Don’t think of the Universal‘s tempeh banh mi as a vegan dish. Don’t even think of it as a vegetarian option. Instead consider the sandwich a delicious riff on the classic Vietnamese eat. Order it and find a crusty baguette stuffed with a meaty plank of marinated tempeh and a tangle of crunchy pickled veggies. A judicious smear of Sriracha aïoli keeps the contents glued together and the dipping sauce—a blend of coconut and rice vinegars, garlic, sugar, and Thai chile—brings a tangy, Asian kick. Vegan, vegetarian, whatever—this is first and foremost a fantastic sandwich.
That dish is a window into how the Universal’s menu plays out: hearty, savory, and satisfying. A good percentage of the offerings have a Southern bent (the banh mi is a departure), and you shouldn’t pass up the creamy, heavenly Anson Mills grits. Choose them as a side (pictured) or order the daily grits special for an inspired, homey creation. They’re even good enough for dessert.
Bonus: The bang-up breakfast menu, which includes an excellent rendition of huevos rancheros where cornbread stands in for tortillas, is served all day.
2911 38th Ave., 303-955-0815