Let me tell you about the BEST I ever had...
Best vegan dining experience that is.
Life had brought me to the surprisingly charming and lively Reno, Nevada. Honest! Simply five minutes outside of the heartbeat of the "biggest little city in the world" lay a blossoming hub of trendy food places and artistic communities.
In fact, in all of my travels across the United States, I found Reno to have the greatest number of vegan-friendly options for a smaller sized city. My travels only brought me there for a few days, but in those few days I discovered at least five different establishments with veggie-dense menus. Not only was I surprised by the variety of options, but also I was amazed at how delicious they were!
I will continue to write about my vegan adventures in the states and abroad, but to start I thought I would begin with one of the most unforgettable experiences I have ever had in a restaurant.
For my fellow vegan travelers, you know how eating green on the road can be a challenge. Sometimes you have to suck it up and buy that bagged salad from Walmart for the third time in a week because your only other options are McDonalds and a KFC.
After stretches of desolate food options, a vegan vagabond will rejoice when they see that tiny beacon hope in the bottom margins of a menu. You know the one, "v indicates vegan."
So you can imagine my surprise as we strolled into Reno and my HungryCow app* is PACKED with vegan friendly places to eat. Everyone I was traveling with knew that I was vegan and in our travels a game began to develop of “find the vegan friendly food for Paul!” I had so many recommendations of places to go and things to eat from my travel companions.
I decided to try out one such recommendation with a friend of mine called Great Full Gardens. As the hostess seated us, my friend mentioned how excited I was to see what vegan options might await in their menu.
My heart began to pitter-patter as my eyes darted from vegan option to vegan option on the menu.
When you give a vegan more than two options on a menu they can get a little overwhelmed and begin to show signs of a joy induced panic attack.
"SO MANY OPTIONS!" I silently cheered through a toothy grin to my friend sitting across the table.
After we ordered our drinks I felt a tap on my shoulder. Standing next to me I saw a short woman with warm features and a bright smile that seemed to say, "welcome, I am glad you are here."
She introduced herself as the owner and said how happy she was that we chose to check out her restaurant that evening.
Then, I KID YOU NOT, she said...
"I want you to know that anything on this menu we can make vegan for you. I want you to know you are welcome here."
She then continued to point out just a few of her favorite vegan spins on popular menu items, all the while keeping her warm hand on my shoulder as if I was a long lost guest she had been anxiously waiting to see.
Never have I ever felt so welcomed.
Seasoned vegans will know, it is not uncommon to feel like a burden or a nuisance in a restaurant as you ask for the quinoa fish dish sans the fish or order four different veggie sides steamed instead of cooked in butter.
To come into a restaurant and not only be presented with options, a luxury, but also to have the owner come to our table and welcome specifically me to her establishment nearly brought a misty tear to my eye.
"I want you to know you can eat here." She said before leaving us to make our dining decisions.
Thankfully, the food lived up to our host's hospitality. I ended up ordering the vegan grilled cheese made with a mixture of homemade cashew cheese, daiya, and pesto with a bowl of homemade tomato soup.
A classic combo, grilled cheese and tomato soup, but revitalized and brought to new heights with a vegan flare! The grilled cheese resonated in my mouth with jubilation. The flavors were as warm and welcoming as our host. The perfectly crunchy bread with the slightly sweet and savory inside made me rethink my whole life for never putting pesto in a grilled cheese.
AND THE SOUP...
I am not normally one to order tomato soup because it always fell flat to me, but THIS soup tickled taste buds that had been dormant my whole life! It was fresh and seasoned to perfection, strumming notes in my palate like the notes of a Tchaikovsky adagio echoing off an orchestra shell.
We ended the meal with another classic, chocolate chip cookie a la mode, thanked our waiter and asked her to thank the owner for us.
And the vegan foodie lived happily ever after...
Or at least that's how I felt leaving the Great Full Gardens that night with a belly full of food and a heart warmed by true hospitality.
So if you find yourself in Reno make sure to check out the Great Full Gardens.
(I believe they have more than one location now!)
Happy Eating Veg Heads!
*HappyCow is an app that shows vegan, vegetarian, and veg-option dining establishments near you. It is a true lifesaver for any vegans/vegetarians traveling to new places. Plus, it works in countries all over the globe! I even used it in India while studying yoga this past April.
*Photo from www.pexels.com