28 May 2009


Carabar is a cool independent music venue/bar/restaurant in Downtown Columbus. The kitchen (called the Helen Killer) features a great deal of vegetarian comfort food options that pair well with the great draft beers and the entertainment.

The backbone of the menu is hot dogs. There are vegetarian hot dogs available with toppings including vegan chili, sauerkraut, onions and condiments including ketchup, mustard and a stadium full of hot sauces. I actually ordered the vegan chili sans hot dog.

The chalk board menu doesn't list everything that the kitchen offers. It was recommended that I order a falafel hummus wrap. It might not have been on the Hellen Killer chalk board, but it was delicious enough to keep on the little chalk board menu in my head. Flattened falafel patties are pressed into a pita slathered in hummus on top of a bed of lettuce and tomatoes in a perfect base of tahini and hot sauce. It is as good of a falafel sandwich I've had outside of On the Fly.

There is a full service bar at Carabar. If you're drinking, however, Carabar definitely specializes in the brewing arts. The draft beer selection included Great Lakes Blackout Stout and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. Prices are low, and they offer some steep discounts during Happy Hour.

The bad news about Carabar is that the current location will be kaput when the 70/71 reconstruction begins. The local community supports the place and hopes that it takes up root elsewhere. Luckily the move has been pushed back until about 2012, so enjoy there's a little more time to enjoy the Carabar experience.


Helen Killer Cafe at Carabar on Urbanspoon

26 May 2009

Jimmy V's Grill and Pub

I took too long to walk over to Jimmy V's and I was beaten to the press by Columbus Alive. But they dropped the ball by not discussing vegetarian dining options at the Brewery District enclave, so I can at least add something to the discussion.

Jimmy V's Grill and Bar is a restaurant and bar with roomy patio accommodations. The menu is mainly Greek food, but there are sandwiches and pasta dishes if Greek food isn't your thing.

There are tons of vegetarian starters. Saganaki, hummus, grape leaves and skordalia are four of the meatless appetizers. There are also a number of meatless salads. In addition to pasta dishes, there are also veggie gyros available as main courses.

I sampled the cold appetizer platter. It had garlicky hummus, even more garlicky skordalia (a cold potato and garlic dip) and an olive, red peppers and feta cheese dip with vegetarian grape leaves. It was all served with warm pita and a trough of tzatsiki. The plate could easily be shared by two or three people.

The veggie panini has the requisite grill marks. It is made with a mozzarella cheese, spinach, red peppers and onions. It is served with a choice of chips, fries, onion rings or one of the scores of other sides.

Jimmy V's features a large selection of domestic and imported macro brews with a variety of happy hour specials. There is also a cocktail menu with a standard list of sugar shock martinis.

Jimmy V's

Jimmy V's Grill & Pub on Urbanspoon

22 May 2009

No Soupman for You

It's looking grim for the Soup Man. According to a report by Business First of Columbus, the owner of the Seinfeld-inspired chain's Central Ohio franchise allegedly has not paid rent in almost a year.

I reviewed the place a while ago. It seemed like a decent lunch spot that was a little bit too expensive based upon the portions. Unless a few other people disagree with me very soon, the Soup Nazi may be saying, "auf Wiedersehen," to the Columbus market.

18 May 2009

The Bean's Happy Hour is B-A-N-A-N-A-S

I have previously raved about the food at Banana Bean. I live within walking distance of the original location, so I go there more often than I go to the Banana Bean on Greenlawn. Now that I've discovered the Banana Bean Happy Hour, I may actually establish a permanent residence at the front table.

Some of the great features of the Happy Hour include:
  • $2 off the enormous sandwiches
  • Free chips and mango habanero salsa
  • $2 'Ritas and Hemingways
  • $1 Domestics and $3 imports

And it wasn't discounted, but the Sting Ray pizza was awesome. Fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes, habanero peppers and lime sauce are the ingredients in a pie that is equal parts Italian and Caribbean. There is a 3-pizzas-for$20 special for those looking for discounts, too. Coupled with the drink specials, The Bean is a great way to roll up a fun dinner in a modest price range.

Banana Bean Cafe on Urbanspoon

14 May 2009

Latest from Rosendale's

I made another trip to haute outpost Rosendale's in the Short North. As with previous visits, I was wowed by the beautiful synthesis of atmosphere, service and cuisine.

