Tag Archives: Scottsdale vegan food

Bragging time for Bragg’s Factory Diner

Vegetarians and vegans in Phoenix have another great option for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bragg’s Factor Diner has taken root in the old Bragg’s Pie Factory on Grand Avenue and is cooking up healthy food with a unique twist.

Bragg's Factory Diner

I’ve visited Bragg’s three times (twice for breakfast, once for lunch), because I wanted to get a good sense of different menu items. The restaurant is small, but cute, with lots of light. It’s in a classic restored Phoenix building, and the decor of the restaurant also leans toward vintage. The walls are ornamented with photos of “old Phoenix” and  the tables and chairs are great flashbacks.

Bragg's Factory Diner

The menu is fairly limited, but they are adding new items on a regular basis and often offer daily specials. However, I would like it if they would be more blatantly clear about what is vegan vs. vegetarian on the menu. I’ve been spoiled by Green and forgot that sometimes seeing the word “cheese” on a menu does actually mean cheese!

Bragg's Factory Diner menu

My first trip to Bragg’s was during their first week of business. I ordered the Early Birdrito, which was supposed to be a tofu scramble with soyrizo and veggies in a tortilla, but they had run out of tortillas already so it was served on bread. I liked the flavor of the scramble, but it wouldn’t be fair to post a picture of it since it looked a bit sad on bread. I chose hash browns for the side. I liked how thin they were, but made note to order them “extra well done” next time.

My husband loved his order of The Classic, made with tofu, spinach, tomato and pesto.

The Classic at Bragg's

It hit the spot perfectly for him. The rosemary potatoes were well-seasoned but also could have been cooked a bit more. I’m a fan of tofu scrambles with pesto in general, so I hope to try it on a future trip too!

We also sampled a chocolate covered donut.

Bragg's vegan donut

The chocolate frosting was thin (more like a chocolate sauce), and the cake donut was a bit dense, but it had sprinkles so that makes up for the lack of fluffiness all around.

However, my favorite part of the meal was the coffee! I’ve always been a fan of classic diner-style coffee – strong, cheap and bottomless!

Bragg's coffee

Maybe I spent too much time in old Florida and up-state NY diners, but Bragg’s coffee just seemed right!

The second trip was for lunch, since I was very curious about the Beet on the Brat Burger.

Bragg's vegan Beet on the Brat burger

I liked it and would order it again. It had a light beet flavor, and the corn relish provided a nice contrast. It could use a touch of vegan pesto to zest it up a bit though.

My husband ordered the Secret Wonder Bat, but forgot to ask them to leave off the Swiss cheese, so I won’t post a photo of that either (he removed it once we realized the mistake). He liked the combination of the tartness of the mushrooms mixed with the sauer-apple-kraut and Thousand Island dressing.

Visit number three was a chance for us to try the Bwiscuits & Gravy.

Bragg's vegan bwiscuits and gravy

These are not light and fluffy southern-style biscuits. They are corn biscuits, and were very dense. They probably could be half the height and still make a hearty meal. The poblano gravy was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, but it was tasty! And the hash browns were cooked to a perfect crisp this time!

Our real motivation for this trip though was a special they had on their Facebook page — almond & strawberry shortcake with coconut whipped cream!

Bragg's vegan strawberry shortcake

It was awesome! The shortcake was light and full of flavor, and the coconut whipped cream blew me away. I wanted five more orders! I hope they put it on the menu eventually!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the best aspects of the restaurant: the service.

On each visit, we were greeted warmly, and promptly served. Even when they got busy, they stayed on top of orders and didn’t seem panicked. And I never saw the bottom of my coffee cup. That’s a great achievement for a new restaurant.

We’re adding Bragg’s to our regular restaurant circuit and are glad they are open for dinner now too! Another benefit of frequent visits is that Bragg’s is close to my favorite bakery, Treehouse, so be sure to stop by there to grab a treat for later in the day!

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Nourish Goes Totally Gluten-Free, Plus Adds Vegan Tacos!

Scottsdale’s Nourish has taken its commitment to “freaks at the table” (including vegans, raw, gluten-free, soy-free and paleo foodies) to the next level. A new menu, launched at the beginning of September, is entirely gluten- and soy-free, and offers some new and tasty options for vegans.

Sadly, their chickpea-based hummus that I raved about previously appears to be gone. However, the addition of raw nut tacos more than makes up for it.

Nourish vegan nut tacos

The nut “meat” was perfectly textured, and when combined with their Southwest sauce and pico de gallo, the flavor was delightfully spicy. You can also get veggie tacos instead of the nut meat.

I had the Squash Spanish Rice as a side, which the waiter warned me “wasn’t actually rice.”

