Gluten, it's what's for dinner 

Soul Vegetarian serves up beliefs on a platter

Soul Vegetarian is not just a restaurant name, it's a way of life for an estimated 3,000 African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Diet is an integral part of their religious beliefs and practices. There are two Soul Vegetarians in Atlanta (the other is at 879-A Ralph David Abernathy Blvd.), and several more nationwide. The Sacred Diet Cookbook, authored by Rofah Karaliah E. Nasik Gavriel, explains that the diet adhered to by the SV chain "represents a return to the wisdom of God in the regeneration and rejuvenation of the human body." That translates into: No animal products, no additives and no preservatives allowed.

What's to eat?: Every day, there are both lunch and dinner specials of pasta and hearty "meat" 'n' three-style meals. There are lots of sandwiches -- with things like lentils, tofu, carrots and wheat furthers inside -- salads and soups. A list of side orders includes onion rings, potato strips and cornbread. There's also a Saturday and Sunday brunch that features pancakes and a tofu scramble. What we ate: First, a word about gluten: Scary as a "juicy gluten roast" sounds, it's really not bad. Gluten is just a bad thing to name something that you eat. Gluten is simply wheat proteins, and meat replacements made from gluten have a chewy, hearty, meat-like texture. Much like tofu, the taste of gluten lies in the seasoning. So I went for the gluten, I did. Specifically, a dinner special that included a hefty slice of meat-less loaf, mashed potatoes with gravy, collard greens and cornbread ($10.30). The loaf had a not-so-super undertaste; the potatoes, gravy and collards were just right; and the cornbread suffered from the dense vegan baked-goods curse.

Pita Eata: My companion had a pocket gyro sandwich platter ($6.90). The thinly shaved protein roast called "kalebone" gave the sandwich a meaty texture and the accompanying creamy garlic sauce supplied a nice spicy flavor. The platter also came with a ho-hum side salad which was served with a ho-hum soy milk/nutritional yeast and garlic house dressing. On a return visit, we tried an uninspired salad plate ($5.15) of tofu salad, tabouli and spinach salad, as well as sprouts and lettuce, plus a bowl of marak afunah (aka split-pea soup) ($1.30).

Dessert for Eternity: Served up at the surreal "Eternity Ice Kream Parlor" at the side of the dining room is SV's homemade soy bean ice cream. Four flavors were available the day we visited: carob, vanilla, vanilla-pecan and strawberry ($1.35 scoop). And yum! It is creamy, sweet and has no aftertaste. Our favorite SV item by far.Service: Hospitality abounds, but service is uneven. Servers are happy to answer questions about the eclectic menu. Best just to be pro-active if you need your check in a hurry.

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