Where: Green Thumb Vegetarian Kitchen, 428 Market St.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and Sunday
Price range: $10 or less
I never missed the meat at Green Thumb Vegetarian Kitchen, even though the meatballs in my whole-wheat pita pockets were made from oatmeal and the cheese sauce on top was made from cashew nuts. It was still good.
It was soft, yet had texture. And the chopped onions and sweet tomatoes gave it just the right flavor.
The restaurant opened in downtown Chattanooga last September, replacing the Country Life vegetarian restaurant and bakery. It is operated by North Georgia's Wildwood Lifestyle Center & Hospital, which is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Instead of Country Life's vegetarian-themed buffet, Green Thumb offers a sushi bar, juice bar and smoothie bar. Diners can select from a combination of hot dishes, salads and a la carte items.
It specializes in vegetarian and vegan American, Asian fusion and Korean dishes made with all-natural and fresh ingredients. According to its Facebook page, the goal is to provide the taste and satisfaction of a good meal without the extra calories or MSG.
The pita pocket -- with the oatmeal "meatballs" and cashew "cheese sauce" -- was my favorite of the four entrees on my plate.
I also had tofu chicken seasoned with green and red peppers, pasta and two egg rolls drizzled with a sweet sauce.
Even though the egg rolls included vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, peas and mungbean noodles, the sweet sauce made it worthy of being eaten last like a dessert if I had passed on the Key lime pie.
I paid $6.50 for four menu items, $7.10 with tax.
For $9.50, customers can get four food items plus soup and a salad.
The Key lime pie, at $3.50, was extra.
I thought the pie was going to be light and creamy. It was thick.
It didn't taste bad -- it was still tart and sweet. It just wasn't what I expected. The ingredients included coconut milk, coconut oil, cashews, Mori-nu pudding and soy yogurt.
The hot food bar from which I ordered is just a portion of what's available at Green Thumb.
There are also different soups and a salad bar with 30 choices of veggies, nuts, fruits, tofu and vegan cheese.
The wall has a chalkboard menu of the restaurant's smoothies, juices and veggie sandwiches.
Smoothies sell for $4 and $6. They're 100 percent fruit. The juice bar includes 12-ounce juice mixes such as celery, apple and carrots for $4.
The veggie sandwiches include hamburgers made from veggie patties, bean-patty sandwiches and veggie hot dogs.
White chairs are placed around eight lime-green tables. The tables are set in two columns starting from the entrance to a back wall covered with four panels illustrating close-ups of growing plants, baked bread, fruit juice and red tomatoes growing on a vine.
Tunes such as "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "My God Is an Awesome God" played through speakers as customers ate.
The food service was cafeteria-style and quick. You pay for the number of food entrees you will select, then pick the food and a server puts it on your plate. Kevin Lee, the store manager, occasionally walks around welcoming customers and distributing a magazine about healthful eating.
I plan to eat at Green Thumb a lot. The food tastes good. I think it's good for you. And it's possible to get a basic lunch sans the drink, for $7.10, tax included.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or 423-757-6431.