I have covered the accolades earned by the Rosendale's staff in previous posts, so I won't bore you here by parading out the awards here for another go-round. Just know that the list is long and well deserved.

The service provided (for the second time) by Molly was fantastic. She did a tremendous job addressing my vegetarian concerns, and even took the time to suggest that I should allow the chef to create a vegetarian special as an entree rather than settling for the pasta dish on the menu. She was not wrong at all as the dish was fantastic (more on that in later paragraphs).

The bread is always served with a selection of butters. The house made selection was a delicious creation flecked with pink sea salt.

The goat cheese appetizer prepared with golden beets and candied walnuts was an exercise in contrasts. Three different morsels of goat cheese individually treated with smoked paprika, walnuts and fresh rosemary, were prepared on a pomegranate gelee which was vegetarian because it was made with agar. The final treat in the dish was the addition of a goat cheese sorbet on a basil leaf which provided a fitting palate cleanser.

The contrasting ingredients on the main entree, on the other hand, were potatoes. Four different shades of potatoes from the chef's garden were prepared on a bed of microgreens, fiddleheads and tomatoes in a garlic tomato reduction.

The colors in the dish made it a visual pleasure, and the flavors were delightful. When paired with a glass of Newton Claret, the harmony of the ingredients settled beautifully.

The wine list and cocktails at Rosendale's are still outstanding. By-the-glass wine selections are great. As I have said before, any place with Chateau La Nerthe Chateuneuf-du-Pape by the glass gets an A+ in my book no matter what else happens at the meal. Luckily, Rosendale's didn't need the free pass.

It is easy enough to make a choice to match whatever you decide to eat, and sommelier Chris Dillman is more than capable of tracking down the best possible fermented grape juice to compliment whatever dining choices you make. For those who prefer beer or liquor, there is a small selection of import and micro brews, as well as an extensive selection of top shelf booze. The Scotch selections are exemplary.

Rosendale's Latest

13 May 2009

Great Lakes Brewing Company

I can't believe that I have been writing about restaurants for about three years on this blog, and during this stretch, I've managed to avoid writing about one of my absolute favorite lakeside attractions: The Great Lakes Brew Pub. Luckily, I can draw on a wealth of back experience to craft a nuanced piece in which I explain the little details that make Great Lakes one of the Buckeye state's, if not the nation's finest brewing operations.

In many instances, brew pubs are an apparition or an illusion. Something that appears to be an on-site operation is actually nothing more than a contract brewing ruse. Lesser outfits than Great Lakes show off shimmering brew kettles that sparkle because they harbor a darker secret: they've never actually been used.

Great Lakes takes this problematic issue and blows it to pieces. The brew pub is located adjacent to the actual brewery, and patrons can follow the pipes overhead that carry the beer directly from the brewery to the brew pub into the frosty glassware on the table. There are few illusions at play in the Great Lakes Brewing Company.

What they deliver at Great Lakes is real beer with a real flavor. Cleveland is a city with a long brewing history, and Great Lakes and its staff have been a part of that history for some time. Brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway established Great Lakes in Cleveland in 1988, and they put Cleveland Master Brewer Thaine Johnson at the helm to create beer in the European tradition with just a hint of Cleveland's rock n' roll roots.

Although Johnson has moved on to the great fermentation tank in the sky, the brewery continues to feature some of the finest brews in the nation, many crafted with Johnson's careful guidance. And there is nothing that pairs better with one of the finest beers in the U.S.A. than the brew pub fare of Great Lakes.

There are not a many vegetarian choices on Great Lakes' menu. However, in my experience, there is always a vegan burger, a pasta dish and a couple of appetizers on each menu for those who believe that meat is not a component of the food pyramid. Some of the vegetarian appetizers include the Brewer's Pretzels with Liptauer cheese dip, the artichoke crock, the sweet potato fries, and a number of salads,

The mushroom bruschetta was made with spent brewer's barley bread topped with garlic butter, Killbuck valley mushrooms, roasted red peppers and melted mozzarella. Although the dish was flavorful, the large slices of bread made the dish somewhat difficult to eat. If the slices of bread were cut in half, the whole process would have been far less messy.

My main entree was a vegetable alfredo pasta. The alfredo sauce was actually made with a splash of Dortmunder Gold beer, a mild white cheese and cream. The vegetables were zucchini, carrots and chives. The dish actually occupies some sort of middle ground between macaroni and cheese and Pasta Primavera.

