We took a short trip out to Charlottesville, Virginia, the other weekend. Charlottesville is looked at as the “Napa Valley” wine country of the East Coast, and is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Rolling green hills, streets and highways surrounded by dense green forest, hiking trails, and of course, the wineries. Not as many as Napa, but enough. Charlottesville is where Thomas Jefferson’s winery and Monticello estate lie, and both are a must-see when coming out here. No vegan or vegetarian restaurants, but when we went last year, we stumbled upon an artisan market called “Salt,” located next to Jefferson winery.
Salt is a small roadside market, selling gourmet sandwiches to other locally made desserts and foods. We were excited to stumble across this place last year, and remembered they had a few veg lunch options. After a visit to Monticello, we sat outside and enjoyed a couple delicious items – the veggie wrap with soy-ginger vinaigrette and local soul with miso-marinated tofu, plum chutney, and kimchi. Don’t be deceived – you’ll see the wrap is packed with lettuce, but all of it is tossed with a soy-ginger vinaigrette before wrapping it in the sandwich. It was very tasty and full of flavor, and also packed with yellow and red bell peppers (which my daughter swiped from me), carrots, and cucumber. And the local soul is always delicious. I was surprised to see that Asian-fusion combination of flavors at a roadside sandwich shop, but very happy to see the creativity in flavors. It just totally worked.
It’s hard to find vegan restaurant options in Charlottesville, but not hard to eat, because our hotel was within walking distance to a Trader Joe’s AND Whole Foods (score!). We had a fridge in the hotel room, so walked to Whole Foods a couple times to get vegan scones for breakfast, bread, avocados (my daughter just loves to eat them plain as a snack), and fruit. Eating vegan with these two stores around is laughably easy. Here are some vegan snack or meal ideas from these grocery stores:
Yogurts made with soy milk, coconut milk, or almond milk
Bread with packets of nut butters
Avocado slices on top of bagel
Lunch and dinner options:
Japanese fried rice (from frozen section at Trader Joe’s – you’ll need a hotel with a microwave)
Hummus and veggie wraps
Vegan soups at Whole Foods (I found 3 vegan options in Charlottesville, and really enjoyed the vegan chili there)
Nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc)
Dried or fresh fruits
Popcorn, veggie chips, etc
Tortilla chips with salsa or Texas caviar (black bean salsa)
Tortilla and hummus
Avocado slices with nuts or dried fruit
Also, it’s easy to sub out the chicken, pork, beef, or shrimp in a lot of ethnic restaurants for tofu instead. We ordered from a Thai restaurant one night, and I had an easy meal of pad see ew with tofu. Eating vegan on vacation doesn’t mean you have to compromise your values or how you usually eat. At higher-end restaurants, I’ve even asked for a vegan entree if it’s not on the menu. Chefs happily oblige, because I tell them they can send me anything, and this allows them to be creative. I remember I ate at Husk in Charleston, SC one time (sadly, no picture), and the head chef whipped me up an AMAZING dinner in a cast-iron skillet, with roasted vegetables, grains, and fried kale, and it was seriously better-looking and more delicious than the other plates. You can totally eat happy and enjoy a really beautiful destination with great grocery stores, a little creativity, and asking questions to find out how you can have other options at great restaurants.
Salt: 1330 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy
Charlottesville, VA 22902