Thursday, October 29, 2015

Restaurant Review: BEAN Vegan Cuisine in Asheville, NC

You know how everyone has a favorite restaurant? Or at least have it narrowed down to a few top picks? Well, as of October 22, 2015, I have a favorite restaurant. BEAN Vegan Cuisine, located at 2145-A Hendersonville Road in Asheville, North Carolina. Everything about this restaurant receives an A+ rating from me. Where to begin...

On the drive to the restaurant, I told my compassionate vegan 6-year-old daughter that I had a wonderful surprise for her. We were going to be having dinner at a special restaurant that serves ONLY vegan food. Her face lit up. Where we are from, they do not have any restaurants like these. Every trip to a restaurant involves me explaining to her a million times that what I ordered for her to eat is safe and that there are no animals or animal byproducts in it. After additional reassurance, she will somewhat hesitantly begin eating her food. But here was a restaurant just  for her. We arrived just after 7 o'clock for dinner.

It was a small location with just one girl working as hostess/waitress/cashier, and two additional people (that I could tell) working in the kitchen. She was as nice as can be and told us to take a seat anywhere we'd like. It was surprisingly busy for such a small place. She gave us our menus which included a special kids menu. Bridget was excited to order. The lunch/dinner menu was filled with Southern comfort foods not normally enjoyed by vegans because they're difficult to recreate. For example, Crabbie Dip with crackers and Pimento Cheesish dip with chips for an appetizer. I wish I had tried both of these, but I was more focused on the main portion of the meal. They had a wide variety of vegan burgers to choose from, and all sounded delicious. I knew it was going to be a tough decision.

Bridget holding the BEAN Sprout Menu for BEAN Vegan Cuisine

The children's menu only had three options to choose from (both $5 each): Fried Fingers with Ranch + 1 side, 'Lil Quesadilla and salsa + 1 side, or 3 "Sprout Sized" sides. We ended up ordering both the Fried Fingers and the 'Lil Quesadilla for the kids to sample and share. For the sides, we ordered fried squash and tater tot casserole (I failed to take a picture of this, but it both looked and tasted very good).

A divided children's meal including fried squash (in front), fried tofu fingers (in back) and vegan cheese quesadilla (right side)


Happy with her 100% vegan dinner
 
She couldn't wait to dig in! The kids both enjoyed their dinner. The fried squash especially was a winner with Bridget.
 
My husband ordered the Cowboy Burger. It's a vegan burger patty, seitan bacon, Daiya cheddar, onions, pickles, BBQ sauce, and Ranch. My husband ordered the Ranch on the side because he had never had a combination of the two before and was feeling a little hesitant (even though our waitress assured him it was very good).
 
"Cowboy Burger" ($11.00)
 
Doesn't that look heavenly? For a vegan who does not get to enjoy a juicy burger like I used to, I was ready to dive across the table and dig in. It's all vegan so there would be no guilt! I resisted, as I knew my meal was about to arrive.
 
My husband ordered his burger with a side of Mac and Cheese for the baby to enjoy.
 
Mac and Cheese (one of their many sides to choose from)

As the oh-so-nice waitress was taking our orders, I had not fully decided which burger I was going to have. I had it narrowed down but couldn't make the final decision. Then the waitress told me that their Good Burger was a vegan take on the Big Mac, with a vegan patty, lettuce, Daiya shreds, pickles, onions, and "special sauce". That. Was. It. Before I took the plunge into veganism, the Big Mac from McDonald's was my go-to burger. And here this nice girl was telling me they made it into a vegan burger. Oh my.

"Good Burger" ($10.00)

I ordered the burger with a side of fries, mainly for the kids in case for some reason they didn't like their food. Fries have always been our safety net for filling their little tummies if all else fails. Just so you know, I ended up eating the fries myself and shared only a couple with the baby.

Both of our burgers were just as good as they looked, if not better. I was actually sad as I took my last couple of bites, as I knew it would soon be over. It even crossed my mind to order another one. My husband, being the only non-vegan on our family, was very impressed with his burger. He is very hard to please at restaurants when we order something vegan, but this sold him. It was decided then and there that we would be back any time we were in that direction. Even if we were driving to Tennessee in the future, we would be stopped by this magnificent restaurant for a bite to eat.

Our very satisfying meal did not stop there. They have a dessert menu.

My husband looked at the menu for two seconds, saw the words "peanut butter", and placed his order. What he ordered was called Kitty Kat Cake, which consists of layers of wafers, caramel, and chocolate with chocolate and peanut butter mousse.

"Kitty Kat Cake" ($5.00)

You'll have to excuse my child's fingers in the background, as he was ready to grab his first taste.

I opted for an Old Fashioned Layer Cake, which the flavors change from day-to-day. On this particular day, they were serving a layer cake with raspberry filling and vegan cream cheese frosting.

Old Fashioned Layer Cake with raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting ($5.00)

I really took this picture at the wrong angle, but you get the idea. Doesn't that look tasty?

We all sampled each others piece of cake (the kid's shared with us). Both were winners for different reasons. My husband is a peanut butter lover and I have a weakness for raspberries. We could not have been happier. Neither could this precious girl.

Bridget enjoying her vegan desserts
 
There's more.
 
BEAN Vegan Cuisine also sells vegan grocery items not normally found at your neighborhood grocery store. They had boxes of Earth Balance mac and cheese, Dandies vegan marshmallows, an assortment of vegan candy bars, vegan meat substitutes, and much, much more. They also sold some "homemade" treats, such as vegan pimento cheese and BEAN Jerky. After we had already purchased a bag full of vegan goodies and loaded up the van to head to the hotel, my husband went back in to purchase their BEAN Jerky. Weird, right? 
 

BEAN Jerky from BEAN Vegan Cuisine
 
Those tender, juicy pieces of jerky are made from soy beans. That's right. Soy beans. And they're really good.
 
I'm not done.
 
A very nice man who had been working in the kitchen came out and spoke with us about all of the vegan treats for sale in their "grocery" section. He selects them and stocks them and does a great deal to promote them. I had asked earlier about an ingredient used in their dishes known as jackfruit. I've seen it in recipes online as a substitute especially for seafood. While I did not order anything with jackfruit, he was happy to answer my questions about it. He even let me take home two cans of jackfruit from his kitchen to try once we got home (I told him how far we had traveled and how difficult it is to find these vegan substitutes at home). He also told me how they come up with these recipes in their restaurant and it did not take me long to realize that he must be an owner. He was also nice enough to share tips with using certain meat substitute-type ingredients, which I really appreciated. Many restaurants (even vegan ones) are very tight-lipped on their ingredients and methods, but he was very open and honest.
 
I was blown away by our entire experience with this restaurant. Oh how I wish they'd build a location closer to our side of the state (the owner did say that they are thinking of possibly expanding next year to the Raleigh area... I certainly hope this happens. It would still be a 90 minute drive, but it'd be worth it!).
 
If I were to ever start a restaurant, this would be how I'd do it, but I don't need to think about that anymore because it has already been done. Successfully. A+++.
 
This review is from a visit made on October 22, 2015. All prices are what they were at the time of our visit.

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