On the Road Eats: Vegetarian Favorites
Photo By: Citizen Pictures
Photo By: Citizen Pictures
Photo By: Citizen Pictures
Photo By: Citizen Pictures
Herbivores, this one’s for you. From a spicy vegan Thai soup in Seattle to a vegetarian spin on Cincinnati’s classic three-way chili, we’ve collected some of the best veggie-friendly dishes discovered by Guy Fieri, Giada De Laurentiis and more Food Network chefs on their travels from coast to coast.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Kauck
Eugene, Ore.: Eugenewich from Cornbread Cafe
Meatless menus abound in Eugene, Ore., a city so veg-focused that the mayor officially declared 2016 as Vegan Awareness Year. Guy headed to Eugene for a Triple D first: eating at a 100 percent vegan spot, Cornbread Cafe. Housed in a former drive-in with a retro vibe, Cornbread delivers Southern-style comfort food “veganized” by Chef-Owner Sheree Walters. A big draw is The Eugenewich. The sandwich includes a thick slab of baked tofu that’s dredged in a vegan version of buttermilk, dunked in the deep fryer, then stacked on a grilled bun layered with lettuce and tomato. The patty comes blanketed in melty tapioca cheese and topped with carrot bacon and haystack onions.
San Francisco: Vegetarian Cachapa from Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen
San Francisco meets Venezuela at this restaurant, where the name translates to “a little bit of everything.” Chef-Owner Adriana Lopez Vermut serves traditional and updated takes on dishes from her native Venezuela, including a tofu-stuffed street snack that had Guy praising its rich flavor. This vegetarian spin on the cachapa starts with the traditional thick corn batter. But the fillings get a major tweak. Grilled tofu that’s been soaked overnight in an herb-and-spice-laden marinade is heaped onto the cachapa, along with plantains and avocado. The crepe is folded over to create a hand-held snack, but the fillings are so plentiful that you’ll likely need a fork to finish.
Portland: Ore.: Artichoke Grilled Cheese from The Tin Shed Garden Cafe
The co-owners of The Tin Shed Garden Cafe have really taken the term “farm-to-table” to heart, with each person taking on a side project that produces ingredients for the restaurant. Christie Griffin’s beekeeping efforts keep the cafe stocked with blackberry-scented honey, while Janette Kaden’s farm provides fresh produce. The two former waitresses serve stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods, including vegetable-driven dishes like the Heartless Artichoke sandwich. Marinated artichokes are mixed with Parmesan, mayonnaise, lemon juice and seasonings to make a rich filling, which is warmed on the flat-top, then heaped onto grilled sourdough bread. Melted pepper Jack cheese and roasted red peppers amp up the flavor. “Creamy, hot ... I’d eat that till my head fell off,” Guy declared.
Park City, Utah: Vegetarian Mushroom Stroganoff from Silver Star
This rustic Park City, Utah, cafe offers far more than the average ski lodge fare, as Guy discovered on Triple D. The menu features New American dishes inspired by the country’s varied culinary heritage, including meatless mushroom stroganoff. A three-mushroom mixture is cooked down, then sauteed with garlic, onions, chives and vegetable stock, along with sour cream to add that distinctive rich, tangy stroganoff flavor. Silver Star’s version of this traditional Russian dish also incorporates a classic German staple: the egg dumpling known as spaetzle. The dumplings are made from scratch, then dunked in an ice bath, sauteed and served alongside a heaping portion of the mushrooms to create a dish that’s worth skiing down the mountain to sample.
Photo courtesy of Silver Star
New York City: Veggie Burger and Grilled Cheese from The Sparrow Tavern
When Guy came through Queens, a borough of New York City, on Triple D, the only word that could accurately describe his experience at The Sparrow Tavern was “righteous.” This rock-and-roll diner may have a dive-bar look, but its elevated takes on traditional American pub fare set it apart from your standard neighborhood watering hole. Even carnivores leave talking about the veggie burger, a homemade barley-and-vegetable patty stuffed into a whole-wheat pita with frisee lettuce and served with hand-cut spiced fries and a side of maple-cayenne mustard sauce. Another standout is the grilled cheese sandwich: French Pullman bread comes blanketed in melted fontina and manouri, slicked with truffle oil and topped with radicchio and herbs.
