Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Girl Went Down to Georgia...

... and was lookin' for a vegan meal.

Sorry. I couldn't resist! Anywho, last week I had the pleasure of visiting Athens, Georgia. I'm applying for graduate school there (at the University of Georgia) and they flew me down for a two days of tours and interviews. The trip wore me out, but I love it down there. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out, though I won't find out for sure if I'm accepted until the end of February / beginning of March. It was quite an experience. It was the first time I had flown by myself (and I had only flown once before), and I flew into the Atlanta airport which was pretty big, but once I get the hang of it, it was actually fairly easy to get around. They also have LOTS of food there. I ate a big plate of collard greens and hot sauce there. And it was awesome. So yeah...

Athens! Athens is a very vegetarian-friendly place (the majority of restaurants carry vegetarian items on their menus) and it's also pretty accomodating of vegans. It actually blew my mind how veg-friendly this place was, because in my hometown most people haven't even met a vegetarian (and they definitely don't know what a vegan is... or how to even pronounce the word "vegan"). I ate a lot of good food, both at restaurants and at the student/faculty potlucks. They have quite a few vegetarians in the plant biology department (of course!) and many items were naturally vegan. I didn't bring along my camera because to be honest, I don't have the balls to take pictures of my food in public. Also, I was surrounded by graduate students and recuits, and I really wanted to make a good impression. So, I supplemented this blog post with pictures of the restaurants themselves, lol.

One of the days, I ate at Cali n' Tito's, which is an authentic Cuban restaurant that is very popular with the students from UGA. Apparently, you can pay $2 or something and BYOB and drink on the patio tables with your meal. College students that have just turned 21 seem to find that awesome.

 Source - this isn't my photo. Click here for the source.

Cali n' Tito's, also had a variety of vegetarian options. They had your standard fare such as tacos and burritos, but they also had empanadas, tamales, and other things I can't quite remember. As you know, I'm quite the tamale girl, so that's what I got, but it was a tough decision between them and the empanadas. They had a veggie tamale (no cheese) filled with corn, potatoes, and onions that even came wrapped in a banana leaf. However, looking back it may not have been vegan depending on what they used in the masa dough. I'll admit I stumbled a little with that one. I've just ate vegan ones for so long that I forgot they existed any other way!

The yucca fries, however, were vegan. And awesome. It was the first time I had yucca (or cassava) and it was just like I imagined it, only fluffier. They were like a potato, only way better. I also tried fried sweet plantain and it was good. Much better than any fried plantain I've tried to make!

I also had the awesome experience of eating at The Grit, a vegetarian-only restaurant with plenty of vegan options. A long, long time ago, I was reading an issue of Vegetarian Times. In this particular article, they had gone and rated the best regional restaurants. For the South, The Grit was rated the best in the region. I remember thinking that it seemed like a real tasty place to eat, but I was sure I wouldn't ever get the chance to eat there.

Until I did.

Four years later.

Weird how that happens!

Source - This isn't my photo. Click here for the source.

The Grit has a retro diner feel to it, which I liked. The also have a lot of rotating specials along with a small standard menu. There is a little bit of everything there, so if you have a group of people and they all want something different, this would be the place to go. For example, one of my hosts got a fancy grilled cheese (just veg), while the other got a quesadilla (just veg), while I got the noodle bowl special of the day (vegan). They also have certain nights of the week where they serve ethnic meals. For instance, this past Thursday was Indian night, so they had an appetizer, main dish, soup, and one or two other items to choose from.

So yeah, speaking of the noodle bowl of the day, the night that I went it happened to be tofu and veggies in a spicy basil sauce with rice noodles, which was exactly what I was craving. There was plenty of tofu, although a little lacking in the veggies, and the sauce was tasty. I would have paid a little more attention to what I was eating, but after a hanging out in a plane, an airport, and a shuttle the majority of my day, the nuanced flavors of my dish were the last thing on my mind. I was just ready for some tofu! 

The only caveat: I didn't find the servers very friendly. It's possible they were just having an off-night, which happens, but I sure hope they aren't like that all the time! But in general, I would like to go back and give the other menu items a try. They have a vegan seitan gyro that's got my name on it!

Anywho, Athens is a awesome place (they also have Thai and Indian places I have yet to try, as well as an Indian and Chinese grocery) and I truly hope that I'll get the opportunity to move down there. If not, then I guess I'd just like to visit again!


Lauren (PB&G) said...

Your intro made my morning! Haha!

So glad to hear that you found such vegan friendly eateries down in Athens! It seems to me that some of the most unlikely places can surprise you with their veg-ness!

Teniesha @ Vegan on the Go-Go said...

I went to Georgia in 2010 for 3 days, and every night, I dined at an Indian restaurant, ordering enough to eat the leftovers for breakfast. It was delicious! Who knew that curry would be so tasty cold?

Jess of Midwest Vegan said...

Mmmm. Curry...

I can't wait to try some of Athens's Indian fare when I go back. :)