Timberline Shopping Center
1129 Weaver Dairy Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 11 am-9 pm. Fri-Sat: 12 pm-10 pm
Review Date: November 22, 2003
Reviewers: Donna Allison, George Allison, Martin Blaze, Kruti Desai, Mehul Desai, Ron Neumann, and Dharmita Shah
The Ambience: Newly opened Sage Cafe is one of the few fully-vegetarian restaurants in the Triangle area. An excellent spot for a romantic dinner for two, it has a cozy decor with attractive artwork on bright and cheerful walls. The staff was very friendly, and "service with a smile" was definitely the norm. Donna was pleased with the fact that even though the Cafe was teeming with patrons, we did not feel rushed at all, and had a very pleasant and relaxed dinner. Ramin Jahannia, who is owner along with his mother, Homa, made sure we were welcome and comfortable.
The Food: The menu was very vegan-friendly, and since all the items had a detailed description, it was easy to figure out the vegan items from the ovo-lacto ones. The pasta is also made without any dairy products, which widens the choice considerably for vegans. Plus, all the sandwiches can be ordered without the cheese or mayo.
We started with the soup of the day - Pumpkin Soup (non-vegan, but can be ordered without the cream). The serving was generous enough for the price ($3.50), and while it was good, it wasn't anything different from Pumpkin soups I've had before. I was expecting more of an exotic taste, but I was a wee bit disappointed.
Some folks got a salad with their entrees, and that's where the fun really began. The Tofu salad dressing was declared to be an instant favorite. Other dressings include Caesar (with parmesan, without anchovies, we asked!), herb vinaigrette and extra virgin olive oil & balsamic. We also ordered the Black-Bean Hummus (appetizer, $3.25), which was a big bowl-full, and very tasty with the pita wedges it was served with.
Donna enjoyed her first taste of Gnocchi, one of my favorite Italian pastas. It's pasta stuffed with a filling of potatoes, and usually comes in a tomato-based marinara sauce. She thought it was "very good".
Sage Cafe has a couple of "specials" every day, and Martin decided to try the other one (Donna had already decided on one - the Gnocchi). He ordered the Angel Hair Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes and Hearts of Palm, with a side of Collard Greens. It was obvious he enjoyed his choice, and he had nothing but praise for either.
George had the Eggplant Paradise ($12.50, with salad), which is a baked eggplant dish with split peas, tomato, onions, garlic and spices, with a choice of Basmati saffron or brown rice. He thought it was an excellent meal.
Ron and I tried the Portobello Sandwich, with the Mozzarella ($6.25, non-vegan, and all sandwiches come with homemade coleslaw and dill spear). Although Ron loved the sandwich, I've had better. The Portobello wasn't marinated, and that was a big disappointment. Plus, Kruti thought there was way too much spinach in the sandwich, and that overpowered the subtle flavors of the artichoke-pesto spread.
Kruti tried the Caprese Sandwich ($5.95, non-vegan), and that was a different story altogether. The combination of Mozzarella, Roasted Red Peppers and fresh Basil was quite smart indeed, and left a very pleasing taste lingering on the palate. Dharmita wasn't too hungry and decided to go for two sides - the Collard Greens and the Grilled Tofu ($3.25 each). Both the sides looked delicious, and Dharmita assured us that the taste was as good as the looks!
There were other entrees we could not try, that sounded very appetizing: the Black Beans and Rice with Tempeh (organic black beans with marinated tempeh and choice of basmati saffron or brown rice), the Vegetable Lasagna (with ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, carrots, onion, mushroom and spinach), the Vegetable Kebob (red, green and yellow peppers, onion, tomato, tofu squares and Portobello mushrooms grilled on a skewer and served with basmati saffron or brown rice). There were also more sandwiches and wraps: the Feta Spinach Wrap (feta cheese, spinach, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms with grilled tempeh or tofu), the Garden Burger, the Egg-celent Wrap (three organic scrambled eggs with soy bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo and ketchup).
The best part of the meal was the phenomenal Tiramisu ($5.95 - and unfortunately, strictly non-vegan, with all the lady-fingers and cream cheese going on in there). This traditional Italian dessert was promised to "rock our world", and it sure did! Everyone who tried it couldn't stop raving about it. We tried other desserts too, and they were all rockin' - the Apricot Ball, the Date Ball ($2, both the Balls are vegan items), the Canoli (cream-filled pastry shells).
The Verdict: Sage Cafe is unconditionally recommended by this group - for veggie lovers and skeptics alike. If you think vegetarian food is all "salad and tofu", try this place and you might just come away a convert!!