Bean is a 100% vegan restaurant in Charlotte, located near but not in downtown (or uptown as the locals call it). They make homestyle food: think fried chicken, mac and cheese and Carolina BBQ. In addition to being vegan, they use local and organic products when possible. On their website, Bean’s vision twice references embracing a healthy plant-based diet, so this seemed like a good fit for my blog.
The owners (and I believe also the chef), Charlie and Roy, enthusiastically responded to my questions about their menu:
1) What are the most popular dishes on the menu?
- Sandwiches: The Reuben Sandwich and Good Burger
- Dinner plates: The Portabella Bean Bowl, Jackfruit Tacos, Buffalo Finger Platter and Crabbie Patties
- Sides: Tater Tot Casserole and Collard Greens.
- We have a great line up of appetizers (the Queso dip is Ah-mazing!) and desserts too.
2) What are your top recommendations for a non-vegan to order?
- The Jalapeno Cheddar Burger and the Reuben Sandwich.
- If you want to try something exotic or new we suggest Jackfruit Tacos or sandwiches. Jackfruit is a new ingredient a lot of folks haven’t heard of (including me!).
3) What is your favorite item on the menu?
- It’s hard to narrow down our personal favorites…lol. I can tell you we cook the food that we love to eat, and if we don’t love it, we won’t put it on the menu. We are proud of the fact that we bought brand new equipment and pans, so that everything we use has only been used for vegan cooking. We make everything from scratch, even our veggie broth. We bake all of our desserts, break down and prep our tofu for fingers etc. We don’t have a freezer or a microwave. We use organic and non-GMO whenever we can, and we also like old fashioned sesame seed buns for our burgers. If it’s vegan and cruelty free, we’ll cook with it! Even our beer and wine selection is verified and or certified vegan.
Upon arriving at Bean, I would say don’t judge a book by its cover. Located off East Independence Blvd, the view is not why you will be coming to this restaurant. Walking inside, the refrigerator filled with drinks is the first thing I noticed, along with the open window to the kitchen where you can see the chef in action. Once seated in the section along the bar the atmosphere improves. It is clean and dimly lit. Our waitress was very friendly and gave helpful suggestions when asked.
Since it was promised to be ah-mazing, we started with the Queso Dip. The dip has soy chorizo and black beans in it and has a heat that slowly builds as you eat it. It comes with a cup of fresh salsa. Given then we nearly licked the bowl, I would say ah-mazing sums the queso up well :)
At the vegan restaurants I’ve been to, I’m always happiest when there are other people with me – so I can try everything they order too. Bean is the same, as they have many interesting dishes on their menu. Our group of four ordered:
- Country Fried Patties with Mashed Potatoes and gravy. This dish is fried chicken-esque and you don’t miss any butter in the mashed potatoes & gravy. For the second side, we had Mac and Cheeze which was made with nutritional yeast, one of my new favorite seasonings when I cook at home as it’s cheesy flavored and loaded with vitamin B12. It has a different flavor than a traditional mac & cheese but it’s good in its own way.
- Jack Fruit Carnitas Tacos– Young savory Jackfruit seasoned and grilled with onions and peppers on corn tortillas with tomatillo salsa and sour creamy sauce on top with salsa on the side. These tacos have a smoky BBQ flavor.
- BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich – Jackfruit grilled and smothered in BBQ sauce, topped with coleslaw and served on a toasted bun. Jackfruit is something I’d never had before. It has a mild sweetness to it and the BBQ sauce was good. I enjoyed the coleslaw as it was crisp and not creamy (my preference). The bun falls apart easily, so you need a fork to eat this concoction.
- Pulled BBQ Sandwich – Soy Curls basted in spicy Eastern NC BBQ Sauce then smothered with our house BBQ, topped with coleslaw and served on a toasted bun. I had to order this. One of the only things I miss about not eating meat is no longer eating Carolina BBQ. This sandwich, while not perfect, is a decent substitute if you get cravings like mine. Like the Jackfruit version, the coleslaw is crisp and you need a fork to eat the sandwich since the bun falls apart. I got a side of collard greens, another food I love but all too often is made with bacon when I’m out to eat. They were excellent.
The only bad part about enjoying our food so much was that no one had any room for dessert. Given my sweet tooth, I know this is hard to believe but it’s true. Looking back I wish I’d taken something home with me to try later.
We all (vegans and non-vegans) enjoyed our meals which not only tasted great but also were not greasy or oily. It really seemed healthy for the most part (minus the chips with the queso), in addition to being animal-free. There is an interesting variety of flavors on the menu and where else can you try jackfruit? Remember not to judge the surroundings/décor (this is definitely a small business trying to succeed) and savor the food instead. Eat at Bean!
Ratings from a plant-based eating perspective (1-5 scale, 1=Terrible 5=Excellent)
Ambiance: 2 Service: 5 Choices: 5 Taste: 5 Overall: 5