Of course, the food at Great Lakes is like a great opening act. It's an added bonus, but you're at the concert to see the headliner. In this case, the headliner is beer.

Great Lakes has beers that are offered all year long, and others that are seasonally available. The regular brews are available throughout the region. However, the most interesting brews are always the seasonal offerings.

The one seasonal that is currently available in bottles is the Grassroots Ale, a saison brewed in the Belgian tradition as a summer brew for farm workers. It showcases the herbal elements that compose the refreshing, high-alcohol brew. Grassroots used to be called the Hale Ale. It is the only seasonal selection currently available at retail, unlike the other seasonals that can only be purchased at the brew pub.

The Lake Erie Monster looks like it may no longer be on tap since I tasted it, which is too bad, because that is an absolute pleasure to behold. The extreme hop presence of the beer makes itself known in the aroma, and even more so on the palate with its 92 i.b.u.s. However, the beautiful richness of the malt offsets the orgasmic bitterness of the beer.

Since the brew also possesses 9% alcohol by volume, it is served in a smaller Belgian-style tulip glass, making it a delight to savor slowly. I originally tasted this in a bottle years ago, but as of now, there is no plan to bottle the Lake Erie Monster again, so mark your calendar for next year if you want to taste the next batch.

The York Street Bitter is also an excellent example of brewing style. The ESB is a classic British-style golden bitter ale. The alcohol and hop content of York Street ESB is lower than any of the Great Lakes Pale Ales. However, the less is more approach has created a beer with a beautifully refined sense of elegance that is sometimes lacking in American ales.

The final seasonal I sampled was the Bailout Brew. This offering was made in the style of a Maibock, a blonde German-style lager typically consumed at spring festivals in the Fatherland. A grassy hops character peaks out between a bread and citrus aroma in the Bailout Brew. The 7.5% alcohol content is sneaky, because the beer has a weight like a lower alcohol brew and seems like it would be an easy quaff.

If tasting the beer from the source isn't a fun enough proposition, Great Lakes has other bells and whistles to keep your rapt attention. There are brewery tours on Friday and Saturdays. It's a fun way to spend about an hour, and you can see the guts of the Great Lakes operation. The attraction of free beer is tough to pass up, too.

Another form of entertainment with the Cavs in the playoffs and Indians season starting their season is to take advantage of Great Lakes' Fatty Wagon. Great Lakes makes biodiesel out of spent oil from the deep frying stations. The recycled lipids power patrons to Cavs, Indians and weekday Browns games for the low cost of $1 (tickets not included). It also includes a return trip.

Great Lakes Brewery

Great Lakes Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

12 May 2009


I have finally returned from the Gulf Coast (or more correctly, I returned a few days ago and I finally ran out of places to blog about), and now I am back to the task at hand: vegetarian dining in and around Ohio. Next on the block: Barrio.

Barrio is the next step in the 317-year plan to rebuild Downtown Columbus. Someday, my children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children's children will be able to enjoy the fruits of this rebuilding effort. For now, I get to enjoy the new ballpark and Barrio.

Barrio is a modern tapas place with a Pan-Latin focus as opposed to being an eatery that takes a classic Spanish approach to small plates. Menu choices come from Europe and South, Meso- and North American nations (as well as a few stops elsewhere on the globe).

The interior is small and modern. The walls are black and metallic with pieces of dark wood throughout. Service is capable if unexceptional. The place has opened recently, so perhaps they need a chance to iron out some kinks.

The offerings at Barrio fit into one of two categories: modern takes on old classics, or flashy fixings rooted in Latin tradition. Some of the traditional offerings with a new spin include the Spanish cheese plate and the avocado salad. Some of the new items rooted in tradition include vegetable ceviche, fennel and grapefruit salad, and caramelized provolone cheese.

The marinated olives were excellent. There were Gaeta olives, Cerignola olives and a tiny black olive that I was unable to name. The olives were marinated in spaces ranging from fennel to paprika to cayenne pepper, and bathed in a stream of olive oil offset with parmesan cheese and Marcona almonds. While the flavors were great, the small black olives with pits were tedious to eat. I might recommend to the kitchen something with a little more olive and a little less pit for the next selection.

