Omnivore - Friday Grazing: Green Sprout and Aurora

People often ask me if my tastes have changed over the 20-odd years I've written Grazing. I usually reply: "No, but the city's taste has gotten better."

So, it's a chicken-egg game. I know that 20 years ago, I really couldn't stomach most vegetarian food I encountered. The "fancy" stuff always seemed to be overseasoned, usually with awful Tex-Mex seasonings, or it was vaguely Asian with too much soy sauce, lots of brown rice and cubes of squishy tofu. I'm talking the final days of Earth Shoes and tie-dye.

Then, with the explosion of ethnic eateries in the city's suburbs, especially Buford Highway, we began to get some really authentic and very tasty vegetarian food, from Korean (88 Tofu House) to Indian (Madras Saravana Bhavan). We've also had some great fusion vegetarian restaurants come and go, like Lush, while a few have stuck around, like Cafe Sunflower and the kosher Broadway Cafe.

In the Midtown area, the best vegetarian food I've found is at Green Sprout (1529 Piedmont Ave., 404-874-7373). The completely inconspicuous restaurant features Chinese dishes of Buddhist inspiration, many of which feature faux seafood and meat (like Harmony on Buford Highway), but my favorites here are the more straightforward dishes under the menu's "vegetable" heading. My favorite is the bean sprouts wrapped in bean curd (pictured above). It seems like every time I order the dish, a total stranger gawks and says, "Do you eat all of that yourself?" Yes, I do. It is bean sprouts, not pork! I also like the spicy stir-fried Yukon Gold potatoes with minced garlic and pickles. Of the faux flesh, I find the shrimp best and surprisingly "accurate."

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