Nourish vegan Spanish squash "rice"

Instead it was finely chopped raw squash, heavily seasoned with garlic, green onions and seasonings. Some of the other sides – which are mostly all vegan – are on my must-try-soon list, including the black bean hummus and veggie pasta.

Nourish has also added wraps to the menu. Basically anything on their main menu can now be served as a wrap, a gluten-free sandwich, or a salad. The brown rice tortilla I had with my tacos was really good, so I’ll be heading back for a wrap soon too.

However, before ordering dinner, I was already contemplating dessert because Nourish now has several vegan desserts! While the raw lemon bars and Dutch apple crumble were tempting, there was no way I could pass up a piece of vegan chocolate torte. And now that I’ve tried it, I doubt the other items will ever get a tasting.

Nourish vegan chocolate torte

The torte had a firm chocolate top and a rich, creamy and dense filling that wasn’t overly rich. It sat upon a thin chocolate crust that added just the right level of crunch. It was seriously hard to not say “just add another one of these to my check, to go.”

Instead, I had them add the Nourish cookbook to the bill.

Nourish cookbook

While not entirely vegan, it does include the recipe for the hummus that I miss, so now I can make it at home!

If you haven’t tried Nourish yet, you might want to go on “date night” – Wednesdays from 4:00 p.m. – close when you can get a starter, two entrees, dessert AND a bottle of wine for $40! What a great way to try the new menu with a friend. I don’t know that I could or should down half a bottle of wine on a work night though! You can also check out the Nourish blog for recipes and tips for people with food sensitivities: http://nourish123.com/blog/

Note: Photos courtesy of Nourish, because I didn’t bring my camera since I didn’t know I’d be so excited about the new menu that I’d have to write about the restaurant again!

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Fresh Mint: Vegan Vietnamese in North Scottsdale

One of our favorite vegetarian restaurants in the greater Phoenix area is Fresh Mint. It’s on the north-west corner of Scottsdale Rd. and Thunderbird, tucked away in a half-empty strip mall.

Fresh Mint Vegetarian Restaurant

I think they may suffer from not being close enough to ASU to attract the younger crowd like at Green. However, I believe they’ve managed to stay in business throughout the recession based on the quality of their food, the interesting menu and the always excellent service.

Fresh Mint is on our “high rotation” list, which means we usually make it there about once a month. The owners are from Hawaii, but most of the menu leans toward Vietnamese, Chinese or Thai flavors. Almost everything on the menu is vegan (except the Fried Imperial Rolls, the Imperial Roll Noodles and I’m not sure about some of the desserts). They use a lot of mock meats and tofu, and some of the sauces can be a bit salty so I wouldn’t say they’re a “uber-health-conscious” restaurant, but most of the items are fairly light and not greasy. They also don’t seem to do “hot” – even the curries are very mellow.

On our first visit, we grabbed a to-go menu and started marking each item we tried with a one to five rating. The menu has so much to offer we wanted to keep track of what was best. We haven’t tried everything on the menu yet but we’ve zeroed in on a handful of “fives.” These are the Lemongrass Soy Beef Delight, Golden Soy Chicken Delight, the Fresh Lemongrass Tofu, the Sesame Soybean, the Spicy Ginger Soy Beef and the Vegetable Chow Mein. And be sure to save room for the Banana Fritter — it’s a “five,” and definitely vegan!

During our most recent trip, we revisited a few of our favorites. Fresh Mint’s appetizers are mostly a variety of different rolls. Two we had most recently are the Fresh Summer Rolls:

Fresh Mint Summer Rolls

And the Fresh Cucumber Rolls:

Fresh Mint Cucumber Rolls

I normally get one or the other of these because I like their peanut sauce. While some restaurants’ peanut sauces can be spicy, Fresh Mint’s is pretty mellow — it’s thick and slightly sweet. Out of the two, I’d recommend the Cucumber Rolls because they are very unique compared to what you can get at other Asian restaurants.

We also had a couple of our favorite entrees – both “fives.” The Fresh Lemongrass Tofu is a totally unique dish.

Fresh Mint Lemongrass Tofu

They roll tofu and seaweed together with spices to create crunchy, slightly flaky bite-sized nuggets that are covered in a great sesame ginger sauce. I’ve never had anything like it anywhere else. The only downside is that sometimes the sauce can be a little salty.

One of my other favorites is the Vegetable Chow Mein.

Fresh Mint Vegetable Chow Mein

Chow Mein isn’t something I’d normally order on a menu – it sounds so generic and reminds me of when my parents would make Chung King Chinese food from a can. However, since we were making our way through the menu I had to try it and now I’m stuck on it. Fresh Mint’s house brown sauce is very mellow, but delicious. Typically my husband takes whatever he ordered and dips it in my Chow Mein sauce. I also love the crispy noodles when they get just a little bit soggy. Like the Fresh Lemongrass Tofu, it’s very unique. It’s also beautifully served!