Image courtesy of The Sparrow Tavern
Fort Collins, Colo.: Blackened Cauliflower Steak from Restaurant 415
“Did I just bust into, like, the vegetarian beehive?” Guy asked when he stopped by Restaurant 415 on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Though the menu at this quirky northern Colorado spot is not strictly meatless — carnivores rave about the pork lollipop — vegetarians flock here for dishes such as the Blackened Cauliflower Steak. This “steak of the veggie variety,” as Guy calls it, starts with a thick slab of cauliflower that’s caramelized on the flattop, then seasoned with garlic powder, soy sauce and lemon juice. It’s served over sauteed greens and a mound of buttery polenta, then finished with a roasted red pepper sauce that adds to the richness.
Cincinatti: Veggie 3-Way from Melt Eclectic Cafe
Cincinnati earns rave reviews for its Mediterranean spin on chili. And though it’s typically packed with meat, even vegetarians can get in on the action at Melt Eclectic Cafe, where Chef-Owner Lisa Kagen slings a meatless version of the classic Cincinnati 3-way (spaghetti, chili and cheese). Kagen takes traditional ingredients (think tomato, onions, cinnamon and allspice) and combines them with bell peppers, black beans and texturized vegetable protein in place of ground beef. The hearty mixture is heaped over whole-wheat noodles and topped with a mound of shredded white cheddar. Guy could hardly believe there was no meat when he tried it on Triple D. “You’re not only pulling it off — you’re rocking the house,” he declared.
Cleveland: Custom Omelets from Tommy’s Restaurant
This Cleveland stalwart is committed to offering nutritious food that’s big on flavor. There’s something for all diners here, whether you’re a vegan or a meat lover or somewhere in between. The breakfast menu is loaded with meatless options, including a tofu scramble and non-meat sausage links. Rachael even designed her own omelet featuring a hearty mix of broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, green peppers, cheese and onions. Tommy’s is also a popular lunch spot. Regulars recommend the Wildflower Falafel, a pita stuffed with falafel (aka fried bean patties), veggies, mushrooms, baba ghanoush and sesame sauce. You can even satisfy your sweet tooth with a milkshake (go for the extra-thick mint chocolate chip) or a vegan-friendly Tofutti shake in vanilla or chocolate.
Photo courtesy of Tommy's Restaurant
Seattle: Drunken Mushroom and Tom Yum Soup from Araya's Place
Aarón Sánchez visited this all-vegan spot on Heat Seekers, deeming it “a Thai restaurant that has some of the hottest food this side of Bangkok.” One spice-laden standout is the vegan Drunken Mushroom, a classic Thai curry featuring wide rice noodles, tofu and three types of mushrooms that are stir-fried in Thai chile peppers for added bite. And for those who can really handle the heat, Araya’s Place offers a vegan tom yum soup. This hot and sour tofu soup is flavored with lemongrass, lime leaves, mushrooms and onions, along with a heaping spoonful of chile paste that kicks up the spice level to “kiss the sun.”
Photo courtesy of Araya's Place
Charleston, SC: Okra Gumbo and Red Rice from Jestine’s Kitchen
Lines often form down the block for seats at this cozy establishment, and it’s easy to see why: Jestine’s Kitchen serves some of the most-authentic Southern food in town. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike can tuck into hearty portions of low-country favorites. The okra gumbo is a big bowl of modestly priced warmth and comfort. Simply seasoned with just salt and pepper, this gumbo derives its flavor from the slow-and-low method used to cook down the okra, corn and tomatoes that compose the dish. When Rachael Ray stopped in, she rounded out her meal with red rice, cornbread and other Southern staples.
