Vegan Options at GRIP Mediterranean Grill + Beirut Cafe

I love Mediterranean food because it includes a great variety of vegan dishes. My favorite Mediterranean place is Beirut Cafe, down the street from UT Arlington. It is a great place for vegans, because all of the vegetarian dishes on the menu are vegan-friendly (except for those that obviously contain dairy, such as cheese pies or the yogurt dipping sauce). When I go with friends, we often like to share the vegetarian mezzeh, which has an amazing number of dishes to choose from. I am obsessed with the spinach pies (as pictured below).

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As a Beirut Cafe regular, I have been very curious to see how College Park’s new GRIP location compares to my favorite hummus and falafel joint. About a week ago, I finally got the chance to go check out GRIP’s vegan options.

Update (10/8/13): GRIP’s vegan items are now clearly indicated with a “V”. For those sensitive to gluten, gluten-free items are clearly marked “GF”. I LOVE them for this–it makes things so much easier! 

Unfortunately, GRIP’s vegan offerings were not as abundant as I would have guessed, but they had a decent amount. The first thing I found out was that both their hummus and baba ganoush contain dairy. I was both saddened and surprised. From my personal experience, these dishes are usually vegan by default, because their creaminess comes from the use of tahini. I really appreciated the staff informing me, because I never would have guessed it. I’ll just stick to getting my hummus and baba ganoush fix at Beirut Cafe.

Falafel!

The falafel wrap is the only vegan entree, but it’s pretty excellent! For those of you who have not tried it, falafel is a deep-fried patty made with chickpeas and/or fava beans. Beirut’s falafel wrap is similar, as both places use tabouli and tahini, but GRIP’s wrap is different, with its inclusion of mint and pickled turnips. In trying their wrap, I especially enjoyed the addition of fresh mint leaves. GRIP’s falafel is crunchy on the outside, with a soft, savory interior. Beirut’s falafel is well-flavored, but sometimes it’s a little too crunchy for me.

Besides falafel, GRIP’s menu also has fries, fried cauliflower (comes with tahini for dipping), pita chips, tabouli and dolmas. Tabouli is a colorful salad made with parsley, tomatoes, bulgar, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Dolmas are stuffed grapeleaves that usually contain rice, but they sometimes have ground beef. The dolmas at GRIP are vegan-friendly, but I found that I much prefer Beirut’s veggie dolmas, because I think their rice is better seasoned. GRIP also has a Mediterranean salad that is very filling.

Fried CauliflowerIt’s pretty obvious that Beirut Cafe will always have my heart, as long as they keep up with their vegan variety and continue to carry my favorite spinach pies and fattoush. However, I will still visit GRIP once in a while for their falafel wraps!

If you get the chance to go to GRIP, try the falafel wrap and bring a friend! Their wrap is pretty big, so I split it with my sister. Please let me know your thoughts about GRIP in the comments!

Update, 12/10/13: GRIP’s Arlington location is now closed! Students will have to get their Mediterranean fixes at Beirut Cafe, Prince Lebanese Grill, or Narah Cafe.

Vegans Love Chocolate: Valentine’s Day Tips

In high school, for Valentine’s Day, one of my sister’s admirers got her a box of milk chocolates. While she appreciated the gesture, as a vegan, she had no idea what to do with the chocolates since they had animal products in them. It was definitely a let-down.

Don’t be that guy (or girl). Check out my recommendations below to avoid an awkward situation with your vegan (or lactose-intolerant) valentine. Show them your thoughtful side and let them know that you acknowledge their values.

There are plenty of vegan chocolate options on the market to choose from. I always browse the chocolate section at Whole Foods, even if I don’t need any chocolate, just because it makes me happy to see so much vegan chocolate in one place.

  • Go Max Go Candy Bars: These vegan bars mimic classic candy bars–my favorite is probably the Jokerz bar, which features caramel, peanuts, nougat, and a rice-milk chocolate coating. Other flavors include Cleo’s peanut butter cups and Buccaneers (like Three Musketeers). Available at Whole Foods.
  • Allison’s Gourmet Chocolates: This company specializes in artisan vegan truffles, peppermint patties and chocolate bark. The raspberry blush hearts and artisan vegan caramels look the best to me! Available online.
  • Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates: Sjaak’s isn’t all vegan, but they have some pretty sweet vegan options. Surprise your valentine with the unconventional: chocolate lavender hearts and salted caramels, among other things! Available online.
  • Chocolove: These chocolate bars have adorable wrappers with love poems inside. Not all the flavors are vegan, but many of them are! Just check the ingredients. My favorites from this brand are Almonds & Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate and Raspberries in Dark Chocolate. Available at Whole Foods.

Vegan NutellaI personally appreciate and gravitate towards homemade gifts, so this post would not be complete without a list of homemade chocolate treats any vegan will appreciate.

If you need more ideas, please feel free to check out my other tips from last year.

I know this post was a little chocolate-heavy, and I’m not apologizing for that, but if you are looking for other kinds of treats for your valentine, consider browsing FindingVegan or The Post Punk Kitchen for recipes. There’s also a discussion about vegan baking on the Vegan Club’s Valentine’s Day Bake Sale Facebook event that could be useful.

PSA: This year, Vegan Club and The Environmental Society are teaming up to help you out for Valentine’s Day with our bake/card sale! Come out this Thursday and buy some homemade treats and eco-valentines for your crush.

ECO VALENTINES

Happy planning!

Pie Five Pizza Crust Controversy Resolved!

When Pie Five Pizza opened at College Park last semester, all the crust varieties were vegan–meaning vegan students (and lactose-intolerant students) could order the specialty Treehugger pie, or any custom veggie pizza sans cheese. However, this semester, there has been some discussion that the company has changed their crust recipes to include dairy.

Saddened by the sudden cutoff from my only source of vegan pizza on campus, I immediately contacted the company in hopes of hearing otherwise. They were quite helpful in their response and I was reassured to learn that vegan students can still go to Pie Five for all their pizza needs on campus. Continue reading