By Betsy DiJulio

For years, when my schedule allowed, I would head to Norfolk from VA Beach on Saturdays after exercising to slip into a favorite shop to two and then into Yorgo’s Bageldashery to snag lunch for the drive home.  My to-go order was perennially the same three items: an 8 ounce tub of vegan chicken salad ($7.60), a split toasted everything bagel, and a diet fountain drink.  While I drove, I would cautiously tear off little bites of bagel and scoop up some of the chicken salad—being careful to catch the shower of seeds in the paper bag spread across my lap—and wash it all down with my diet soda.

Though I no longer drink soda and maintain a bit of a different schedule these days, I do crave that chicken salad.  I have developed a recipe which I shared on my blog that comes very close to Yorgo’s.  But there is nothing like their original.  The few ingredients—Gardein “Chik’n,” red onion, and parsley—are very finely chopped—almost minced—,seasoned with salt and pepper, and lightly held together with the perfect proportion of Vegenaise for a lovely texture, all permeated with the pleasantly subtle, yet unmistakable, flavor of that red onion.

I also enjoy Yorgo’s tubs of tofu-tumeric-and-Vegneaise-based vegan egg salad ($6.25), though the creamy mixture would benefit, at least from my perspective, from a little bit of black salt for that distinctively sulphur-y and convincingly “eggy” flavor it imparts.  Yorgo’s naturally vegan hummus ($5.25) comes in a tub as well, but I haven’t yet tried it as hummus is so ubiquitous nowadays.  All three spreads can be made into sandwiches or wraps.  For dairy-free diners desiring to really get their Deli on, Yorgo’s sells tubs of vegan cream cheese ($4.60) and vegan flavored cream cheese ($5.25) or bagels spread with same.

Wanting to share a wider range of Yorgo’s fairly extensive vegan offerings with Veer readers than what I had previously sampled, I visited on a recent and very busy Saturday after yoga, committed to ordering something different than my beloved chicken salad or the egg salad from their large chalkboard menu.  But what?  I was overwhelmed by the descriptions of the five additional sandwich offerings and was glad the line was nearly out the door so that I had some time to make up my mind between the vegan BLT ($5.25), Philly “Cheese Steak” ($8.50), Pulled BBQ Chik’n or Buffalo Chik’n (each $7.75), and the Vegan Italian made with Tofurky ($6.50).

Ultimately, I chose the BLT and Buffalo Chik’n, both on toasted everything bagels.  But I looked like a deer in the headlights when asked what type of bread I wanted—a gazillion different types of bagels or a wrap—because I froze at the thought of having to make another decision.  I made it easy and went with the tried and true, and was glad I did.  Actually, I was glad I did until I visited the restroom at Exotic Home where I stopped on the way back to Virginia Beach only to discover two big black poppy seeds between my teeth.

Just so you know, I didn’t eat two sandwiches; I merely tasted.  But, even one sandwich would have been too much food.  These are hefty, as well as delicious, and great values.  I sampled the bagels by themselves—delish and perfectly toasted as always—mostly so I could sample the herbed Vegenaise—scrumptious—and then fed the bread to the birds.  I devoured the generous lettuce and tomato slices on the BLT, and the lettuce, tomato, and ultrathin rings of red onion on the Buffalo Chik’n, heartily approving because they were so fresh with a bit of herbed Vegenaise clinging to them.

Since I was deconstructing my sandwiches, I sampled three of the five “meaty” slices of tempeh bacon on the BLT and found them to be a perfect savory-sweet balance with none of the bitterness sometimes associated with tempeh.  (I saved the rest for a snack.)  Each slice was unevenly browned, which is my preference because of the pleasant variety of textures and toasty notes.

The pile of Chick’n strips in buffalo sauce in my other selection created one juicy, delightfully messy, soak-through-the-paper sandwich, and boy was it good.  Creamy and with just the right amount of heat to play off the creamy-but-cooling herbed Vegenaise, this was one scrumptious heap of a sandwich.  And the leftovers will make another meal.  I will be back to enjoy my old and new favorites, as well as to sample the vegan Pulled BBQ Chick’n because I love the contrast of tangy slaw and sweet barbeque sauce and can rarely-if-ever find a commercially available vegan slaw.  But I will take a friend to help tackle that tower of temptation.

I am not much of a breakfast eater—I drank Carnation Instant Breakfast as a kid and still drink smoothies—and was never big on eggs; but, if you are, there are five stick-to-your-ribs vegan choices: egg and cheese ($3.55); egg, bacon, and cheese; egg, sausage, and cheese (each $5.15);  a vegan burrito ($5.75) that sounds like it would feed a family of four:  tofu scrambler, hash browns, and vegan chili with optional cheese ($.75) on a jalapeno-cheddar wrap; and The Peterman ($5.95) which starts with the tofu scrambler and hash browns, and then layers on vegan sausage, Daiya cheese, and red onion inside the whatever-your-healthy-heart-desires wrap.

Yorgo’s is one of the few establishments in our area where vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores can all dine together in blissed-out bagel-infused contentment without anyone feeling deprived.

Yorgo’s Bageldashery, 2123 Colonial Avenue, Norfolk, 757.623.6609,