Mona Lisa Gelato & Café

by Danielle Bussone

 

 

It seems that small strip malls are where it’s at these days for discovering quaint little restaurants serving up big flavors. Mona Lisa’s Gelato & Café has been around for seven years.  In Johnson City, TN, it is located at 305 W. Oakland Ave., a connecting street between Roan and State of Franklin, only a mile or so from I-26.

I’m appalled to learn I’ve driven by Mona Lisa’s about a million times without giving it a second thought. Since becoming a plants-only eater, I tune out anything that smacks of dairy or meat. Recently a  reader of Veggin’ Out and About! turned me on to this little jewel.

 

 

Mona Lisa’s is owned and operated by Sheridan and Steve Nice. Sheridan is the chef and recipe creator, and Steve handles marketing, social media, and other such concerns. The two operate an organic garden and have taught a local orphanage how to farm organically. The often trade their homemade gelato for organic produce from the orphanage, which then goes into building their daily menu items. Mona Lisa’s may well be the only garden to table restaurant operating in Johnson City today.

 

 

While the menu is mostly geared to the carnivorous crowd, there are a few items for vegans and vegetarians.

 

 

I ordered the Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich. This is not typically a vegan dish, but they substituted the meat for tofu to accommodate my needs.

I have to say; it is unlike any Bahn Mi I’ve ever experienced. The French colonization of Vietnam introduced aspects of French cuisine to the country’s culinary heritage. Traditional ingredients of Bahn Mi include a French roll or baguette smeared with some kind of mayonnaise or creamy sauce followed by layers of cucumber, cold cuts, or another meat filling (or tofu),  sweet and sour carrot and daikon pickles, a layer of jalepeños, and finally a good portion of fresh cilantro. Mona Lisa’s Bahn Mi was nothing like that.

 

 

This sandwich was more like a panini, with a crisp flattened bread, fermented vegetables, fresh jalapeños, tofu, and cilantro. If you ordered this sandwich expecting to receive a traditional Bahn Mi, you might be disappointed. However, your disappointment will be short-lived once you bite into this little taste of heaven. The crisp bread and crunchy fermented veggies marry beautifully with the soft texture of the tofu and the pungency of the cilantro in a way that surprises and delights. I think this tasty little sandwich deserves a name of its own!

 

 

Rich ordered the Thai Noodle Bowl. Thai rice noodles are served in a vegetable soup of carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and fresh jalepeños drizzled throughout with spicy sriracha sauce. Sheridan is one of the few chefs in the Tri-Cities area who is not afraid to add heat to a dish that calls for heat. Too often, restaurants cater to the boring middle of the road in an attempt to appeal to a larger audience. The price that is paid that the international experience gives way to the staid preferences of the majority. Mona Lisa’s Thai Noodle Bowl has a kick that will make your eyes water!

 

 

At first, we didn’t even look at the gelato bar. Since we don’t eat dairy, we didn’t feel that was an option. However, Steve scooped up some blood orange sorbetto for us that was dairy-free and OMG delicious! This was something that was being whipped up in the kitchen and had not yet been brought out to the gelato bar. Unfortunately, you’ll have to take my word for it. We scarfed that down before we thought to take pictures.

Typically, there is at least one vegan sorbetto option with flavors like pink grapefruit, key lime, lemon cello, blood orange, or tangerine.

 

 

 

Don’t wait seven years before you check out Mona Lisa’s Gelato & Café in Johnson City, TN. It’s about a mile from I-26 from the State of Franklin exit, turn left to go under the overpass, and then right onto Oakland Ave. It’s right next to The Mellow Mushroom.

 

Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About!, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles, and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She is the author of, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health,” and is a co-founder of the plant-based cooking blog, Time For Change Kitchen. Contact Danielle directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.
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Native Foods Café – A Concept Of Truly Healthy, ALL VEGAN, Casual Dining For The 21st Century!

by Danielle Bussone

 

Native Foods Cafe Exterior

Danielle Bussone with Cherle Link

Danielle Bussone with Cherle Link

 

With heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, dementia and other common and often fatal maladies on the rise, people are finally beginning to awaken to the fact that good health begins with what we choose to put on our plates. With mounting evidence that a diet largely consisting of plants can prevent and reverse many of these debilitating diseases, the world is beginning to embrace a plant-based, healthy lifestyle. That’s right, veganism has become cool. And it is high time.

