Step into Mooney’s off of fourth street in Winston-Salem and the first thing you’ll notice is the chic interior for such a quaint little café. Actually, if you’re there during the middle of lunch, like my dining partner and I, the first thing you’ll notice is that it’s jam-packed and you’ll worry about your chances of getting a table. Luckily we snagged one of two vacant ones in the house; business is bustling and turnover is fast during lunch, where mostly business people from downtown are on their lunch breaks.
During lunch, customers order at the counter from the menu above it written in chalk on a blackboard. With tons of options–vegan, vegetarian, and meaty, too–in small handwriting and the long line that was moving fast, I didn’t have long to deliberate and quickly picked something that sounded vegan and delicious: the Tempeh Pita.
During my lengthy conversation with owner Ameen David, I learned that my wrap was developed by a strict vegan employee, Stephen (minus his consumption of two eggs a week per doctor’s orders, Ameen recalls). The Tempeh Pita isn’t the only menu item developed by his employees. Leah, one of Mooney’s servers, and her boyfriend, a chef at a neighboring downtown restaurant, suggested that Ameen start using olive oil rather than butter in the couscous when they became vegan. He listened. And every time his wife saw him, Ameen says, he was eating this sandwich that wasn’t on the menu. “What is that?” she asked. Thus the Falafel Burger, the brainchild of an employee named Scott, was born.