On Main Street, less than a block away from Frita Batidos, another casual sandwich spot has taken pretty much the opposite tack. Where Frita Batidos proudly uses lard even in the bread, Jazzy Veggie is equally proudly serving meatless steak sandwiches.
Ananth Pullela opened Jazzy Veggie, Ann Arbor’s first and only all-vegan restaurant, in mid-November. Pullela isn’t making a big deal about the vegan thing–neither the menu nor the signage mentions it. “I’m not running a campaign,” he says. “We just want to show that plant-based food can be made more exciting and attractive.”
Pullela, an MBA from U-M and a vegetarian himself (he and his wife Sailaja are from Andhra Pradesh in southeast India), says that while the vegetarian options in Ann Arbor are good, “I’d like to go to a place where I can order anything.”
He loves the flavors of classic meat dishes: BBQ, pizza, burgers, blackened chicken. You have to look closely at the menu descriptions here to see that they’re all meatless. The food titles give nothing away: Agave BBQ Classic, Wolverine Steakout, Chick’n Noodle Soup. The pizza section of the menu makes no mention that the “cheese” is nondairy–it’s actually “made from tapioca, sunflower oil, safflower,” says Pullela. “It’s the Daiya brand–the best vegan cheese out there.”
Surprisingly, Pullela’s not done yet trying to accommodate vegans. (And Jazzy Veggie really is now a completely vegan restaurant. The menu still lists his one concession to lacto vegetarians–a yogurt sauce–but it has now been replaced by a ginger-lime concoction.) “We’re looking for more non-soy products,” he says, for some vegans (and non-vegans) don’t eat soy. And he’s also keeping those on gluten-free diets in mind: most meatlike products that don’t use soy tend to use wheat. So far, celiacs can enjoy some gluten-free pizzas, a red pepper chili soup, and baked sweet potato fries. Pullela is aware of all the factions, but calmly claims that Jazzy Veggie is a restaurant for everyone: “I wanted to make sure the vegetarian doesn’t think twice to suggest this to meat-eating friends, for group lunches and so forth.”
In visual contrast to Frita Batidos’ calm gray, silver, and white tones, Jazzy Veggie is pretty jazzy, painted a lively red and green, with shiny red plastic furniture, trays, and sandwich baskets.
Jazzy Veggie, 108 S. Main, 222-0203. Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sun. jazzyveggie.com