The year 2005 marked the passing of Charlotte's only chef-driven vegetarian restaurant, The Peaceful Dragon Restaurant. (The ownership is now focused exclusively on such activities as martial and healing arts, lectures and yoga.) Another vegetarian favorite was the Woodlands Indian Cuisine on Albemarle Road, which changed ownership last summer. These changes seem strangely at odds with the increasing popularity of food for health's sake.
You can always find a delectable, yet humble, cup of vegetarian soup at Berrybrook Farm in Dilworth. This health food throwback to the hippie days of the early 1970s is now 33 years old and is Charlotte's oldest natural foods store. Two soups are offered each day. One is scheduled each day on the monthly schedule, while the other is "thrown together" by what's on hand. In the summer, a warm and a cold soup are offered. The selection and recipe development of the soups is left to Wayne Thomas. One of his best soups is the West African Peanut Soup, which mixes peanut butter, a spicy veggie juice base, and a meld of sweet potatoes, carrots, ginger, chives, onions and cayenne. The end result is full of life. In order to find out when this soup will be served again, you need to visit the store and look at the menu. (It last appeared mid-December.) The lunch counter serves sandwiches and soups from 11am until 3:30pm Monday through Saturday, while the juice bar is open until 5pm.
Berrybrook Farm Natural Food, 1257 East Boulevard. 704-334-6528.
The kitchen at Dish has long catered to vegetarians (among other types of eaters), with their menu choices of a portobello and button mushroom burger, the vegetable plate and the Cuban black bean burrito entrée with homemade salsa. You can't find a dish more Southern and vegetarian than their appetizer of fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs and black-eyed pea couscous with horseradish sauce.
Dish, 1220 Thomas Avenue. 704-344-0343.
You may order vegetarian at Be's or just stick to the healthy Vietnamese regimen of modest portions of healthy foods. One of the delights of Be's Café is the variety of rolls, a traditional street food in Vietnam; they're sliced diagonally into manageable, candy-sized portions. The portions of the deep fried roll (or, in current menu speak, "crispy") are addicting, but it's the fresh rolls and the vegetarian curries which are the true heart of healthy eating at Be's.
Be's Café, 1701 Montford Drive. 704-527-5539.
At Udipi, a southern Indian vegetarian restaurant, dosas are the core of the menu and ordering one is a must. Dozens of possibilities exist for these oversized fermented rice or lentil flour crepes. Choose from plain masala potatoes to the more exotic ones with spinach, chilies and cheese, chutney and vegetables, or the house specialty of bananas. Another favorite are the Uthappams, or pancakes, which are also offered in a dozen or so vegetarian configurations.
Udipi Pure Vegetarian Cuisine, 9510 University City Boulevard. 704-549-0600.