Unless you are looking for it, the Sage Vegetarian Cafe just blends into a Chapel Hill strip mall. But, you’ll be glad you’ve sought it out. It’s a cozy little place that seats about 30 and a little more on the warm days when their outside tables are set-up.
We were met with the warm smells of garlic and bread as soon as we walked in. On this Saturday night, we were lucky to grab a table, albeit by the door. (On this particularly frigid day, that was sort of a bad idea because the cold air came rushing in when people came in.)
Our server was friendly and knowledgeable and quite attentive. We did not seem to have to wait long for our appetizer even though every table was filled in the place. In fact, the atmosphere was quite calming but not overly quiet. The attention to detail on every single item was impressive. Even the iced tea was out of the ordinary – Persian iced tea infused with jasmine/cardamom.
Both vegan and vegetarian dishes are available. Vegetarian dishes that can be turned vegan upon request are clearly marked on the menu.
We started with a mezze platter which included hummus, baba ghanouj and some stuffed grape leaves. It was served with wheat pita wedges and a great cucumber salad. (Side note: we dined with a carnivore that was not happy we “dragged” him to a vegetarian cafe. He declared, after eating the appetizer, that he would order it as his main dish next time. He realized that he didn’t miss meat.)
Let me pause a second and describe the wonderful cucumber salad or shirazi. The flavors were so complex in this cucumber salad but the server let us know that it is basically cucumber, tomato, red onions, olive oil, lemon juice and mint. A little dish of it was also served with our main dishes. These basic fresh ingredients created a small taste that nearly shadowed everything else we ordered.
The Caribe entree was a perfect mid-winter meal. It is described as, “black beans topped with a slice of avocado, served with rice, grilled spicy tofu and plantains.” It’s served with the beans in a separate bowl. The tofu and plantains sat atop of large plate of perfectly cooked rice. This arrangement made it easy to choose how you wanted to eat the dish – together or separately. I only wish the bowl of beans was slightly larger.
We also ordered the Bud-Mo-Joon which is described as an “eggplant paradise with tomato, split peas, turmeric, sauteed onion, a hint of cinnamon and spices, served with basmati-saffron rice and a side of shirazi.” It had a sweeter taste than the black beans but it was warm and comforting. It was, indeed, paradise. The bowl of bud-mo-joon was larger than the beans, so we had plenty of leftovers.
Even the garden salad was worthy of writing about. The organic greens, carrots, cucumbers and various other vegetables were complimented perfectly by the homemade creamy dill dressing.
Other dishes of interest (which will be ordered next time I go to Sage Vegetarian) are the Fesen-Joon which is described as a Persian dish that is of “sweet and sour flavor of pomegranate juice, agave nectar, ground walnuts and herbs blended with grilled tempeh, served with basmati-saffron rice”. The soy chicken cutlets also caught my eye as they are served in a mild coconut curry and mushroom sauce. A pasta primavera, vegetarian lasagna, gnocchi arabiatta and vegetable kabob are also available.
Desserts included tiramisu, dark chocolate walnut cake, vegan “chocolate” cake, chocolate brownie deluze, baklava, and cannoli.
Sage Vegetarian also serves lunch with a menu that features grilled cheese, caprese eggcellent wrap, vegan wrap (tofu, collards, portabella mushrooms), portofino (grilled portabella mushrooms, artichoke, local goat cheese pesto, etc. in a wrap), feta-spinach wrap (grilled tempeh, feta cheese, spinach, onion, tomato, portabella mushrooms with herb-vinaigrette dressing).
We all walked away from Sage Vegetarian Cafe with full stomachs and satisfied appetites – even our reluctant carnivore had to admit it was a great place to eat. Sage Cafe is worth a trip if you are in the Triangle region of North Carolina.
Sage Vegetarian Cafe
Timberlyne Shopping Center
1129 Weaver Dairy Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(Unfortunately, the closest I could find to a web page for Sage Vegetarian Cafe was the restaurant’s MySpace page.)