Tag Archives: vegetarian Phoenix

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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New menu at Green and Bragg’s Factory Diner coming soon!

In case any fans of Phoenix’s Green Vegetarian haven’t heard the news yet, proprietor Damon Brasch has made some changes to the menu to start the new year. Gone are the flatbread pizzas, the Green burger, the meatball-oriented items (po-boy and bowl) and maybe a few other things I didn’t order frequently.

However, the additions more than make up for the losses. To start, the Big Wac is on the menu! I was never a fan of the non-vegan version, but Green’s is out of this world. It will be very hard for me to not get the Big Wac every time we go to Green.

I resisted the urge today (having already gotten one earlier in the week), and instead tried the Artichoke Chicken Salad, along with the Mac n Cheez from the kids menu.

Green's vegan artichoke chicken salad and mac n cheez

The blackened mock chicken in the salad was crisp and lightly spiced. I’m not usually one for a creamy dressing, but the light lemon flavor sat well with me.

The Mac n Cheez had a good blend of Daiya and what I assume was a homemade cashew cheese, which made it nice and gooey. I was surprised that there was a touch of garlic in it though, given it was for kids.

My husband’s choice may be a challenger to the Big Wac’s priority status. The new BBBQ Bacon Burger was messy and fabulous.

Green's vegan BBBQ bacon burger

It was the same thin burger patty used in the Big Wac, but it was covered in tangy barbecue sauce, caramelized onions and tempeh bacon. It also comes with oodles of mushrooms. I’ll be opting out of those when I give it a try.

Next on the list for us to try is the Lemon Pesto bowl or maybe the Black Jack Pita. Other news of note is that the Wendy’s Pickle is now officially on the menu instead of being a whisper item. Also new is a Blonde Alfredo bowl, but I’ll have to be talked into that since alfredo sauce has never been a favorite of mine, even in pre-vegan days. (Although oddly enough, the Ritz Carlton made a vegan alfredo for me at an event I was at recently, and it was outstanding.) Additionally, the menu now features “kids” items, such as a nice basic burger, pita-quesadilla and chicken nuggs or digits. I was assured that immature adults can order from it too!

Get in there and have fun trying all the new items!

Thanks to a tweet from @WesleyTech, I also learned that a new vegetarian and vegan restaurant is opening up in the old Bragg’s pie factory on Grand Ave. south of Roosevelt, which will be called Bragg’s Factory Diner. They don’t seem to have a website or menu up yet, but they are actively monitoring their Facebook page and said they will probably open in March. And there will be pie! However, they are so close to my other favorite, Treehouse Bakery, that pie may be less of a priority than vegan Pop Tarts.

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NYPD Pizza Delivers on Its Promise: The Perfect NY-Style Vegan Pizza in Phoenix!

When I moved to Phoenix 15 years ago, my ability to successfully adjust to living in this town hinged on one important thing: the need to find decent NY-style pizza. I tried many “local favorites” and determined they were all inedible. Finally, two recommendations from friends rang true: Ray’s and NYPD Pizza. Both were at least 30 minutes from where I lived at the time, but I was raised in an Italian family that regularly traveled vast distances for “good pie.” But as both restaurants expanded their footprints, I was becoming a vegan. And so, my search for the perfect NY-style pizza was rendered pointless. Or so I thought!

In July, a co-worker told me that NYPD Pizza had posted a question on its Facebook page, asking for name suggestions for their new vegan pizza, which would be made with Daiya cheese. I of course freaked out with anticipation. They said they would have it in stock in August. Despite my constant stalking and hounding of their Twitter feed and Facebook page, and calling the restaurant, no vegan pizza appeared on the menu. Finally, I gave up and stopped checking. I wrote it off as a promise unfulfilled. Until last Friday.

I was trying to decide where to have dinner on Friday night, and checking to see if Green had posted any new specials on its Facebook page. The answer was “no,” but something made me think, “I should check NYPD’s page.” To my surprise, they had announced “the Veganizza” the week before, while I was out of town!

I went to the NYPD website to get the specifics, and saw the “Gluten-Free/Vegan” menu option and became even more excited. Just be sure, I called my nearest restaurant to confirm they actually had Daiya in stock. All systems were go!