Photo courtesy of Jestine's Kitchen
Boston: The Provencal from Blunch
Chef Nikki Christo’s tiny cafe may be a bit tight on space, but the pressed sandwiches that she’s been slinging here since 2007 keep the lunchtime crowd squeezing in for more. Arguably the most-popular meatless option on the menu is a baguette-based sandwich known as The Provencal, which Guy has rechristened The Hippie Picnic. Bursting with bright flavors, this sandwich starts with a creamy goat cheese spread whipped in-house, which is then layered with pesto, homemade Kalamata olive puree, thick slices of tomatoes, quartered artichoke hearts and oven-roasted tomatoes. A quick turn on the press adds just the right touch of crunch to what Guy deems a “rock-star sandwich.”
Chicago: Organic Farm Egg and Chef's Tasting Menu from Green Zebra
Giada loved the Green Zebra in Chicago, appreciating its beauty both on and off the plate. The interior is remarkably zen, allowing for a serene dining experience. This focus on harmony comes across in the vegetarian tapas as well. The offerings change with the seasons, but be on the lookout for the poached egg served with smoked potato puree and sourdough bread. After digging in, Giada said it was like "tasting smoked bacon.” If the many small plates are too daunting to choose from, opt for the five-course chef’s tasting menu.
Baltimore: Trainwreck Pizza from Johnny Rad’s Pizzeria Tavern
Johnny Rad’s isn’t your grandpa’s pizza joint, as Guy found out on Triple D. The vibe here is skate punk, starting with the bar’s name itself, which pays homage to an ‘80s skateboarding flick. Skate decks adorn the walls, video games crowd the corner and pies with names like Trainwreck dominate the menu. This veggie-friendly pizza starts with cola-laced dough brushed with extra virgin olive oil. The dough is slicked with a thin layer of red sauce, then topped with spinach, mushrooms, black olives and fresh mozzarella balls. A quick turn in the oven transforms the creation into a thin-crust pie that had Guy exclaiming “dynamite.” One slice in and even Grandpa will be ready to catch air.
Oakland: Okra Gumbo from Souley Vegan
Chef-Owner Tamearra Dyson serves Creole classics and soul food favorites with a surprising twist: All of her recipes are vegan. Even carnivores like Guy have been converted into fans of Souley Vegan’s okra gumbo, which features marinated tofu instead of the usual meat and seafood. Dyson cooks down the tofu with onions, bell peppers, okra, corn, seaweed, stewed tomatoes and a housemade seasoning that she calls “love spice,” then spoons the mixture onto a heaping portion of basmati rice layered over a thin sheet of seaweed for a result so flavorful Guy didn’t even miss the meat.
Nashville: Quinoa Tacos from Mas Tacos Por Favor
When Nashville locals have a hankering for authentic Mexican food, they head to Mas Tacos. Chef-Owner Teresa Mason has a talent for transforming local Nashville ingredients into traditional Mexican dishes that she learned to make during a stint south of the border. In addition to her classic meaty fillings, Mason offers vegetarian options like quinoa and sweet potato. “That’s delicious,” said Guy of the creative combination. The sweet potatoes and quinoa are simmered together with jalapenos and habaneros to up the heat factor before they’re stuffed into a warmed tortilla and topped with shredded cabbage.
Philadelphia: Smoked Coconut Club from Memphis Taproom
Guy’s used to trying some strange flavor combos on Triple D, but he was totally wowed by the offbeat inventions at Memphis Taproom. In particular, he deemed the vegan Smoked Coconut Club “off the hook.” For this sandwich, hearty slabs of fried, marinated and grilled tofu are stacked on vegan-mayo-slicked toast, then topped with lettuce, tomato and smoked coconut. Other creative spins on veggie-friendly fare include the Spaghetti Sandwich (which features lentils in lieu of meat), Roasted Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, and Beer-Battered Kosher Dills. In addition to its innovative bar food menu, this spot offers a rotating selection of craft brews on tap, best enjoyed in the outdoor beer garden during the warmer months.