If there’s one thing I love more than solid branding and a killer logo, it’s a restaurant in the South that doesn’t forget about vegetarians. (We’re here! We love you! We have money! Feed us!) JJ’s Red Hots has it all–a successful flagship location on East Boulevard that oozes curb appeal and a meat-heavy menu with a polite nod to lost vegetarians who find themselves inside.
If you’re a vegetarian brave enough to walk into a building guarded by a maniacal pitchfork-wielding wiener, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find food you can actually eat. What JJ’s did artfully (and perhaps completely by accident) was appeal to two very different types of vegetarians: those who will eat imitation meat and those who will not.
For the veggie purists, you’ll find the vegetable-only VeJJie Sandwich–a grilled portobello topped with grilled pepper and onions. If, like me, the sight of a mushroom makes you gag and you’re game for some vegetarian junk food, you can replace the meat on any of the signature dogs with an animal-free imitation. We all win.
I got the Joliet Jake, a nod to my suburban Chicago upbringing. The only thing they missed for an authentic Chicago dog, I’m afraid, was the poppyseed bun. But this is coming from a girl who bastardized the original with a veggie dog so what do I know?
For something carnivores and herbivores alike can agree on, they’ve got all-American fries and onion rings as a peace offering. And my personal favorite (beyond the unforgettable branding) is the pickle bar. There is nothing in this world I love more than pickles, and JJ’s has fancy pickles. LOTS of fancy pickles. A whole bar of fancy pickles for your pickle-eating delight. (I love pickles.)
So hats of to JJ’s for being cool and accommodating vegetarians. Looking for more vegetarian food in unexpected places? Check out my old piece in Charlotte Magazine on three diners dishing up vegetarian comfort food.