Before reviewing The Grit I should state that I am in no way a vegetarian. I just play one for a meal from time to time. It is also worth noting that the only “truly vegetarian” meal I have ever had that I absolutely loved was at a very fancy Indian restaurant so I definitely bring my own meaty biases to this review. On top of all of this, The Grit is in the unenviable position of being a vegetarian restaurant in the very “meaty” town of Athens,Ga. While being the only “entirely vegetarian” game in town would seem like an advantage, existing in a town with few “true vegetarians” forces them to compete with the many other restaurants at, and often slightly below, their price point. But enough posturing…on to the meal!
I went to the grit after a particularly hard workout so I was ravenous. I did this intentionally hoping that the fact that I was famished would cause me to yield a favorable review. Again, I have tremendous meat guilt…but it feels so good. When I arrived I wasn’t sure of what to expect so I perused the menu and found that it suffered from what I call “League of Nations Syndrome.” That’s right sports fans, the menu contained Italian, Indian, Southern, Mexican, and Asian foods. That’s great! There’s something for everyone! But that’s not how it normally works so I tried to order something that wouldn’t require a practiced ethnic chef ,who over tens of years honed their craft based on time-honored traditions passed down through the generations from one cook to another in a way as ceremonial as a Bar(or Bat)mitzvah. I ordered a cup of the black bean chilli and a bowl of tofu with some nutritional yeast and veggies. Easy enough right?
First the black bean chilli. It was OK-ish. There were no nuanced flavors or secret vegetarian techniques applied here. Simply put, it was some black beans, spices, and some other stuff on top. It was decidedly OK. It came warm enough and was garnished nicely.
My entrée was the Golden Bowl with Veggies. I was very excited about this because I love tofu when its done well. To the Grit’s credit, their golden bowl was pretty good. I got the soy sauce on the side thankfully, because at times, it can be a bit much. The highlight of this dish was the nutritional yeast. It was a pretty tasty substitution for parmesan cheese and I’d never had it before.
Initially, I was pretty happy with the dinner despite the fact that the service was… well… aloof at best. I just chalked it up to being a one server issue,though I have recently heard otherwise. Contentment however, left the building when I got the bill. It ended up being something like 15 bucks with tip. While that’s not unheard of, it is for this quality meal. I would say that everyone who lives in Athens should go to The Grit at least once just for the experience. However, if you are not craving a meal that is entirely vegetarian and still want to get your tofu fix, I’d recommend the Tofu-Q at White Tiger Gourmet or the green papaya salad with tofu at Maba Grill. I’m sorry Grit. I’ve just grown accustomed to other restaurants and well… I guess we should see other people.