Hey folks! All month long I’m blogging about Atlanta’s noteworthy vegan-friendliness. It’s my hope that, through the power of MoFo, I’ll be able to break through that Ghostbusters-like gunk clogging up everybody’s perception of vegan livin’ here. As we’ve seen so far this month, it’s really quite lovely and easy and delicious! With your help, fellow bloggers, maybe next year we’ll see ATLANTA as an option on VegNews’ survey about favorite vegan-friendly cities.

Today I want to talk about Atlanta’s vegan Chinese choices. We basically have three:

  • Harmony Vegetarian at 4897 Buford Highway is a vegan restaurant.
  • Green Sprout at 1529 Piedmont Ave (midtown) is a mostly vegan restaurant. Twelve of their 150 dishes contain egg, and egg can always be removed. No milk or meat (beef, pork, chicken, seafood) is served.
  • Chinese Buddha at 100 10th Street NW (midtown, near Georgia Tech) serves all meat & seafood, but has a separate vegetarian menu. A number of items on the vegetarian menu are vegan or can be made vegan.

I recommend our restaurants in the order listed above: Harmony first, Green Sprout second, Chinese Buddha last. In fact, I don’t really recommend Chinese Buddha at all, except for the fact that they’re open til 6am (seriously) and they have vegan (not vegetarian, vegan) eggrolls. Sadly, they failed their health inspection in July AND played host to a really “confusing” shooting in September. Aaaand the food is just so-so. I ordered the “Buddha’s Mushroom Lo Mein” ($10) one very late night and found one – ONE! - mushroom buried in the mass of noodles. ONE MUSHROOM!! WTF.

In this post I’m going to focus on Harmony since it is by far my favorite. But since I’ve noticed that the Atlanta vegan scene is very divided on the issue – you either love Harmony and think Green Sprout is so-so, or you LOVE Green Sprout and think Harmony is just okay – I’m gonna post Green Sprout’s menu at the bottom for those who are interested.

It’s not that I don’t like Green Sprout, it’s just that I think Harmony is consistently better. The service is kinder & more attentive at Harmony, the prices are better (usually by a buck or more), the food is much, much faster, and it’s a totally vegan restaurant. There are also “freebies” at Harmony: they don’t charge you for rice (GS does) or pots of good-quality tea (comes with the meal, all you have to do is ask). Each meal begins with a simple, complimentary cabbage salad with condiments. The restaurant is more spacious with tables instead of creaky old booths and the occasional table. If you’re a regular they’ll remember you and treat you like family – often with even more little gifts of food and Mandarin lessons. It’s just about the closest you can get to dining in someone’s home while still paying for the experience. :)

Green Sprout gets fewer points from me as far as service, speed, prices, and lagniappe are concerned, but the food is tasty.  I like the sesame tofu (not the sesame chicken, it’s a fried mess) and the mushroom soup. Oh, and one time I was sick and got the udon noodle tofu-vegetable soup and they were really generous with noodles and broth (not so much with tofu). It made me happy! Atlanta folks: Since a lot of out-of-towners are keeping up with the series, do be sure to defend your favorite in the comments and I’ll add it to the post later!! Thanks!!

Update from the future, AKA July 2013: Ok, I’ve given Green Sprout more of a chance, and I really, really like it now. The woman who usually works on us is super friendly and very quick, and always gives the best recommendations. We’ve got a list of favorites now, from the wok-seared chicken with lotus root to the crispy yuba fish, and the taro bubble tea is absolutely divine. I love Harmony, but Green Sprout is nothing to sniff at, either!

First, Harmony’s menu. These are pictures from the take-out menu, but the dinner menu is almost identical.

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Looking over the menu, I realize Nate & I have tried a lot of dishes – but we still have a ways to go. My old favorite used to be the “lamb” with string beans (I’ve never actually had flesh of animal lamb) which was made of trumpet mushrooms. But the trumpet mushrooms became too expensive and they had to change the recipe. Now it is not my favorite. :-(

Lately I’ve loved the vegetable beef with orange peel. The crunchy beef pieces stay crispy amid a sea of sweet orange sauce. The orange peel itself is abundant but mild – not bitter/pithy. Chicken with string beans is a long-time favorite & good as a lunch special. One of Nate’s favorites is the bean curd skin roll with pepper & bean sauce, but he always substitutes broccoli for the pepper because it’s better that way. The item I hear ordered most often is the fried crunchy chicken with spicy salt. Really, you can’t go wrong with the House Special menu. And don’t forget the lunch specials – just $5.50 for a large entree with white or brown rice, two curry pockets (MMMMM) or a spring roll AND a bowl of soup! It’s so. much. food.

We rarely don’t like something, but I didn’t enjoy the chicken with cashew nuts and Nate wasn’t a big fan of the “spare ribs” dishes.

My old favorite:

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All of the soups are out-of-this-world yummy and a great value, too. For $4.25 – $5.50 you get a giant bowl that serves two people two bowls each! When my Chinese history professor from college joined me at lunch one day, she was most impressed with the Buddhist’s delight soup. “It takes a lot of skill to make such a delicious broth,” she said.

It’s worth it to order the appetizer platter. I think it’s in the six dollar range for four curry pockets, two fried shrimp pieces, and two “chicken” on a stick. The “chicken” is the same that’s served in the ever-popular “fried crunchy chicken with spicy salt” dish, just seasoned differently. The curry pockets have this totally mysterious creamy sweet curry center. I’ve never tasted anything like them before. I’ve noticed that kids seem to LOVE these.

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the interesting wallpaper

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a recent freebie, savory and scallion-y

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Sadly, Harmony is often mostly empty. I think it’s because they’re “way out” on Buford Highway, about a twenty minute drive from downtown – whereas Green Sprout is always busy because they’re in midtown Atlanta. (Maybe that’s why service is always so harried and slow?) They’re great at accommodating large parties because they have so much room and flexible seating (tables and chairs). Let me know if you’re ever in town and want to join me – or if you’re a local and want to get a cheap lunch!

I promised – here’s Green Sprout’s menu :)

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Happy Monday, y’all!!