Posts Tagged ‘Table restaurant

Turning the Table

» June 24th, 2013

Asheville, North Carolina is a laid back town surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, an endless maze of trails, and some of the best microbreweries in the country. Typical of progressive towns with an emphasis on local culture, it also has quite the little foodie scene, tinged with a not unexpected North Carolinian adoration of pork.

Fortunately, the place is also quite vegan friendly (in this way it reminds me of Austin, meat-loving but well veganized). Nearly every restaurant menu I studied had a “V” designation (and GF=gluten free). The small café in my hotel lobby served a tempeh wrap. Even the nearby camp that’s been harboring my daughter for the last three weeks is vegan friendly.  None of this would have possible a decade ago and I take some comfort in chalking that up to progress.

Not everyone is so up to speed, though.  Languishing in the dark ages is a much-venerated Asheville restaurant called Table.  Praised for its support of local organic farms and artisanal (blah blah) methods of food production, Table impressed me when I ate there last year for its willingness to prepare a decent vegan option despite a menu that lacked one (I was dragged there with a group who’d read about it in Gourmet or some such and just had to go). This year, my friend had an interest in returning, leaving it to me to make the reservation as he was in route, which I was happy to do.

Until I called. The exchange was pleasant until I asked if vegan options would be available. “No, not really,” I was told. “Really? Nothing?,” I said. The man’s voice turned cold. “No, really. Nothing.” And that was the end of that.

I hung up the phone wondering how a restaurant as critically acclaimed as Table, in a town as open-minded and veganized as Asheville, could be so rudely indifferent to potential patron prepared to drop serious bucks on a serious meal (the friend I was with is a wine guy and would have chosen very well). I mean, it’s not as if the place didn’t have vegetables and a little olive oil and salt in the kitchen—ingredients that any real chef could buckle your knees with.

The hostility, I decided, had to be a cultivated attitude of defiance against anyone who dared tinker with the menu. Out of curiosity I checked the Google reviews of Table. I know these are generally meaningless scribbles from anonymous “critics,” but I must say that I found myself nodding in agreement when one woman recalled, “I told the waiter I didn’t eat pork and wanted to leave the sausage off my plate and asked if I could substitute something else. He said the amount of sausage was so miniscule it wouldn’t matter.” Another: “Thanks for making me feel like a dirty peasant unfit for polite conversation. I am a local organic farmer. Jacob [Sessoms] is the rudest chef I have ever done business with. Take your money elsewhere.”

Yes, do so. Like down the road  to, say, the Asheville Brewing Company, where I spent about a quarter of what I would have spent at Table, drank the best black IPA I’ve ever had, and indulged in a simple vegan house salad and a bowl of delicious rice and beans marked on the menu with a V. Whatever you do, if you live in Asheville or visit the town, avoid the hype and experience of Table, encourage others to do so as well, and find a place that at least respects people who want eat with some discrimination.