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November 20, 2019

Nashville, Tennessee – Not so long ago, in a much sleepier Nashville, a person couldn’t swing a microphone without hitting a “meat and three” (chicken, beef or pork and three Southern sides), those almost-home-cooked-answers to what’s for lunch or dinner. Meat and threes are still dishing it out in Music City, but their numbers are dwindling (Arnold’s Country Kitchen, a James Beard American Classics Award winner, appears to be filling the vacuum more than adequately). And certainly there are still great barbecue places like Martin’s Bar-B-Cue Joint, Peg Leg Porker and Edley’s Bar-B-Cue.

These days, Nashville’s shiny new culinary scene is expanding in different directions and at breakneck speed with notable additions like Julia Sullivan’s seafood-forward Henrietta Red in Germantown, and Chef Vivek Surti’s Southeast-Asian/American Tailor, among many others.

Amid all the comings and goings, some restaurateurs — acutely aware of the changing tastes of a more diverse and often younger clientele concerned about sustainability, healthy eating and animals rights — are choosing vegan-only menus, or at least adding a range of vegan dishes.

Enter places like Avo with its deliciously confusing chocolate avocado tart (and sustainable metal straws); and the soul-food vegan restaurant, Vege-licious, with its intrepid vegan version of a Philly cheesesteak. Gone are the days when healthy food in Nashville was simply tolerable. The city is now at the point where nearly every vegan spot is at least trying its hand at a plant-based version of Nashville hot chicken — and with surprisingly good results.

…Avo, a vegan restaurant that operates out of a complex of repurposed shipping containers, offers everything from kimchi spring rolls to vegan pad Thai to avocado margaritas.William DeShazer for The New York Times

Avo operates out of an interesting mash-up of businesses housed in shipping containers with a volleyball court in the middle. The complex is billed as the town’s first “cargotecture” part of oneC1TY, a 19-acre urban community of shops, restaurants, green space and apartments just west of downtown. Avo started out offering only raw food when it opened in 2015; by 2017 it was a vegan restaurant with raw options.

At 2 p.m. on a rainy day in the middle of the week, the restaurant was three quarters full. My friend and I were greeted quickly and brought to a small table that would soon be overrun with bowls. The restaurant’s interior is a familiar blend of modern and industrial, but in this space, which is bound by white corrugated steel walls, it’s hard to forget that you’re eating in a shipping container. The patio offers front-row seats to volleyball games that continue throughout the seasons, and a cozy waiting area separates the dining hall with ceiling-to-floor shafts of green diaphanous fabric. It’s all quite eclectic and appealing.

Click here to read the article in full as published by The New York Times.