spice, but didn’t find any jalapeño peppers in the mixture.


 Next, I tried the Vegetarian Fajitas ($12) and specifically asked for no sour cream or cheese. The tortillas were warm and chewy.  The rice was perfectly cooked and had a mild flavor.  The tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, and onions were fresh and offered cooling relief when wrapped up with the fajita vegetables. The only descernable flavor that the mixture of cauliflower, zucchini, onion, carrots, and green peppers offered was a strong smokey grilled flavor. All together,  the flavors blended nicely. (I did not eat the refried beans… They are sometimes made with dairy, and since things are often lost in translation, I just skipped them over.)

I also ordered a piña colada (small-$5) which was flavorful, had bits of pineapple,  and (most importantly) contained a good amount of rum. The large was $10… (Darn, maybe next time). ¡Salud!

DIG IT or DITCH IT?

The Get-Your-Party-On-Friendly-Beach Vibes, fresh ingredients, fair prices, and fast service makes this a definite “DIG IT!“. So put on your best pair of flip flops and get your butt over there after a beach day!  Have yourself a great time and a drink for me!

¡Buen provecho!

Hell’s Kitchen

Location:

124 Granby Street

Norfolk, VA 23510

Hknorfolk.com
Atmosphere:

Did you grow up in the 90’s or early ’00’s? If so, this place is totally your grungy little cup of tea.  Blasting Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, and Bush… This place is a definite throwback. Dimly lit, red walls, and black and white furniture really drives home the theme and motif of Hell’s Kitchen. I mean, they even had this Donnie Darko painting in the wall!

Food:

Ok, now on to the important stuff.  This place had their own vegan section on the menu… Always a good sign.  You can check it out on the website linked above, but this is what these Hell’s Kitchen cooks had to offer:


Told you it was dimly lit! I ordered the Ficken Quesadilla and Buffalo Ficken Wrap, for $10 a pop.

The Ficken Quesadilla pictured below was exactly what I wanted. Hot, with melted cheese (I suspect it was Daiya), with a good amount of grilled “Ficken”, red and green peppers and onions, all grilled up in a fresh, chewy yet crispy wrap. Each ingredient played well with each other… The medium spice salsa paired wonderfully with the cool tomatoes and creamy Daiya. The Ficken added substance and flavor, for a wonderfully well-rounded, kick ass quesadilla.



Next up was the Buffalo Ficken Wrap. Now let me preface this by saying my spice detecting tastebuds are hyperactive… Meaning that when faced with spice, I’m a wuss. But hey, I was at a place called Hell’s Kitchen, so I had to try it.

The wrap came in the same tortilla as the quesadilla, which was fine with me since it was a great chewy texture and strong enough to hold the wrap together.  The Ficken itself was covered in Buffalo sauce… A medium slow burning spice that set my tongue and lips up in flames (get it? Flames? Hell’s Kitchen?). The wrap had a decent amount of Ficken, along with tomato, lettuce, and onions but the veggies did very little to cool things down. I’m going to be honest, I only ate half of this in the actual restaurant (my mouth couldn’t take it). I would have loved some vegan bleu cheese or ranch dressing with this.. It would bring it from an “B” to an “A+”.



The “cut fries” stole the show… I mean look at those beauties! Light, crispy, and full of flavor… I’d come back for these!!

DIG IT or DITCH IT?

Dig it!!! There’s definitely some grunge rock treasure here! The dim lights, throwback alt rock, and flavorful, fresh, food makes this place perfect for just hanging out. I’ll be back with some vegan bleu cheese dressing!