While the Veganizza wasn’t actually listed on the menu in the restaurant yet, I didn’t panic. The waiter didn’t blink when I said “16-inch Veganizza please!” But he did come back to the table once he put our order in to say, “It will be about 25 – 30 minutes,” which makes us think we got their first one…

It was worth the wait! In my eagerness to get my hands of my first slice of Veganizza, I forgot to get a picture in its pristine state.

NYPD Veganizza

The Veganizza comes default with Daiya, Roma tomatoes, fresh spinach, basil and garlic. While it lacks the fake meat found on zpizza’s Berkeley Vegan, it makes up for it with excellent flavor and the perfect NY-style crust (defined as: very thin, but firm enough to fold).

NYPD Veganizza slice

The proportions were perfect (just enough cheese and sauce) and the basil and spinach were a great combo. My only recommendations are that they should make sure the cheese goes all the way to the edge (which is always a complaint of mine with pizza – never leave a cheese gap)! And they need to cook it just a little bit more, but this seems to be an issue with restaurants that are new to cooking with Daiya – they just don’t trust the cheese! It’s okay though, because we had enough left over to cook it a little longer at home the next day. Next day pizza can’t be beat!

NYPD veganizza twice cooked

The best part is, there’s an NYPD three blocks away from my office, so the phrases “Who wants pizza for lunch?” and “Hey honey, you worked late, how about I just pick up a pizza on my way home?” have re-entered my life! However, I think “I’m going to ride the exercise bike for awhile” may need to be uttered more frequently now as well!

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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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Great Beer, Plus Vegan Food Options: Angels Trumpet Ale House Is Divine

Angels Trumpet Ale House has only been open for a little over a week, but we’ve already been there twice. Our first visit was a quick pop-in to wash down a spicy dinner at neighboring Tediberto’s with a craft beer. However, the sight of vegan food options on the menu compelled us to go back for a full dining experience. I have a feeling we may become “regulars” at this place!

Since moving to town 15 years ago, I’ve trying to find a place that felt like “Phoenix” to me. Not Scottsdale, not Tempe — both of which have their own vibes — but Phoenix. For some reason, Angels Trumpet seems to tap into what makes Phoenix “Phoenix.” Look around the room and you’ll see the whole range of demographics and cultures that represent the melting pot that makes this town so unique.

Angels Trumpet bar with 31 beer taps

I guess what brings a wide variety of Phoenicians together is a love of great beer!

Angels Trumpet beer

I’m not a beer expert, but if I visit Angels Trumpet enough I could become one! Check their Facebook page for regular “on tap” updates. My fondest hope is that they are able to get Old Bisbee Brewing Company‘s Belgian Whitbier on tap.

While I wouldn’t call Angels Trumpet a “destination dining” choice for vegans, there are several menu items we herbivores can pick from. The specials for the day offered a vegan salad and a black bean hummus “Sammy” that was easily made vegan (the waitress checked with the kitchen to make sure for us).

Angels Trumpet vegan black bean hummus Sammy special

The flat bread was chewy and flavorful, and the black bean hummus and grilled veggies were as expected. Oddly enough, the herb-seasoned fries got better as they cooled off.

The Garden Pizza on the menu is straight-up vegan.

Angels Trumpet vegan garden pizza

Again, it’s not gourmet dining, but as vegan bar food, it hits the spot. I liked the sauce, and the crust was light and thin. The combo of veggies was odd (potatoes and string beans?) but worked just fine for me.

We asked the waitress to find out of the Veggieloaf listed on the menu is vegan if served without the cheese. She confirmed it with the chef, so that’s what we’ll try on our next visit. Other options look to be the salads (with no cheese) and the Nutter Sammy (with no marshmallow fluff). There may be other items that could be vegan-ized as well, but I had reached the limit of how many “can it be made vegan?” questions I wanted to ask above the roar of the crowd!

I have to give high credit to the wait staff. Although the place was packed on both visits, the service was fast and friendly. The parking seems to be their weakest link. We had to circle the area a few times to find a spot on Friday night. I’m sure FilmBar appreciates having company on the street though! 2nd St. and Roosevelt is now the place to be!

