I just got back from a delightful week at home in North Carolina. One might think it would be a challenge to eat vegan in a state where pulled pork and cheese grits are the local specialties but I never have trouble finding awesome meat-free food. Brixx Pizza, my constant hangout spot in high school, and Mellow Mushroom have had vegan cheese on the menu for the past few years and this past trip I came across an awesome quinoa burger at the otherwise non-vegan Big View Diner. There have been a couple vegetarian restaurants in town but Fern, which opened this past year, is the new star of the show. I was only able to squeeze in one visit there this trip but I will be back the second I land in Charlotte next December. Disclaimer: sorry in advance for the bad photos–I was using my mom’s crappy camera.
Fern’s menu clearly indicates what is vegan and what can be made so. The chefs are truly commited to serving local produce–we couldn’t order the Squash Blossom Hush Puppies because the restaurant couldn’t find a local vendor to supply the squash blossoms in the winter. So my mom and I split the amazing Indian Tacos for an appetizer. We had the kitchen swap the cheddar out for vegan cheese.
Indian Tacos: Traditional Fry Bread Topped with Pinto Bean & Squash Chili Fresh Tomatoes, Onions, Crisp Lettuce & Local Sharp Cheddar. $10
The “shell” was awesomely puffy and light–almost donut-like. Despite being listed under “Small Plates” on the menu, this portion was closer to an entree size.
My mom, being on a perpetual hunt for the world’s best veggie burger, ordered the Om Burger.
House-Made Crispy Burger with White Beans, Tofu & Hemp Seed
Finished with Pickled Fennel & Smoked Tomato Chow Chow
Spicy Jalapeno Aioli on our Whole Grain Bun. $10
The burger was delicious and held together very well but I couldn’t pay it too much attention because I was busy stealing all the quinoa salad that came on the side. I’ve had many a quinoa salad and they are always good, but this one was so damn zesty and flavorful. If I still lived in Charlotte I would order a batch of this stuff and bring it to every potluck I was ever invited to.
For my entree I ordered the Sweet Potato Gnocchi in a Spicy Tomato Curry. It’s a challenge to get the texture of vegan gnocchi right but Fern has evidently mastered the art.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Spicy Tomato Curry with Roasted Vegetables & Toasted Cashew Nuts. $14.
The curry flavor in the sauce is very subtle. I was in heaven eating this dish.
Fern had a couple vegan dessert offerings, one of which was a giant slab of chocolate cake which the table next to us was devouring. Being a pair of booze-hounds, we opted for the Beer Donut Holes with a Chocolate Stout Sauce.
Beer Batter Donut Holes with Chocolate Stout Sauce.
The donuts themselves were a little chewy for my taste but my mom, a donut connosieur, said the texture was perfect. The chocolate stout sauce was rich and beer-y and was sent over the top with the chocolate pop rocks that were mixed in. Did you even know chocolate pop rocks existed? I didn’t but apparently pop rocks are used often in fancy restaurant desserts where they are referred to as “pastry rocks.” I know because I just ordered some off the internet, woo!
The food at Fern is incredible and the space is beautiful. Again, this crappy photo doesn’t do the place justice, but just picture a cozy eco-shabby-chic room with a giant herb pouch holding real ferns on the back wall.
The food at Fern is some of the best vegan food I’ve had and the restaurant has easily secured it’s place in my top 5 veg restaurants outside L.A. If you ever find yourself in N.C. you must check it out.
Fern, Flavors from the Garden
1323 Central Ave.
Charlotte, NC 28205