One thing that is a little strange to me about this area is that outside of the “city” type of areas – Franklin St. in Chapel Hill, downtown Raleigh, Brightleaf Sq. in Durham, etc – everything else is pretty much strip malls or little shopping areas. So, often you will find hidden restaurant gems in these malls which you have to seek out, as there are no way to know that it would be there. Sage Vegetarian Café is just one of these gems. The restaurant is in the Timberlyne Shopping complex. The space itself is warm and inviting. The room is painted in warm tones of yellow and orange with dim lighting. There are only about 10 tables in the restaurant which are simple.
We met some friends there at 7pm on a Saturday night and weren’t sure if there would be a wait since they don’t take reservations for groups less than 5 people. Luckily, we were seated as soon as we got there without any trouble. The place was busy and tables seemed to be turning over quickly. They offer a limited selection of beer and wine but do not have a full bar. We started with a couple of glasses of wine while we waited for our friends.
The menu is completely vegetarian focusing primarily on Persian dishes but includes a couple of Italian dishes. We started with the Mezze Platter for the table which is a variety of three Mediterranean sides and served with warm pita. All the side dishes were very good. The hummus in particular was quite good, very creamy with a nice touch of lemon and tahini.
I ordered the Fesan-joon which is a Persian dish with pomegranate juice, ground walnuts and herbs, blended with grilled tempeh. It was served with rice. It was delicious!! The pomegranate juice provided a nice sweet and tangy base to the sauce which was thickened with the walnuts. The tempeh also added a nice texture to the dish. My main issue with the dish is that it was quite thick making it difficult to eat and also very heavy. It would be absolutely amazing if the sauce was thinned out a bit.
G decided to go Italian and had the Gnocchi Arabiatta which is potato dumplings sautéed in a light, spicy tomato and basil sauce. It was excellent! The dumplings were light and nicely absorbed the sauce. The sauce was a wonderful arabiatta with just the right spiciness. A very nice and satisfying dish!
One of our friends ordered the Soy Chicken Culets which is soy protein ‘chicken’ in a mild coconut curry and mushroom sauce, served with rice. We all tried a piece of the chicken in this dish. It was wonderful! The chicken had a nice satisfying meaty texture the coconut curry and mushroom sauce was rich with a mild spice from the curry. We knew we would surely return for this dish.
Our other friend decided to have soup and salad. He ordered the Osh soup which is a Persian soup with garbanzos, lentils, pintos, spinach, noodles, herbs and spices. For dinner he had the crunchy sprout salad with mixed greens, sprouts, cinnamon roasted walnuts, raisins, and shredded carrots topped with sesame seeds served with creamy dill dressing. Both received very good reviews.
We really enjoyed our meal at Sage. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. The food was delicious and very well prepared. In fact, just a week later we returned with my parents who were in town visiting. We started with the hummus platter and repeated several dishes including the Gnocchi Arabiatta, the Soy Chicken Culets and the Osh soup. The soup was excellent! It was similar to that served at Café Parvaneh. This time we also tried the Bud-m-joon which is listed as “Eggplant Paradise” with tomato, split peas, saffron, and sautéed onion. It was a nice dish though it was a little sweeter than we expected. We love finding these types of gems and appreciate the care that the chef and staff put into you having a great experience. I am sure this will become one of our go to restaurants in this area.
Sage Vegetarian Café
1129 Weaver Dairy Road
Chapel Hill, NC 27614