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The Downtown Vegan: Saigon Deli
Anyone who knows me knows I love being a regular. I like to feel like Norm on Cheers when I stroll in and everyone says my name. Aside from the ego boost I get, being a regular takes on a whole new meaning for me as a vegan with severe food allergies. Being a regular somewhere means that when everyone is shouting my name out they're already registering in their minds "No meat, no dairy, no shellfish, no eggs, no fun." We've already had that awkward conversation about the things that will kill me (shrimp) and the things that just plain freak me out(anything that has ever pooped or has come from a pooping creature). I know I won't have any surprises in my food when I get my takeout back to the office.
Within a week of their opening, I was already a regular at Saigon Deli, the Vietnamese pho and sandwich shop that opened on the Fulton Mall in the place that was formerly Tommy's. First of all, the location is key- they're a three-and-a-half minute walk from my desk. That's not the only factor though, China Express is just across the way and I haven't gone in since the one tofu item disappeared from their menu. What's brought me back 3 times a week since they opened in February is that they totally get it. They offer a vegetarian option in almost every menu section and most of those can be easily made vegan with just a simple "Hold the fish sauce". This is incredible, especially for downtown- I've actually had the "Vegetarian... so you want chicken?" conversation happen, and with most menus I have to order so specifically with so many substitutions that it's impossible for anyone to keep up. Having a restaurant that totally understands that vegan customers get hungry too and makes sure to have those options available is a truly beautiful thing.
Oh, and another thing. Saigon Deli is freakin' great. I order the vegetarian spring rolls or the fried tofu vermicelli- hold the fish sauce and they're fresh, light and really tasty. Today when I was there (for the third time this week) they not only remembered no sauce, but put in a different one with a soy sauce base instead of fish sauce. My heart leapt and my tummy, oh my tummy loved it!
They also do a veggie burger, but I haven't confirmed the vegan status on this one yet. Word on the street is that they're considering introducing more vegetarian menu items because they've received such good feedback about the existing options. It proves that you can vote with your dollar and places will respond with with more yummy veggie cuisine if people demand it.
Saigon Deli is located at 944 Fulton Mall and they're open M-F 8:30 AM-6:00 PM, Saturdays 9:00 AM-5:30 PM. You know where I'm gonna stuff myself before Grizzlies games all season.