Saturday, March 6, 2010

Vegan Meat (Asian style)

Being vegan below the Mason-Dixon line can be challenging. Depending on where you are, almost everything in the South can seem like its been pulled (from animal ribs, not from the ground), fried, laden with cheese, and served with a side of lard-based beans and sausage.  Not that this food isn’t good for your soul.  I’ve eaten fried artichokes, vegetarian beans and rice, and bread pudding in New Orleans that I made my heart soften towards Southern Comfort and my soul scream, “hallelujah!”

Not all restaurants in the South are like this, but I definitely didn’t expect a vegetarian, vegan-friendly restaurant to pop up when I Google-searched “Greensboro vegetarian” the week before visiting the quaint, beautiful North Carolina city.  To my surprise, Greensboro is home to Boba House, a restaurant and tearoom just off the UNC-Greensboro campus.  Established in 2003, Boba House is the winner of the Vegetarian Restaurant of the Triad (the “Triad” includes Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point) and both the Rhinoceros Times and the Triad Diner Vegetarian Restaurant of the Year Awards.

My last vegan restaurant review featured the Chicago Diner, a dive that skillfully and deliciously purged all animal products from American food including BLTs, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and even milkshakes and cheesecake.  Boba House offers some dishes that are similar to the Chicago diner—the staple burger and yam fries and vegan cakes—but serves predominantly Asian cuisine, each entrée served with a different type of vegan “meat.”  Some tantalizing examples from the dinner menu include blackened tuna, ginger chicken, and sesame beef. Boba House also offers delectable appetizers including crispy rolls and fried calamari. For dessert, vegan guests can choose from cheesecake, carrot cake, and chocolate cake.  “Boba” (bubble) teas are the signature drinks and can be made with either with tapioca pearls or coconut jelly, but a wide variety of black, green, and herbal teas are also offered. 

Boba House is open Monday-Friday 11:30AM-3:00PM and 5:00-9:30PM.  Saturday hours are 12:00PM-9:00PM; the restaurant is closed Sunday.  Prices are extremely reasonable, with dinner entrees ranging $8-$11.  The lunch specials, however, as Cody and I discovered, cannot be beat.  Boba House offers some of their most popular entrees as lunch portions, including Eternal Bliss, “a harmonious blend of green treasures,” and Black Pepper “Steak,” starting at $5.99.  Each entrée comes with your choice of “meat:” tofu, chicken, beef, or shrimp (all vegan).  Guests can also add salad or crispy rolls for an additional $1.99.

Cody and I shared the Eternal Bliss with tofu and the Pad Thai with chicken for lunch.  Each entrée was beautifully presented on a colorful plate and the portions were generous (we were too full to try any of the vegan desserts).  The servers were friendly and outgoing, and Boba House indeed seemed like the neighborhood meeting place, with the crowd including students, faculty, and everyday townies.  Not all of the Boba House patrons could have possibly been vegan, which to me was an encouraging sign of vegan cuisine having the power to attract vegans and meat-eaters alike.

Boba House also sells all of their “meat,” including chicken, steak, shrimp, fish fillets, and ribs online, providing an alternative to some of the grocery store meat-replacement brands.  To order vegan meat from Boba house, click here.

It was a pleasant surprise to find a vegan restaurant in Greensboro, and our meal at Boba House was the tastiest we had on our road trip.  Be sure to check out Boba House’s beautiful website here and pay a visit next time you’re traveling to North Carolina!