Also, I do have to say “I called it.” The menu features seasonal pop tarts for dessert. The pop tart IS the new cup cake! Unfortunately, they don’t look to be vegan… but maybe without the glaze? I’ll ask next visit!

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Sensational SoChu House: a vegan-friendly hot spot near downtown Phoenix

We’ve been fans of chef Johnny Chu since the first time we ate at Fate years ago. We loved the Asian tapas at Sens too, but missed the variety of vegan entrées available on the Fate menu. With the opening of SoChu House, we get the best of both worlds – and then some.

For starters, the parking is the best of all three locations. That may sound trivial but I just don’t travel with $3 worth of quarters on me usually. Also, the restaurant is in a larger space that still has a hip look and feel, but is much less cramped.

Chu’s flair for creating intensely flavorful sauces is still in full force on the SoChu menu. Previous favorites such as the red curry with tofu remain, but he’s added some new items and made slight changes to some dishes.

We always enjoyed the wide variety of fried tofu tapas on the Sens menu, but had a hard time picking one dipping sauce over another. The new SoChu Tofu tapas dish comes with two spicy sauces — pineapple ginger and sesame — so we no longer have to choose.

SoChu Tofu

Both dipping sauces are “I will save it to put on my rice later ” good. The pineapple ginger sauce is available on other items, but the sesame sauce is unique to this dish and not to be missed.

Our waitress told us all of the entrées can be made vegan with tofu, and Johnny stopped by to point out other vegetarian options on the menu as well. For the entrees, we tried a previous favorite plus an item that was new to us.

House Dynamite with tofu has been one of our default choices since the days of Fate.

SoChu House Dynamite with tofu

The flavor of the sauce continues to be terrific. It’s spicy with a hint of sweet. However, the kitchen may not be quite dialed-in yet at SoChu House. It was not as delicate as it used to be in terms of the subtlety of the flavor, variety of the vegetable mix and quality of tofu preparation (the breading was a touch soggy).

The Spicy Basil entrée with tofu may look similar to House Dynamite, but the flavor was distinctly different.

SoChu Spicy Basil Tofu

I thought it was spicier, and had a more robust, less sweet, sauce. The basil was strong but not overwhelming. Spicy Basil Tofu is also available in the tapas area of the menu, but might be a dipping sauce rather than with vegetables.

For those of you who have loved dining at Fate and Sens over the years – don’t worry, you’re still in safe hands! You can continue to enjoy most of the old favorites, but also try something new. I have my eye on the new Pepper Mint and Chili Citrus entrées, so we will have to head back soon. Or maybe instead we’ll try to get out to Chandler to try Chu’s Tien Wong Hot Pot or to The Mint in Scottsdale, but the Mint doesn’t look quite as vegan-friendly based on the online menu.

Oh and I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the adorable key chains they gave us with the check.

SoChu House key chain frontSoChu House Key chain back

Too cute! I’m guessing they were left over from the grand opening?


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Gourmet Vegan Dining in Phoenix? Christopher’s Says Yes We Can!


Several years ago, a co-worker in DC treated me to an amazing vegan tasting menu with wine pairings at the Mandarin Oriental. I’ve dreamed of replicating the experience in Phoenix, and thought my husband’s birthday was a good excuse to try to make it happen. I developed a list of top 10 gourmet restaurants in Phoenix that do tasting menus with the intent to call each one and ask if they could do a vegan meal until I got a “yes.” Lucky for me, the first one on the list, Christopher’s, put me on hold for a minute and came back with the magic words: “Chef Christopher said yes, we can do that!” I knew we were in safe hands because I said, “I wanted to do something a little more special than Green for his birthday” and the person on the phone said “I love Green!”

Christopher’s regular menu doesn’t hold much interest for vegans. But I had been to the chef’s previous venue, Christopher’s Fermier, before turning vegan and knew it was top notch. We were seated in a “semi-private” glassed-off room in the center of the restaurant. It’s a great spot to see everything, while still being able to have a conversation. I’ll admit I was very nervous about what we’d be served since I’m such a fussy eater and am not comfortable giving control over my choices to someone who doesn’t know me. All I asked up front was “no mushrooms please.” Before we started, the waiter told us the chef had been to two different stores to find the meal’s ingredients and had labored over it all day. He previewed the menu with us and it all sounded excellent!

