The Undercover Vegetarian: The Hart and the Hunter
Pimento cheese at the Hart and the Hunter
While Southern food is known for its meaty aesthetic, it has always been more veggie-friendly than many cuisines, simply because of the number of vegetable sides -- that is, if there's no ham hock thrown in for flavor. One of the main traits of New Southern cooking is a ramping up of that reliance on vegetables, putting them front and center.
At The Hart and the Hunter (subject of this week's restaurant review), that veggie-love is on full display, in meat dishes, non-meat dishes and sides. There are a ton of pickles, biscuits and spreads to start off with (go for the pimento cheese -- that white bean pâté is delicious mainly because it reeks of bacon). You could make a meal of the sides: roasted Brussels sprouts, cheddar grits, grilled shishito peppers. Again, here you have to be careful. The black eyed peas have ham in them, though the collard greens do not.
There are some glorious salads here, some containing meat and some meat-free. There's also a decadent vegetarian entree-type plate (or as close as you come to an entree at this small-to-medium-plates restaurant): sauteed mushrooms over a polenta cake, spruced up with herbs and Parmesan. And speaking of decadent, there's a plate here that's basically potatoes with melted cheese, with bread on the side to scoop it up with. It generally comes with ham in the mix as well, but they were happy to leave it out one evening for a non-meat-eater at the table.
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