Although I don’t have a picture of it, I’d also say that you must try the Golden Soy Chicken Delight. They combine ginger and lemongrass to make what they call a “master flavor” and I don’t disagree – it’s masterful! It’s so popular that sometimes they run out of it!

For dessert, beyond the Banana Fritters, the Mango Coconut Tapioca and the Plantain with Coconut Sauce are also vegan. But the Banana Fritters are just too good to have anything else. Unfortunately we were too stuffed to have them on our last visit.

As I mentioned earlier, the service at Fresh Mint is always impeccable. The restaurant is family owned and run. The husband and owner (I think his name is Michael) typically greets and serves all customers, while his co-owner, wife and executive chef Mai Ly prepares the meals to order. He’s always incredibly friendly but not intrusive, and doesn’t act “too familiar” with regular customers but acknowledges repeat customers with little gifts like Fresh Mint pens and stuffed animals from Hawaii. How could you not love that? I know they’re trying to franchise the restaurant, but I think they need a little help with marketing, like, how about a Twitter feed or Facebook page? I’d also love to see them start offering specials as I have no doubt Mai Ly could come up with some knock-outs using seasonal ingredients.

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The Parlor Pizzeria: The Crust Is So Good You Won’t Miss the Cheese

When I first moved to Phoenix 14 years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to have my hair professionally styled before an important job interview. I didn’t have a relationship with a salon yet, so I picked Salon de Venus on Camelback Rd. and 20th St. mainly because I liked the  60s “modern” look of the building. Well, I got the job, but around the same time a friend graduated from cosmetology school so I didn’t continue to frequent the salon. It eventually went out of business, and I worried about what would happen to that cool building.

Much to my delight, we started seeing renovation activity at the location about two years ago. Mysterious signs went up, and eventually we discovered that a pizza parlor was opening up.

The Parlor Pizzeria

What thrilled us even more was to discover that it wasn’t just any pizza place – The Parlor Pizzeria is a high-quality but moderately priced restaurant with fresh ingredients and delicious wood-fired pizza. The first time we went there it was because we couldn’t handle the three-hour wait at Pizzeria Bianco (which also makes an awesome cheese-less pizza). They kept the beauty parlor theme of the location too – including reusing the salon chairs!

Inside The Parlor Pizzeria

There are plenty of reviews online about how great the place is, so I’ll just focus on what I’ve found on the menu that’s vegan.

To start, order the Parlor Insalata but without the salami and feta.

The Parlor Insalata

It’s a pretty straight-forward salad but the dressing is light and flavorful, and the crispy chickpeas are a unique touch.

I also love their French fries – they are some of the best in the valley – but they come by default with a parmesan cheese coating. You can order them with “no cheese” without a problem though.

The Parlor fries

There are a handful of other appetizers that are possibly vegan without the cheese – but these are my standards.

One of the best features of The Parlor is the “build your own” pizza option. For vegans, the process is to cross through the protein and cheese options and write “no cheese” instead. And then, critically, ask for the marinara sauce instead of the pizza sauce, because the pizza sauce has cheese in it. From there you can select all sorts of fresh veggies and herbs. We normally have it with onions and bell peppers, and sometimes vine-ripe tomatoes.

The Parlor vegan pizza

The pizza dough is soft and thin, with just the right amount of slightly burnt crust bubbles. It’s perfect. The sauce is clearly fresh-made and delicious. They grow some of their own herbs and veggies out front, but I believe most everything is local and/or organic.

The whole meal usually costs us under $25 for two people, and although it isn’t Pizzeria Bianco, it’s darn close.

For more information on how The Parlor recycled the building, these two articles are great:

Phoenix New Times: The Parlor Pizzeria: Behind the Design with Aric Mei

Modern Phoenix: One Final Makeover For The Salon de Venus

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Vegan with a View: Elements at the Sanctuary

To celebrate the holidays, my co-workers and I decided to go to Elements at The Sanctuary resort on Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley for a change of pace from our usual quick take-out run to Baja Fresh. It’s definitely a “special occasions” or “date night” kind of place, especially if you’re dining with omnivores and want a good vegan meal for yourself as well.

Because it’s a health-focused resort, I can actually order vegan food from the menu at Elements rather than having to ask the chef to make something for me like I do at most high-end restaurants that I’ve frequented for work events. Nine out of teb times that “something” ends up being a plate of roasted or steamed vegetables for the price of a steak.

To start with, the view at Elements is just gorgeous.

