Red Meze – A Hidden Gem In Johnson City, Tennessee

by Jennifer Muller

 

I like to think of myself as somewhat of a foodie nerd. I travel to eat. Prior to traveling, I scour the internet attempting to create a foodie itinerary for the ideal dining experience. I raise my research standards to an even higher scale when I relocate to a new area. When I moved to Johnson City, TN two years ago, I followed my normal method to find every potential outstanding eatery available in Johnson City. Even with my extensive search, Red Meze somehow eluded me. I happened upon it a few months after moving here while scrolling down my Facebook feed. Shocked that I could have overlooked authentic Turkish cuisine, I immediately drove down there and happily discovered Johnson City’s best kept secret gem.

 

 

Red Meze (formerly The Mediterranean Garden) is located at 2203 McKinley Road in Johnson City, TN. It is housed in Burlington Park, a refurbished old textile mill that is now a housing and commercial mixed-use building. I find the GPS coordinates usually take people to the opposite side of the building, making it difficult to find the restaurant. The easiest way to get there is to turn onto W. Walnut Street from N State of Franklin Rd. and drive past McKinley Rd. You will then see Red Meze on your right. Please do not do what I did my first time trying to find it and get so turned around that you end up driving through the empty field next door.

 

 

This is one of the restaurants I have been raving about to Danielle and Rich, so I was honored to meet them for lunch one Sunday. We told the server that we were vegan and soon the owner, Sengel, came out of the kitchen to discuss the vegan options and answer all our questions. According to Sengel, the first page of the main menu is or can be, vegan except for her Tzatziki sauce – a sour cream based sauce, and the Sigara Boregi – pan-fried dough stuffed with feta cheese. The back of the menu had a few sandwiches which were either vegan or could be with some minor modifications.

 

 

There is a separate Classic Turkish Home Cooking menu that has two options which can be vegan. The Eggplant Yogurt Kebab can be made without the yogurt sauce on top. The Turkish Veggie Stew is vegan, but Sengel informed us the rice that comes with it contains butter.

We asked Sengel if she keeps the meat separated from the vegan items and she informed us that the meat is grilled and kept in the back of the kitchen, while the vegetables are kept in the front of the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination. She also uses organic ingredients when possible.

 

Hummus, Falafel and Baba Ghanoush with Pita Wedges

 

Now to the food. I have dined here several times and have tried many items on the menu, and I have to say, that they do amazing things with eggplant. The eggplant here is so flavorful, and unlike any eggplant I have eaten elsewhere. My favorite menu item here is the Baba Ganoush – a Turkish eggplant dip served with pita. On this occasion, I ordered the lentil soup & pita, which is just a combination of lentil, onions, and spices. I also ordered the garden-three platter that had the falafel, garlic hummus, and baba ganoush. Everything I ate was light and flavorful. As usual, I could have eaten multiple orders of baba ganoush.

 

Lentil Soup

 

Danielle ordered the eggplant pita without feta. The lack of feta was replaced with additional eggplant to compensate. I enjoy introducing people to new restaurants they grow to love, so I was a bit nervous introducing Danielle to my recommendation. Fortunately, she raved on about how delicious the sandwich was with the combination of flavors and that she wished she had ordered two.

 

Grilled Eggplant Pita with Hummus

 

Rich ordered the Turkish veggie stew on the Classic Turkish Home Cooking menu. They replaced the vegetarian rice with pita. The stew was stocked full of vegetables with a tomato-based sauce. I had a bite and decided that if I could ever do without their eggplant, I would order that.

 

 

Turkish Veggie Stew

 

We finished off the meal with the excellent Turkish coffee served in demitasse cups. Turkish coffee is unfiltered coffee served sweet with a variety of spices. The trick is to drink the coffee until you reach the coffee grounds at the bottom of the cup, and then stop before drinking the grounds. The rich, sweetened, spiced coffee was a perfect end to the meal.

 

 

Red Meze is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 am – 9:00 pm and on Sunday from 11:00 am – 2:30 pm. The phone number is (423) 328-7685. Red Meze can also be found on Facebook.

 

Originally from Louisville, KY, Jennifer now resides is East Tennessee. Jennifer and her daughter are avid travelers searching for new healthy vegan dishes along the way. When she is not globe-trotting, Jennifer enjoys cooking spicy vegan meals at home with her two fur-babies; her dog, Amy, and her cat, Anna. Contact Jennifer directly to share your restaurant finds, make a comment, or just say hello.

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Danielle’s Perfect Pita Bread

by Danielle Bussone

 

There is no good reason to suffer through chewing tough store-bought pita bread when making it yourself is this good and this easy. Try this recipe and see what you’ve been missing!

 

 

Danielle’s Perfect Pita Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

1¼ cups (10 oz by WT) filtered warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
(I like Fleishman’s brand. Always check the expiration date before purchasing yeast.)

1 cup (4 1/2 oz by WT) organic whole wheat bread flour

2 cups (9 oz by WT) organic unbleached bread flour, plus more for kneading and rolling

1 teaspoon good quality olive oil (optional)

 

Notes: You can omit the oil. I rarely use oil in cooking but in this case it does help prevent a skin from forming on the dough and makes it a little easier to manipulate. It is such a minute amount per pita I feel it is insignificant, though others may disagree.

It is always better to weigh ingredients rather than use volume measurements. Depending on how densely packed your flour is, you can come up with measurements that are not very reliable. Even measuring cups can vary slightly, so it is best to weigh everything if you can, even water.

 

 

Directions:

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Veggin’ Out at Mooney’s Mediterranean Café in Winston-Salem, NC!

by Laura Blankenship

 

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.

 

Mooney's Mediterranean Café In Winston-Salem, NC Interior

Mooney’s Mediterranean Café In Winston-Salem, NC
Interior

 

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.   

 

 

Mooney's Tempeh Pita

Mooney’s 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.

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