|This is how I felt while looking for vegan friendly restaurants to share with all of you!
So maybe I have been slacking slightly with posting, but it is all with good reason. Seems like out of nowhere, my husband decided to use some more paid leave and along with it, we started going places again like before Raegan was born. Since this was her first overnight trip out of the comforts of her crib, we were on edge on how she was going to react, hence why we decided to only spend one night at the beach. Along with the stress of the baby, there was also a HUGE question as to where to go to find vegan friendly food. For those of you who know me and my family, we L-O-V-E to eat our way through every town/city/destination/etc. but this time we were working on limited time and from what little I saw on the internet, limited resources 🙁 Overall, our end result was perfect and I like to think we used those 24 hours to our best advantage and I am happy to share with all of you my food voyage….
Since Virginia Beach is 3 hours away from where we live in Charlottesville, we decided to leave the house super early to hit Yorgo’s Bageldashery in Norfolk for their infamous vegan breakfasts. Needless to say, it was definitely worth waking up at 5am and making the 3 hour drive. I think it is safe to say that their vegan breakfast options were by far the best we have had in a while.
|Breakfast burrito and Vegan Sausage Egg (w/vegan cheese) on an Everything Bagel
From there, we drove 20 minutes to our hotel which was located right on the boardwalk and our room had a great view of the ocean. I don’t think I ever stayed this close up to the beach and in such a great spot.
We took the time during the day to explore the boardwalk a bit but it wasn’t too long afterwards that it was close to lunch time. We had a few ethnic options but in my eyes, that’s basically the same options a vegan has wherever they go. There was one restaurant that stood out during my research prior to our visit and that was La Bella Italia. They recently added a separate, designated vegan menu (hopefully they post it on their website soon!) that no other restaurant in Virginia Beach seemed to have. So off we went…..But then we ran into a problem. Somehow we managed to leave Raegan’s juice (it’s 98% purified water and 2% pure juice-not the processed crap!) and breast milk at home!!! Luckily I had my pump but Raegan would go crazy without her juice and as luck would have it, we took a detour to Hertiage Market that has a cafe so we decided to check it out anyway before we went to La Bella Italia for lunch.
Heritage Natural Market is no Whole Foods….let me just make that clear. It’s an older looking market that kind of takes you back into the 70’s. Chuck and I got a kick out of some of the new age items they were selling but we were on a mission to get Raegan some purified water and freshly pressed juice and to check out the food. Some blogs that I have read that reviewed this store had so-so remarks to say about the vegan options they had available and they were right. While everything in the store was organic, the vegan options were no more than going to a Whole Foods (also Whole Foods has far better customer service!). Overall, it did not impress me enough to want to try anything from there. When I am on vacation in a different place, I want to try something new or something that is unavailable to me at home. Heritage Market did not have either 🙁 But overall, I am glad the market was there for us as a market but not so much as a cafe. Thankfully, La Bella Italia was right across the street 🙂
So we finally got our things and arrived at La Bella Italia. The entrance first takes you into the very Italian style market/deli and then into the restaurant. Most good small Italian places I have been to are set up like that, so the first impression was a good one. When the waitress knew we were vegan she gave us the vegan menu and when she brought out the bread, she did not ignorantly leave butter out like most places do. That goes a long way with me 😉 So the vegan menu was of decent size and some of the menu items were veganized versions of some of the items on their non-veg menu except for the fact they subbed the meat with Gardein.
|Gardein Pollo Fantasia (sans mushrooms!) at La Bella Italia
The food at La Bella Italia was hands down awesome….Their homemade bread alone was to die for! It was pretty clear the chef probably did not have vegan culinary experience but he/she really knew how to put flavors into a dish. This was the best veganized Italian food I had since I became vegan. Also this was a place that was truly run by Italians and had actual Italian customers eating there (which is always a good sign!) If there was one thing I would change it would to be that they would have vegan cheese for pizzas (I saw somewhere the location in Norfolk has it?) or maybe more vegan dessert options (but the portions are soooo big that dessert probably is the last thing people want after such a huge meal!). One cool thing Chuck and I discovered on our way out was that right outside the restaurant there was an impromptu basil and cherry tomato garden.
|Hard to believe this was in the middle of their parking lot!