Below is a description of all six courses. It was the most creative and unique vegan meal I’ve ever had. It didn’t have the self confidence of a Millennium meal, but it was inspired and aspirational. The tastes varied from strong to subtle, and the portions were ideal. I didn’t take pictures of the meal, but I did try to take good notes. Of course, after the third round of food and drink, the notes bcame illegible. The wines may be off a bit, but I tried to capture them accurately.

Before the meal we were treated to delicious fresh bread with olive oil. I kept saying to myself, “don’t fill up on bread” but it was too good.

Course one: Tomato tea paired with sparkling wine from Wrigley Mansion

When the waiter said “tomato tea” I had to ask him to say it again. This was essentially the “soup” course, but it was unlike any soup I’ve ever had. At its base was a chilled tomato puree garnished with basil chiffonade. The tea was then poured over the top. It created a very thin tomato broth with a hint of lemon juice. This may have been our favorite single dish. It was light, healthy and unique. The wine was a keeper as well, as in “no, don’t take that one” when they brought the next course and wine pairing.

Course two: Coriander infused heritage carrots with saffron jus paired with Chockstone Riesling Victoria

This was also a nice light dish but surprisingly full of flavor. The baby carrots (two orange, two yellow, two purple) were peeled and just barely exposed to heat; they retained their full texture. In fact, they were firmer than I would have liked, if only because the oomph required to cut them threatened to splash the jus on our clothes. Unfortunately, the bread plate didn’t get refilled in time, so we were unable to soak up the marvelous coriander and saffron broth.

Course three: Freekeh with grilled asparagus, chive and tomato sauce paired with Montes Sauvignon Blanc

This was the best pairing of the night. The wine had an apple fragrance, which became more pronounced as it warmed to room temperature. We had never had Freekeh before, which is a wheat grain picked while still green and roasted. It was very firm, similar in texture to buckwheat, but without the overpowering flavor.  It was gently placed on top of the tomato sauce, which was not ambitious but very complementary to the grain. The savory dish brought out the elusive sweet notes in the otherwise very dry wine. The asparagus was very small, almost a garnish. It was the most filling of the dishes.

Course four: Ratatouille with tofu and bell pepper coulee paired with Vina Cousino Macul Finis Terrae Red Wine Maipo Valley

This was probably the least creative of the dishes. We are not big fans of ratatouille, since it’s pretty much a full-on nightshade-a-thon. But it complimented the tofu, which was lightly cooked, unseasoned and bore the pronounced grill-marks of being cooked over an open fire, very nicely. It was also another great wine pairing, now switched to red.

Course five: Red and yellow beet garbanzo bean ravioli stuffed w/tofu and topped with truffle oil paired with Marc Bredif Chinon

This was the dish that made us say “Is it really vegan?” Clearly extra effort was put in here to create vegan ravioli for us. The ravioli rested on a bright beet infusion and the tofu filling mimicked ricotta. The ravioli dough was somewhat chalky and inelastic, but very flavorful. This was a great finish to the main meal!

Course six: Mango and lemon sorbet with raspberries paired with desert wine (I didn’t catch the name)

A pleasent pairing to finish the night. The sweetness of the sorbet brought out the strong alcohol flavor of the dessert wine, giving the night a nice send-off. Elements at the Sanctuary does sorbet better, however.

The evening itself was a very special experience; probably the only way a vegan can have the full Christopher’s gourmet experience. You need to come prepared with sense of adventure, since you never know what they will serve. So if, like me, you cannot stand certain foods, you’d better tell them in advance. The dishes were all excellently prepared, and well crafted. However, you could still tell that they were out of their wheelhouse with vegan cuisine. You can’t expect Christopher’s to compete with a core vegan gourmet experience like at San Francisco’s Millennium, but when you add in the cost for flights and a hotel, it is a good compromise.

In summary, I’d like to say a big Thank You to Christopher’s for taking a chance, being accommodating and creating a unique celebration that could hardly be topped.


Filed under Obsessions, vegan food, vegan Phoenix