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Vegans and meat-eaters get down at Soul Vegetarian

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The majority of vegans and vegetarians seemingly fall into one of two categories. My friend Kristin doesn't like the taste and texture of meat, preferring to pile her plate high with the veggies she grows in her garden. My chum Morgan, though, misses eggs, butter and chicken dearly. Holding true to her beliefs that animals should not be harmed or exploited, she likes to eat as though she weren't vegan, feasting on mac and cheese, corn dogs and "chicken" nuggets made with soy products.

Meeting of the minds: Both of my veggie friends would find reason to rejoice at Soul Vegetarian. Part of the chain of restaurants and juice bars owned by Kingdom Enterprises, a business run by African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, Soul Vegetarian offers salads loaded with sprouts and veggies as well as a "meat" and three combo of tofu-based meatloaf, mashed potatoes, collards and corn bread. The interior of SV's North Highland Avenue outpost (the original ATL location is at 879-A Ralph David Abernathy Blvd.) is clean, if a bit outdated and dreary. Those of considerable carnivorous girth might elect to sit at one of the tables, as the narrow, wooden booths provide little creature comfort.

Nary a bone in sight: The restaurant's specialty is surprisingly delicious roasted, sliced gluten loaf called Kalebone. It has a spongy texture similar to that of Asian fish cakes. Slathered in a garlicky sauce and mounded onto a sesame-studded whole wheat bun, the Kalebone sandwich platter ($7.65) is sloppy in all the right satisfying-sandwich ways. It's filling but not heavy, and the accompanying side salad -- with creamy tahini dressing and ungreasy, slightly bland onion rings -- make for almost too much to eat.

Supreme un-fish delight: The fried tofu sandwich ($5.60) with tartar sauce, sprouts, lettuce and tomato on a whole wheat bun is an excellent stand-in for a junk food favorite, the fried fish sandwich. Beneath the crunchy cornmeal breading, the tofu is pleasantly custard-like. Like the Kalebone sandwich, the fried tofu quells a vigorous appetite without sending you straight to the couch for a nap. Split pea soup ($1.30) is surprisingly rich and full of earthy flavor. I'm amazed that I don't miss the hambone.

Sweet Eternity: A small ice cream counter in the middle of the restaurant (called the "Eternity Ice Kream Parlor") serves up scoops of soy-based frozen treats in flavors such as carob and toasted almond. The vanilla pecan ($1.55) doesn't have the funky soy aftertaste of many nondairy ice creams, but it is too sweet and icy to pass muster with any ice cream snob.

It wasn't until we finished our second meal at Soul Vegetarian that we noticed the sign announcing that all dishes are prepared with a minimum of fat, and many dishes are fat-free. Funny what you don't miss if you're not looking.

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