Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vegetarian and Vegan Sandwiches in Little Rock

Ah, the sandwich.  Pillowy ciabatta bread or crusty french loaves, filled with roasted yummy things or crunchy salty things, all seeming to fit together just perfectly.  Arkansas is certainly brimming with the ubiquitous BBQ sandwiches and artisanal burgers, but where does one go for the absolute best vegan or vegetarian sandwich in Little Rock?  They're not always easy to spot for the untrained eye.  And there are certainly spots that just won't have anything at all for you, if you're a veghead--believe me, I've tried in vain to find something to eat at Whole Hog Cafe three or four times, staring at the board, trying to will a BBQ Seitan or Tofu sandwich into being. 

One of my biggest pet peeves as a vegetarian/sometimes vegan is the "veggie" sandwich some places serve, thinking it's actually what we might like.  It usually consists of nothing but raw veggies, usually tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, and raw peppers and onions.  Sometimes with matchstick carrots.  Blech.  That sounds like what I would eat if I were trying to lose five pounds in a hurry.  It also sounds like it should just be a salad.  

A sandwich is only as good as its ingredients.  Generally, a sandwich needs some heft, some fluff, some crunch, and some punch.  Though I have by no means tasted every vegetarian sandwich in Little Rock, here are some of my favorites this month:

The roasted veggie gyro at Taziki's!  It's fairly new to their menu, and can easily be made vegan by taking off the feta cheese and the aoili, and subbing their yummy hummus--I sometimes get it that way.  It's pita bread, filled with roasted squash, zucchini, and red peppers, with caramelized red onions, tomatoes,  feta cheese, and pesto aioli.  When I'm feeling the need for extra lusciousness, I ask for tzatziki sauce on the side. Yummers.  Don't confuse this with their village veggie gyro--it's mostly raw veggies and is mediocre at best.

Another decadent favorite is the egg salad sandwich at the Root, followed closely by the egg salad sandwich at Apple Spice Junction. What makes the Root's version so good is the delicious, soft bun and the just terrific flavor of the salad.  It's a winner.  They also have a great tofu Bahn Mi, but I'm not a huge Sriracha fan.  Their Shitake mushroom sandwich is also fab.  Basically, the Root is probably the #1 place for variety in veghead sandwiches in Little Rock.  I often have them make me a Shitake Reuben by adding their house-made sauerkraut and pickles, swiss cheese, and mustard to the shitake burger.  It's not on the menu, but they will make it!

ASJ's version of egg salad is good, too, if a bit more in the "packed lunch" camp.  What I like about it is the sliced avocado and swiss cheese they add.  I usually ask for it with tomatoes as well.  Neither of these sandwiches would win any dietary awards, but sometimes you just need to indulge. Picture of the Root sandwich below courtesy of Foodspotter Dianne Hocut.

Boulevard Bread's Vegan Hummus Sandwich is next in the line-up.  They do the raw veggie, healthy sandwich right, with their house-made hummus and kalamata olive-peppadew spread the flavorful stars of the show.  Served on whole grain bread, with organic field greens, tomato, avocado, and onions, it's a winner.  I don't care for raw onions, so I usually nix them and add cucumbers.  Served with a fruit or a couple of their dolmas on the side, this is a healthy vegan delight!

Possibly my favorite sandwich is the Curried Falafel and Lentil burger at Big Orange.  It's so unlike a burger that I'm just gonna call it and say it's not one.  What this sandwich is=delicious.  The patty is perfect--highly flavored, firm but tender--eggs are in the patty mix, so it can't be made vegan, sadly.  It's accompanied by cucumber, avocado, tomato, cilantro, tzatziki sauce, and sriracha.  I don't like spicy things too much, so I ask for it without the sriracha.  This sandwich gets it right--just the right amount of heft, fluff, crunch, and punch.  Another bonus is that all their starters and sides are vegetarian and many are vegan.  

Friends tell me the vegetarian options at Community Bakery are also lovely, but I have to admit I have been underwhelmed with them the two times I've been.  Maybe I should try again.  The Avocado Melt sounds promising.  Of course, there's always the "famous" veggie sandwich at Jimmy's Serious Sandwiches, but it's not a favorite of mine.  Needs more crunch and more punch.  And there are some national chains like Panera that do good jobs with veg sandwiches, but I'm trying to stick to local or at least regional restaurants for the most part.  

So, what have I left out??  What else should I try?