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Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

May 19, 2022

Where Chefs Eat: Nourish and Plant Joy’s Julia Simon

An international tour of six plant-forward area dining spots

Folks in the restaurant industry know good food, so we want to know where they eat when they’re not cooking. In this series, we ask a local chef, bartender, restaurateur, or food artisan to share their favorite restaurants in town and what they order there. 

This week, we interview Julia Simon, chef and owner of meal delivery service Nourish and Camp North End food kiosk Plant Joy. Both exclusively focus on vegan dishes. When she’s not on the clock, Simon heads to one of these restaurants — each with strong, if not exclusively, meatless options.

Ben Thanh, Matthews
Traditionally prepared fresh Vietnamese cuisine
Julia’s Order: Banh xeo chay and temple rolls. Ask for the veggie sauce for a fully vegan experience. “These women have been making an alternative to fish sauce for their vegetarian customers for over a decade,” Simon says.

Enat Ethiopian Restaurant, Plaza-Shamrock
Classic and modern takes on Ethiopian cuisine
Julia’s Order: Sambusa (lentils) — their level of spice and mine match perfectly — and a vegan plate. This combo features every veggie dish on the menu.

The vegan plate at Enat Ethiopian. TM Petaccia/UP

Sanctuary Bistro, Piper Glen
Fine dining vegan bistro
Julia’s Order: Broccoli soufflé, oyster mushroom “scallops,” and beet salad. “I love this family from Berkeley and all the gorgeous vegan, gluten-free fare they’re making,” Simon says. “They also have a beautifully curated vegan beer and wine list.”

Ma Ma Wok, Ballantyne
Modern interpretations of classic Chinese dishes
Julia’s Order: Housemade “yuba fish” (tofu skin) in spicy bean sauce, lo bak go (turnip cake). “Kind humans, with a huge menu, but light on spice and garlic usage as per Buddhist tradition.”

Sri Balaji Caffe, Pineville
South Indian food just off Main Street
Julia’s Order: Onion chili uttapam, idly/vada, Gobi Manchurian dry. “It’s like stepping into a cafe in Kochi: Gorgeous, bright, loud, and delicious.”

Malaya Kitchen, Arboretum
Classic Malaysian dishes in a large, casual setting
Julia’s Order: Eggplant in garlic sauce, curry laksa with rice noodles. “I love this dusty curry soup that so clearly combines Thai technique with Madras curry powder and the turmeric heavy masalas of south India.”

More from this series:

Kyle Gaddas of The Wine Loft, The Vintage
Counter-‘s Sam Hart
Community Matters Cafe’s Ashley Anna Tuttle

Your Farms, Your Table’s Sam Diminich
Para’s Alex Verica

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