As a vegan, it’s often difficult for me to dine at restaurants without changing a dish past the point of unrecognition, so you can imagine how overjoyed I was to find Virginia Highland’s Plant Based Pizzeria — Atlanta’s first all-vegan pizzeria, and one of the few restaurants where I could order any dish without modifications.
In attempt to give the restaurant a fair chance and also overindulge on a dearly missed comfort food, my five friends and I opted to share several different pizzas.
Beginning with the classic cheese pizza, we were all struck by the obvious difference between traditional wheat pizza dough and the restaurant’s spelt flour dough, giving the dough a nuttier and earthier flavor profile. While the texture of spelt flour dough is meant to be light and airy like its regular wheat cousin, Plant Based Pizzeria’s dough was tough, chewy and dense, with an especially thick crust.
The classic cheese flavor saved the pizza. I shared the pizzas with my non-vegan friends, and even they were surprised at how similar the vegan cheese tasted to normal cheese. Although we would have preferred more cheese on our pizza, there were no complaints about the flavor. The cheese substitute melted in my mouth before giving way to a flavorful roasted basil tomato sauce that added a kick of spice to the otherwise classic flavor combination.
Considering meat is a staple of American pizza, we also opted for the Vegan Meat Lovers pie. Though we went in with low expectations of the vegan meat alternatives, we were all stunned by the resemblance of the Beyond Sausage and Burger to real meat. The pizza was generously sprinkled with extra cheese to counter the large amount of crispy Beyond Sausage. The extra layer of cheese delicately melted over the spicy sausage, balancing the flavors and the slightly dry faux meat.
Prior to going vegan, spinach and artichoke dip had been my go-to appetizer. After going without my favorite dip for several months, I was excited to try Plant Based’s pizza of the same flavorful combination. Classic non-vegan spinach and artichoke dip is crafted from cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise, along with the titular ingredients. And although Plant Based’s tasty reinterpretation of the bitter spinach and the sweet artichoke delivered just like old times, the absence of vegan cheese on this pizza was quite sorely felt.
Next, the delicate appearance and saccharine aroma of the Georgia Peach pizza impressed us all. The toppings, comprised of Beyond Sausage, vegan mozzarella, roasted peaches, red onions and jalapenos, were reminiscent of a peach salsa, especially with the initial sweetness from the fruit’s roasted sugar, followed by the intense heat from the jalapenos. The peach moistened the otherwise dry dough and distracted us from the dough’s tough texture. A perfect combination of sweet and spicy, this was by far our favorite pizza.
Although we expected the pizza to be superb, what impressed us most was the Philly calzone. The ingredients are that of a traditional Philly cheesesteak sandwich, using Beyond Sausage as the faux cheesesteak. There was no trace of dense dough in this unexpectedly deliciously cheesy meal. The outer crust of the calzone was crispy and produced a satisfying crunch as I cut it into slices. Oozing with melted vegan mozzarella, the calzone was moist enough to combine all the ingredients into one flavorful bite. The vegan sausage, previously quite dry on the Vegan Meat Lovers pie, was perfectly moist and tender within the calzone. Roasted basil tomato sauce, which was packed into the calzone, also served as a chilled side dip, a tangy addition to the mouthwatering interpretation of the beloved classic.
At 12 inches and serving about three people, the pizzas were of decent size. However, the price for one 12-inch pizza is quite expensive, with the cheapest option being $16 for a cheese pizza. We ended up spending closer to $60 for two full pizzas and a calzone. Thankfully, this was plenty of food to split among six people, and we were all satisfied with the unexpected authenticity of the vegan cheese and meat.
Despite being located within walking distance from Ponce City Market, Plant Based Pizzeria is still a hidden gem. It’s tucked away in an uninspiring beige rectangle of a building with barely a storefront sign to its name. The restaurant itself does not offer a dine-in option, so my friends I headed back to campus to eat our food. The waiting area was underwhelming and seems unfinished, with exposed plywood walls graffitied with punchy vegan jokes, a long booth seat and turf covering much of the wall. Though the restaurant staff promised me and my friends a wait time of 20 minutes, we actually waited about 40.
Plant Based Pizzeria is slightly inconvenient to the average college student on a budget, especially if you don’t own a car. Were it less expensive and offered delivery, I would consider buying pizza from them again, but for now, your average pizza delivery with no cheese hits the spot just fine too.
Rating: 4/5 Stars