RECOMMENDED:

Green Sprout
1529 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta, GA 30324
www.greensproutga.com

Good choices: When you visit this super-cheap restaurant, pay special attention to the “chef’s specials” written on a board. I always stick to the strictly vegetarian dishes. There are also “mock-meat” dishes that do not come close to the purely vegetarian stuff.

Saravana Bhavan
2179 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur, GA 30033

Good choices: South Indian vegetarian at its best.  Order a thali, a partitioned plate of four or five different tastes. The dosai – huge rice-flour – pancakes filled with savory vegetables are also fab. The recipe of fried tough tofu with kimchi and green beans is fast, spicy and really good.

If Janet dared to say, while feasting on quinoa with radishes, that she missed eating meat at home, Beth got teary-eyed, eventually blubbering as she noisily crunched organic celery stalks.  Janet always apologized and put her arm around Beth, assuring her that the flora and fauna of the world were grateful for her compassion.

The doorbell rang. It was Robert.

“Hello!” Beth shouted from the kitchen. “You’re going to love the tofu tonight!”

Robert hugged Janet, laughing, and went into the kitchen to hug Beth. “It smells delicious,” he said.

Beth flipped the cubes of tough tofu around in the hot canola oil. She would remove the cubes after they were crispy on the outside, then drain most of the oil, and throw the kimchi and beans into the pan. She would serve the tofu over the vegetables.

But that was not to happen tonight. Just as Robert opened the bottle of wine he’d brought, the lights blinked and the power shut off, including Beth’s electric stove. 

“Oh well,” she said, “it’s a $3.99 loss. Shall we go out somewhere to eat?”

Twenty minutes later, the three were at Green Sprout across from Ansley Mall. The under-appreciated restaurant serves vegetarian food in the “Chinese-Buddhist” style. It’s one of those places, like many of the city’s South Indian restaurants (such as Saravana Bhavan), where carnivores easily live with the meat-is-murder ethic.

“I really love this place,” Robert said, insisting that they share an order of his favorite – super-crispy, super-hot bean curd skin wrapped around a fat cluster of cool, raw bean sprouts, along with slivers of carrots and a few other veggies. “You can hardly get one in your mouth, but you won’t believe how good they are.”

Beth was happy, even though the vegetables were not sourced. “Even if they are organic, I hope the bean sprouts aren’t from Walmart,” she said, alluding to the evil store’s low-priced organic produce.

Janet struggled not to roll her eyes and changed the subject. “Have you seen Lee, since we saw him with the cockatoo and Tarot cards at Waffle House?”

Robert sighed. “No, but I’m always expecting him to show up. It’s like he’s stalking me for real.” He looked around the tiny dining room. “I guess he doesn’t like vegetarian food.”

“Are you really into this guy?” Beth asked, sipping tea.  “Janet tells me he’s hot but super-weird.”

Robert looked down at his plate, not wanting to answer. “Yeah,” he finally said, “I find him very intriguing.  He’s kind of androgynous or at least has no hesitation to wear makeup. He’s evasive about his life and shows up at Waffle House with a dwarf and a dude carrying a cockatoo under his coat. I enjoy eccentric people.”

Janet stabbed her chopsticks into a plate of exquisite Yukon Gold potatoes stir-fried with pieces of pickled greens and garlic. “No,” she said, “you like guys who are so out-there that they aren’t psychologically available for a relationship.”

“What is it about gay people?” Robert asked, launching his usual lecture. “We are still reviled by much of the dominant culture, but we ourselves increasingly revile those gay men and women who don’t try to be normal. I hear this repeatedly from my students. It was much more fun to be gay when it meant being a proud outlaw.”

“Ah,” Beth said, “you like this Lee because he’s an outlaw. Will you boys have an open relationship and wear rainbow thongs to the Eagle? Young gay men hate that shit.”

As usual, instead of diminishing Robert’s fascination with the outré, his irritation reinforced his curiosity. He decided to call Lee the next day and ask him out.

At that moment, a sweet smell of something like custard and honey drifted through the room. “That doesn’t smell very Chinese,” Beth said.

 


Food Porn is a fictional series by longtime Atlanta food critic Cliff Bostock. Set in real Atlanta restaurants, it chronicles the adventures of Robert, a gay man in search of a husband — or at least a good meal. For past chapters, visit www.thegavoice.com

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