So after lunch we went back to the hotel room and lo and behold the juice bottles and breast milk we “supposedly left at home” were with us all along!!! This was a sigh of relief so we went to hang out at the beach where we managed to sneak in a few good photo ops of our little girl discovering the sand and the ocean for the first time…
After we had our fill of the beach, we decided to get cleaned up and ready to go out for dinner. There was only one place I had in mind and that was to drive back to Norfolk and try out Path, a 100% vegan restaurant located in the Ghent neighborhood. Yes, this is a 20 minute drive but it’s rare to find any place on the east coast that is 100% vegan and I felt I needed to check it out and also give it my support. Luckily, we checked out the website beforehand and knew what to look for as this restaurant basically is a tiny house in a mostly residential area (we found parking up close but it was not easy). When we arrived, the restaurant had an upstairs and downstairs to seat their guests but unfortunately, Path is having issues with certain regulations involving seating (basically the neighborhood is picky about how big a restaurant can be…) so there were only 2 tables and one kid’s table (I totally digged the kids table…what a cool way for vegan kiddies to mingle!!!) available. So anyways, the menu is also limited due to the kitchen being small but the menu changes often so that’s something that even Gordon Ramsay would approve of 🙂 The service we had during our dinner there was top notch. I believe we spoke with both owners, Scott and Anita. Scott was in the kitchen but he made an appearance to make sure we were satisfied with our food and Anita was a delight to talk to throughout our meal. Truly the atmosphere here was not like a restaurant but more like being with family. Anita also explained to us that they strive to use local ingredients whenever possible in the food they serve and they take part in many community events in the area as well. Also I must add that Anita makes some pretty awesome desserts 🙂 Shortly after my visit, they added a bigger bakery case so there are more vegan desserts to choose from (with gluten free options) so needless to say, I have a great excuse to go back 😉
|Raspberry “Chicken” wrap with Potato Salad (yes there are apples in it!)
|Baked Chocolate Peppermint Doughnut and a Chocolate cake with a Peach Ginger Glaze
So I left Path very satisfied and happy 🙂 Chuck raved about his dinner and we both agreed that for a new vegan restaurant, this place has a lot of potential and we really hope their business continues to grow and put Norfolk on the Vegan Map 😉 So we drove back to Virginia Beach to our hotel to enjoy the beautiful the sunset….
|I had to add this…you’re welcome 😉
And tried like crazy to get Raegan to sleep…
|We had to stop her from trashing the hotel room like a rock star!
The next morning we visited the Neptune statue located on the boardwalk at Neptune Park…
|Just ignore my horrible hair in the photo :p
…And waved goodbye to Virginia Beach and had a hankering for Yorgo’s again so we drove back to Norfolk to grab another awesome vegan breakfast!
|The Peterman (front) and Breakfast Burrito (repeat appearance!)
This visit to Yorgo’s was different as this time around we had Steven, who was practically our vegan concierge and I’m glad we listened to his recommendations 🙂 Breakfast was even better than yesterday morning and we also grabbed lunch for on the road. I wish I took photos of our awesome sandwiches but they were eaten soooooo quickly (the yumminess was off the charts!). We had the Vegan BLT on an “Everything, Everything” (the everything topping was also baked on the inside!) Bagel and the Vegan Chicken Salad on an Everything Bagel. Both were great but I have to agree with Steven…The Vegan Chicken Salad was amazing!!! Also we bought a Raspberry Bar and a few Carrot Cake Cookies. The Raspberry Bar was good but the Carrot Cake Cookies win in the deliciousness contest 😉
So here you have my 24 hour report on Virginia Beach. Needless to say, Virginia Beach has some wonderful vegan ethnic options if you want to stay in the area but if you are looking for vegan comfort food and desserts, making the 20 minute drive to Norfolk is well worth it. Norfolk is home to PETA headquarters and it’s pretty clear that they have influenced a lot of restaurants in that city which is a great advantage for a vegan like me. There is also a local (VA Beach) vegan blog called The Blooming Platter where the blogger actually wrote an article on vegan restaurants in Virginia Beach that I did find helpful. I realize this blog post was long and had a lot of photos but this was probably the best way I could give my best vegan review of such a vegan friendly area. Thank you for allowing me to share such a great experience with all of you and as this summer comes to a close, expect more exciting things coming your way. I am close to another free giveaway on Facebook (need a total 200 “likes” to do another) and I am close to finished with one book review that I think will definitely draw some attention so stick around…
|Chef AJ’s Hail to the Kale Salad….a teaser for an upcoming blog post 😉