I’ve had some pretty terrible tofu during my adult life, thanks to six years of vegetarianism and an odd affinity for bean curd. I’ve had tofu marinated so intensely it was the consistency of a wet napkin, and tofu fried so aggressively I was pretty sure I was eating straight croutons.
Don’t live that way. Here are 9 of the most delectable tofu dishes in Charlotte, ranked:
715 Providence Road
The dish: This Jasmine red rice bowl is loaded with crispy tofu, sauteed peppers and onions, black beans, smoky salsa, lettuce, pepper jack cheese and crema.
Tip: This dish has been hit or miss when I’ve ordered it — some days the tofu feels more silken, and others it feels crisped to perfection. Still, when it’s good, it’s SO good.
919 S. McDowell St.
The dish: This signature bowl carries cucumber, edamame, green onion, avocado, tomato, carrot, sweet corn, kimchi, red cabbage, sriracha ponzu and crispy tofu atop a bed of kale salad.
Price: $9.95 for a regular bowl, $16.95 for a large bowl
Tip: Add a bunch of sriracha to the bowl for an extra kick, and mix it up to make that kale salad part of it more flavorful.
101 S. Tryon St.
The dish: Two enormous slabs of tofu marinated in miso with a flaky top layer that reminded me of a grilled fish (so interesting) are served with fried rice and sauteed vegetables.
Tip: Split the Kung Pao Calamari with your date as a starter.
1601 Central Ave.
The dish: Like a heaping plate of scrambled eggs, this platter features organic tofu that has been seasoned with yellow Indian curry and scrambled with sauteed mushrooms, green peas, spinach, tomato and caramelized onions. It’s one of my favorite brunches and is served with toast or a biscuit.
Tip: Pair it with a Bloody Mary from the bar (they make them nice and spicy here).
415 Hawthorne Lane and other locations
The dish: This flour tortilla bowl is filled with shredded lettuce, queso, rice, refried/black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, cotija cheese and tofu ranchero (for a dollar extra — worth it). The tofu is firm, dry and just begging for a coating of salsa.
Price: $8.25 total
Tip: Get a small side of guac ($1.95) to lop on top, and go to town with the self-serve salsa bar to add some extra flavors (and splashes of color).
324 East Blvd. and 131 Matthews Station St., Matthews.
The dish: This bowl of goodness spotlights Panang curry in coconut milk with snow peas, peas, carrots, mushrooms, chili, basil leaves and steamed tofu. Even if you obsess over firmer crispy tofu (like me), the silken tofu is a refreshing switch.
Tip: Get a side of the peanut sauce to stick your chopsticks into before you grab one of those tofu chunks.
1520 South Blvd. #130
The dish: This “veggie lover” item boasts seasonal vegetables mixed in a stir-fry sauce with delightfully firm tofu, and a heap of steamed rice.
Tip: If you love Deejai Thai on Providence Road, you’ll likely love Rai Lay — the ownership is the same.
1001 Belmont Ave.
The dish: Get the Greek Style Quinoa Avocado Salad with avocado, kalamata olives, cucumbers, quinoa, feta cheese, baby greens and lemon vinaigrette with delicately seasoned, smooth, firm tofu bites on top.
Price: $16 (the tofu add-on is $4)
Tip: This green goodness is best enjoyed on the cute patio outside — it feels like a hideaway from the mainstream NoDa brewery scene.
3019 Shamrock Dr.
The dish: Almost maple-y tasting, the Cary Tom curry with tofu and vermicelli features greens and sweet potatoes, with thick, leathery strips of tofu (and a toasty interior). The sauce is thick and comforting — perfect for a Friday night after a long week.
Price: About $13 (lunch and dinner prices may vary)
Tip: Don’t worry about a line spilling out the door when you get there. It’s worth the wait.