The vegetable ceviche was absolutely divine. It was served in a three portion dish with popcorn, jicama, hearts of palm, onion, carrots, squash and plantains in an ahi cream sauce. The flavor was citrusy and fresh. At first, I didn't understand the popcorn. Then I tasted it with the spicy citrus cream sauce and I was converted.

The caramelized provolone cheese in tomato and olive oil with grill bread was reminiscent of saganaki, although the flavors were more Italian than Hellenic or Iberian. The seasoned cheese is scooped up by crunchy pieces of bread.

The papas fritas were very tasty. They are pretty much exactly what the menu says they are: garlic and herbed French fried potatoes with a sherry vinegar aioli. They are a great comfort food. They portion of aioli is small, and I might have preferred the fries with a little more spice on them, but all in all, they are a satisfying choice.

The quinoa salad in romesco sauce is a great preparation of this wonderful vegetable. Although many are unfamiliar with this South American staple, the grain-like Quinoa has been a part of the South American diet for more than 6,000 years. Barrio's preparation of quinoa is made with micro greens, almonds and romesco sauce, a classic topping prepared with olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and hot peppers. The synthesis of the earthy, spicy and sweet flavors makes this dish shine.

Whenever I am in a tapas place, I would much rather order a bunch of small plates than a starter and a main course. However, for those diners more rooted in tradition, there is also a mixed vegetable entree on the menu.

The beverage lists are fun and reflect the modern sensibilities of the restaurant. Although small, the beer selections are very nice. There are some very nice wines on the list, although Barrio has some time to go before it will be in the pantheon of Columbus' best wine destinations. The rum punch cocktail was far better than the margarita.

Initially, I was worried that Barrio would be poaching business away from Barcelona. However, after trying both, I'll have to say that there is definitely a distiction between the approach of the two places. Hopefully Columbus and its appetite for different styles of tapas is enough to keep both places as fat and happy as the clientele.


Barrio on Urbanspoon

11 May 2009

Cafe du Monde

Located across the street from historic Jackson Square, Café du Monde is home to some of New Orleans' most famous beignets. The French doughnut is a deep fried dough fritter covered in powdered sugar. It is typically dunked in coffee like its American cousins.

The closest Americanized equivalent of beignets is the fair food known as elephant ears. Beignets are one of the simple pleasures of New Orleans breakfasts.

The cafe au lait at Café du Monde is blended with chicory. Chicory gives coffee a deeper roasted flavor. According to the Café du Monde Web site and a cursory look at history, chicory came into use during the French Civil War when coffee became scarce, and was brought to Louisiana by the Acadians.

Café du Monde is hopping busy in the mornings. However, since it is open 24/7, you should have plenty of opportunities to sample the fare at New Orleans' original coffee stand.

Cafe Du Monde

Crescent City Brewhouse

Let me fire the first warning shot across the bow: Crescent City Brewhouse hates vegetarians. Posts on this blog always address places that are vegetarian-friendly. And Crescent City Brewing is just about the opposite of that. The meatless menu is limited to baked brie and a salad.

Also, the ground floor is virtually a seafood raw bar that smells as such. If you can get past these issues, however, Crescent City makes some tasty brews.

The easiest places to escape the veggie prejudice at the brewpub are the open air balcony on the second floor, and of course with the convenient New Orleans vehicle called the Go-Cup. Plan accordingly.

The best of the regular brews is the Red Stallion. This Viennese-style, red lager possesses a medium carbonation, a surprisingly rich malt character offset by a clean alpha hop note. The finish is grassy and malt-driven.

Other regular brews include a weiss, a Schwarzbier-like black beer and a classic pilsner. The seasonal offering was a dunkelweiss. If you're following the theme, all of the beers are rooted in a Teutonic tradition.

Crescent City Brew Pub

07 May 2009


Lilette is part of the creme de la creme of the New Orleans dining scene. Others come and go, but the classic approach to fine dining employed by Lilette creates a timelessly successful experience that is always sure to please.

Some of the accolades that have rested on the mantle of Chef John Harris include him being recognized as one of Food & Wine Magazine's best new chefs in 2002, as well as being named 2001 Chef of the Year by New Orleans Magazine. The restaurant is also often in the top 10 rankings of New Orleans eateries.

The atmosphere of Lilette rests somewhere between staunch formality and that of an upscale bistro. The fare is French and Italian with a New Orleans foundation. The wine list favors Europe but has options to satisfy the New World palate with equal effectiveness.

