Lucky Otter

One of the fun things about doing a review with someone with polar opposite tastes in veg food is that you get stretched in culinary directions you wouldn’t expect.  When I showed up to meet AY to do our review of Lucky Otter, he immediately asked if I might want to get some chips and salsa.  This was weird for two reasons:  one, I don’t think I’d ever really had the salsa there, since I usually end up getting the queso or guacamole; and two, What’s up with AY deliberately ordering something with tomato in it?!?  Since tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family, AY usually avoids them like…they were a deadly nightshade or something.  You coulda knocked me over with a feather.  So, we ordered the salsa trio, just for the variety.  And varied they were.  Not very spicy, mind you, but I discovered I actually love their mango salsa.  And I never would have even tried it if it hadn’t been for AY.  Thanks, AY!

I also ordered “The Elvis,” because it was an “Elvis” kind of night.  All of the creative, delicious wraps at Lucky Otter have really fun names, like “The Elvis,” for instance (rice, beans, tempeh, plantains, cheese and peanut sauce), the “Thai Me Up,” (tofu, sprouts, sunflower seeds, spinach, rice, and coconut curry), or “The Shaka”: (mashed wasabi sweet potatoes, spinach, rice, black beans, cheese, and mushrooms, topped with mango salsa), all of which are some of my favorites, although I have to admit I’d never noticed the mango salsa on the Shocka before.  Hunh.  One of the first places my hubby and I discovered when we moved to Asheville, Lucky Otter impressed us with their laid-back vibe, the children’s toys that you use to mark your table, the great front porch and the nice local beer selection.  Add to that the fact that they will “vegetize” most anything on the menu with a sub of tofu or tempeh, and it was love at first bite.

AY – Yes Scoops, I did suggest the chips and salsa right away, but that suggestion was more driven by hunger than any sense of adventure. When you are hungry, night shades are highly edible! Actually, the chips were so tasty on their own that in hind sight I probably wouldn’t have ordered the salsa; but I am glad I did. I probably won’t start eating salsa on a regular basis, but the 3 varieties of salsa at Lucky Otter were quite tasty.

Along with the chips and salsa, I ordered a “bowl” with a combination of vegetarian items such as broccoli, carrots, grilled corn, sweet potatoes, tofu black beans, and brown rice. The dish was prepared simply so that the taste of each ingredient was distinguishable. The meal was nutritious and very digestible. The only thing I regretted is that I didn’t add grilled pineapple to the list of ingredients . . . next time.

We arrived pretty early by dinner time standards so there were plenty of seating options. There is nothing fancy about the ambience, but it serves the purpose. Closer to the time we started to leave the place became more crowded and the noise level increased dramatically. This probably isn’t the place for a quiet romantic meal and conversation.

Yes, but it is a fine place to sample some great local flavor and eat in a typically Asheville-casual environment.  Diners looking for gluten-free options can turn any burrito into a “bowl,” and burritos can be “veganized” as well by asking them to hold the cheese.  Since cheese is rarely the focus of most of the burritos, removing the cheese will still give vegans a lot of very tasty options.  They are really nice about alerting vegans when items on the menu contain animal products, and they point out that they will cook vegetarian items on a separate side of the grill.  I’d call that pretty darn veg-friendly.

Also, if you like fresh Huevos Rancheros and don’t mind not having a lot of other breakfast choices, I highly recommend checking out their Sunday brunch.  They only add the Huevos Rancheros to their standard menu, but we’ve never had to wait (a rarity in breakfast-happy Asheville) and just the one breakfast choice is plenty.  They serve the Huevos with fresh spinach, black beans and some of the best grits I’ve had since we left Charleston, SC.  Trust me, I know my grits, and these pass the SLG Seal of Approval.  I’d consider their one-item brunch one of the best-kept secrets in West Asheville.

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