 

Super Slaw

Super Slaw

 

Many fast food restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon and have begun to offer vegan options. Chipotles offers a couple of healthy vegan dishes, even eschewing the use of GMOs, and  Wendy’s is now rumored to be creating a veggie burger. It’s a beginning.

On VOAA’s trip to Chicago to participate in VeggieFest Chicago this past weekend, we were blown away to discover Native Foods Café, a gem of a restaurant that offers nothing but healthy plant-based fare made from scratch. All vegan, all the time! What a concept!

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Venice California’s Café Gratitude – 100% Organic, 100% Plant-Based, 100% Delicious!

by Roberta Walker

My first time at a Cafe Gratitude restaurant was in 2009 at their premier location, in an area that was a little “off the beaten path” in San Francisco. The restaurant had a very colorful, earthy, laid back and eclectic vibe. The wall’s were covered with inspiration quotes, detailed murals, and their pledge to “Nourish a Thankful Community.” The servers and the people were warm and inviting and the restaurant was filled with a mix of hippies, young adults, nature lovers and foodie types. Their Venice Beach location doesn’t quite have that same vibe.

 

AWESOME herb-cornmeal crusted eggplant parmesan on grilled panini bread with marinara sauce, cashew ricottta, tomatoes, Brazil nut parmesan, arugula and basil. Served with a side salad.

AWESOME herb-cornmeal crusted eggplant parmesan on grilled panini bread with marinara sauce, cashew ricottta, tomatoes, Brazil nut parmesan, arugula and basil. Served with a side salad.

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Desert Roots Kitchen, Tempe, AZ – Organic and Green in the Heart of the Desert!

by Deanne Bryce

 

Desert Roots Kitchen Staff

Desert Roots Kitchen Staff

 

During a road trip between the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park , my husband Steve and I spent one night and morning in Phoenix.  In search of a place to enjoy lunch after a morning visit to the Desert Botanical Garden, we found Desert Roots Kitchen  (DRK) through an online search for organic foods. We discovered on arrival that Desert Roots Kitchen is 100% vegan. Their menu changes daily and they make everything from scratch in-house (except the dolmas). Desert Roots Kitchen cooks with many organic ingredients, especially staples like beans, lentils, produce, etc.  They support and use local ingredients when possible, which is increasing and constantly evolving.

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Rosetta’s Kitchen – Feeding the Hungry In Asheville, NC

by Danielle Bussone

 

Rosetta’s Kitchen is a plant-based restaurant with a mission.  Rosetta’s is not only dedicated to serving healthy whole foods but is also determined to feed the hungry.  Every day a red beans and rice dish is prepared at cost for those in need. The price is a sliding scale according to what an individual can afford to pay. If someone can’t pay the minimum suggested price, they may ask for a food voucher which was donated by previous customers who have paid something extra so that all may eat.

 

Rosetta's Kitchen Asheville, NC

Rosetta’s Kitchen Asheville, NC Lexington Ave. Entrance

 

Located off exit 5A from I-240, Rosetta’s front entrance faces Merrimon Avenue  just as you are coming off the exit ramp. There is no parking in the front so you must turn left onto Merrimon, take the next right onto Woodfin Street and then another right onto N. Lexington Ave. It’s isn’t as complicated as it sounds. There is parking on Lexington and also in a lot across from Rosetta’s. Be sure you put your money in the meter because the police patrol this area often, including the parking lot.

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Plant – A Paragon of Plant-Based Cuisine in Asheville, NC!

By Danielle Bussone

 

 

Plant-based is the name of the game in this all vegan restaurant in Asheville, NC. Everything in this restaurant is plant-based, hence the name, Plant. There are no animal products of any kind available in this cruelty-free, environmentally friendly and health conscious establishment. Of particular note, there are no genetically modified products in any of the foods prepared at Plant.

 

Plant Interior

Plant Interior

 

Plant management has made a commitment to use only the finest ingredients available. Therefore, much of what you are served will be organic, to the extent it is available, and are sourced as much as possible from local farmers. Chef and co-owner, Jason Sellers, is fanatical about finding organic, quality ingredients. He has been instrumental in convincing other local chefs to buy organic products so that food venders will readily carry them. (more…)

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