Elements view

If you go for dinner, try to be there for sunset and get a table by a window. I’ve never stayed at the resort but apparently it’s one of the finest in Phoenix. The grounds are gorgeous, with buildings tucked into the landscape. It makes you forget you’re in the middle of one of the largest cities in the U.S.

Since I was with my team, we were able to share a couple of appetizers that I believe were vegan. They have a daily chef’s hummus, and for our visit it was garlic hummus.

Elements chef's hummus

I’ll admit I was a touch nervous because I don’t like my hummus to be overwhelmed with garlic, but this was scrap-the plate-clean perfect. We liked it so much that we used the amazing bread they served to scoop it up when we ran out of pita.

Elements bread

We also ordered the tempura vegetables.

Elements tempura vegetables

Two of the dipping sauces were not vegan, but the soy ginger sauce in the middle was, and it was great. The breading on the veggies was fairly thick – a bit more than I’m used to – but not overly greasy. I did not ask specifically if it was vegan though.

For my entrée, I ordered a barbeque tofu bento box, which included miso soup as well. Of course by this point in time I was already stuffed, so I appreciated that it was fairly light.

The soup was basic, but rich in flavor, without being too mushroomy.

Elements vegan miso soup

I did confirm that the soup was vegan — no random fish stock or shrimp flakes in it.

The bento box came with a big chuck of grilled tofu with a light barbeque sauce, plus brown rice, steamed vegetables & a pickled cucumber salad.

Elements vegan tofu bento box

I understand the aesthetic value of serving a big block of tofu, but I’d prefer smaller pieces that are cooked through a bit more, and covered in more sauce to give the dish greater flavor. The veggies and rice were fine, but they really needed to be dipped in the sauce served with the box to bring them to life.

Despite feeling like an over-stuffed Christmas stocking, I ordered a “light” desert of one scoop of sorbet. But, the waiter decided I should have a chance to try all three of their flavors. I could only handle a bite or two of each.

Elements sorbet

They were lemon, raspberry and mango. The mango sorbet got most votes from around the table. It was heavenly.

While we really enjoyed the location, plus the quality and presentation of the food, the service was a bit lacking given the foo-foo-ness (and expense) of the restaurant. It wasn’t very crowded, but the service was pretty slow, and just not quite “on it” with requests. Overall, if you’re looking for a high-end place to go to in Phoenix that speaks “vegan,” Elements is a good choice, but it’s not a place I’ll put in my regular eating-out rotation. It’s also worth going to just to enjoy the scenery from the bar if you’re not up for a full meal.

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Kokopelli Mexican Grill: Fresh Vegan Burritos in North Scottsdale

Update: I’m even more sad to say, the Scottsdale location didn’t make it either. They’re closed! I hope they open up somewhere in Central Phoenix again, but with Cafe Rio now on Camelback & 20th, I doubt it will be near me.

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One of my saddest food days this year was when I learned that Kokopelli Mexican Grill closed its Camelback and 20th St. location in the Biltmore area of Phoenix. My co-workers and I visited this locally owned counter-serve restaurant at least once a week to grab a quick and healthy lunch. Nearby Baja Fresh, Chipotle or even That’s a Wrap can’t replace Kokopelli for me. My loss is my husband’s gain however, as the restaurant relocated close to one of his workplaces in North Scottsdale, at 14747 N Northsight Blvd. in the Northsight Crossing Center. But for me, it’s now a Saturday-only option and I’ve only made it there once since they moved.

Kokopelli Mexican Grill

Kokopelli provides fresh ingredients and fast, no-hassle service, which was perfect for my busy workday. Plus, the menu offers multiple items that can be made vegan if you leave out the cheese and sour cream. I always stuck with the vegetarian burrito though.

Navigating Kokopelli’s burrito assembly line was a ritual for me. “Vegetarian burrito, whole wheat, black beans, add lettuce, green sauce, no cheese or sour cream, chips and salsa, one hot one mild.” The result was a simple but great vegan meal. While other nearby chains offer similar items, they can’t beat the fresh-made salsas, just-fried chips and slow-cooked beans at Kokopelli.

Kokopelli vegan burrito

Kokopelli vegan burrito contents

When I visited Kokopelli recently, the restaurant was completely dead – we were their only customers. But my husband assures me they get plenty of weekday lunch traffic. Maybe they’ll do well enough in their new location to open a second one in the Biltmore area again someday!

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I Might Be Addicted: Sprinkles Vegan Cupcakes

vegan cupcakes

We had a nice lunch at Green today (I’ll post on that in detail soon) but instead of getting a soynami, we fed my addiction for Sprinkles’ vegan red velvet cupcakes. In case you haven’t run out to try one yet, here’s a picture of two to tempt you:

Sprinkles Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes

I don’t ever want to know how many calories they have in them. Sugar OD!

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