The Sunday before Christmas we packed up my little VW wagon and hit the road heading east. (Let me just tell you, you don’t realize how small your car is until you fit four people and a load of luggage and gifts in it.) Shawn and I were off to visit his family for the holidays and decided to finally take the road trip I’d been dreaming of, well sort of. I never meant to take a road trip in winter but the weather treated us rather decently.
Our friends Jannatha and Kyle piled in with us heading for North Carolina. Lucky for us, they’re both vegetarian and put up with our crazed searches for vegan pizza and obscure restaurants along the way. The first place we decided to stop was Flagstaff, Arizona, high up in the mountains, covered in the first snow of the trip. Shawn had located a pizza place with vegan pizza. Unfortunately we arrived to find it closed. Lesson one, call ahead.
We drove around looking for an alternative and when our other option was found to be boarded up for the winter we just asked someone walking down the street. Lesson two, don’t be afraid of people, go ahead and ask. Being from Los Angeles, you forget people often will be glad to help you (just not so much in LA).
We ended up at Macy’s Vegetarian Coffeehouse. It was a cute place with a comfortable atmosphere. There were a number of items on the menu that were vegan or could be made that way, but I went for the basic veggie blt with tempeh bacon. This is something I usually wouldn’t order, because I am all too often let down by tempeh bacon, but this sandwich was truly satisfying. First of all, it was huge, and the bread was simultaneously soft and crunchy, with a really great flavor. All the fillings were fresh and crisp and the tempeh was the perfect nutty compliment to the greens and tomato.
So when you’re on the road, you often don’t eat at anyplace special at all. Sometimes you eat only the entire contents of bag full of car snacks. Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, you get altitude sickness and don’t eat anything but saltines. So let’s just skip right along ahead to Columbus Ohio! You weren’t hoping to hear about anything between there and Flagstaff, were you? Didn’t think so.
Shawn was super excited to take me to Benevolence Cafe in Columbus as he remembered it having been there forever. Surprise, surprise, it was closed (possibly for renovations, possibly forever, I’m not sure). Back to Lesson one, call ahead. This ended up being for the best as we instead found On the Fly Street Food. This small cafe is part of the upscale Dragonfly Neo-V. Both restaurants are all vegan. On the Fly is open during the day with an awesome selection of delicious street style foods and great beers.
We couldn’t resist the empanada, which was stuffed with a rich mushroom filling. The crust was just as buttery and flaky as you could wish for and the cheesy sauce on top was just the right amount. I also ordered the chili and cornbread which was equally, if not even more delicious. The chili achieved a magical balance of beans, sauce and “meat.” With a hearty taste that wasn’t too spicy, it was the perfect thing for a very cold Ohio day. Oh and the corn bread, it was delicious; moist and soft, just right for spooning into your chili. It had a lovely cakey consistency and wasn’t mealy at all. So good!
Though we failed at our earlier vegan pizza attempt, Columbus came to the rescue at Circus. This bar and performance venue, decorated with old-school circus paintings, has two vegan pizzas to choose from, the regular vegan and the vegan crow. Since you can order half pizzas, we went ahead and got both. One is a pretty standard cheeseless pizza piled high with tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and seasonings. The other has a cashew cheese, corn and caramelized onions. Both were superb. The really great thing about these pizzas is that they have a super good crunchy crust that is just thick enough to hold the tons of toppings without being too thick and mushy. The veggie to crust ratio was about 1:1, which is pretty amazing if you ask me. See, pizza isn’t all bad for you.
Overall, Columbus was pretty awesome in the vegan department, it even has an all vegan bakery which I’ll get to in the next post about all the vegan desserts we devoured. Just had to tempt you a little…