There are a large number of appetizers that are acceptable for vegetarians, including the grilled beets with goat cheese and walnuts, the cheese plate and potato gnocchi with sage brown butter and Parmesan cream. There are also a number of meatless salads, including a delightful hearts of palm salad in a lemon, olive oil and Parmesan dressing.

I started with the eggplant crisps with skordalia, tomatoes, basil and oil-cured olives. The crunch of the eggplant was offset by the vibrancy of the tomatoes and the basil. The olives provided a nice salty contrast to the rest of the dish.

There is not a vegetarian entree on the menu. However, the staff plans for a vegetarian dish each night based upon what is freshest in the kitchen.

My entree was fluffy gnocchi in an oil and sage base topped with spinach, lima beans and grape tomatoes. The gnocchi were delightful. The pillowy texture of the potato pasta soaked up every last bit of flavor from the vegetables.

The cocktail list was small but well chosen. I absolutely love the Hendrick's gin martini with a cucumber garnish as an apperatif.

Desserts are also very nice. Pastry Chef Beth Biundo makes great treats for after dinner. If you're too stuffed after the meal, you can always contact her side business (Cakes by Beth) and have something made to take home with you.


Lilette on Urbanspoon

06 May 2009


On top of all of the rich food and booze and general debauchery that characterizes the New Orleans experience, the trip just wouldn't be complete without dessert. New Orleans just wouldn't be New Orleans without beignets, pralines and Bananas Foster.

Now keep in mind that I am in no way criticizing the merits of New Orleans' signature desserts. However, if you take a trip down the Mississippi River, Sucre will give you a clue as to how many other ways sweets can be amazing beyond the realm of the traditional.

Sucre is captained by Chef Tariq Hanna. Hanna applies his passion for pastry arts to create a abundance of savory sweets to satisfy a sweet tooth of any shape and size. He'll throw in a few hints of pralines and bananas to please the purists, all the while combining new elements that make you think deeper about dessert.

The storefront is located on the busy Magazine Street thoroughfare. Sucre makes ice creams, gelatos, pastries, candies, cookies and cakes. The artistry of the fare is breathtaking.

I enjoyed the sugar-free raspberry sorbet. It was a deeply sweet expression of pure fruit. Another Columbus resident reviewed the (non-vegetarian) macaroons. She enjoyed them, but gave a slight nod to local favorite Pistacia Vera.

I'm hardly the first to notice Sucre. It seems that everybody adores the macaroons. See O Magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and even Maxim extolling the virtues of the sweets at Sucre for proof. I particularly like Hanna's quote in Southern Breeze Magazine: "Everything in moderation, as long as you moderate frequently." Check me off in the box as another adoring fan.


Sucre on Urbanspoon

05 May 2009

Trolley Stop Cafe

On the trek to Magazine Street, a local gentleman recommended that we stop at the Trolley Stop Café for breakfast. Who am I to argue with the locals?

The Trolley Stop is open 24 hours and it serves breakfast all day. There aren't a tremendous amount of vegetarian options on the menu. However, they make all the standards (silver dollar pancakes, waffles, toast, bagels, etc.).

The hash browns are delicious, and different from any others I've tried. Whole potato pieces were griddled in an ocean of butter. It's very rich and very filling.

Trolley Stop Cafe

Factory Farms and the Flu

I read an interview with Dr. Michael Greger in which he defends the position that the modern factory farming system is culpable if not completely responsible for diseases like swine and avian flu as a human health threat. As a vegetarian, let me say I feel confident that I have done my part to save the world from pandemic influenza.


Amid the hustle and bustle of Uptown New Orleans, it's hard to miss the activity at Jacques-Imo's, the flagship operation of high-energy chef Jacques Leonardi. Jacques-Imo's offers new spins on Creole and Cajun delicacies, all prepared under the watchful eye of one of the city's most talented and idiosyncratic gourmands.

It's very easy to get a feel for how Jacques-Imo's operates. The animated Leonardi roams the floor checking on customers. These same customers are ushered into the restaurant right through the kitchen, giving them an insider's perspective on operations at one of the busiest restaurants in the city.

The colorful decorations match the spirit of the restaurant and the cuisine. Signs order patrons to "Be nice or leave," although the hospitality is far more gracious than the signage would suggest.

The meal is supplemented by small plates brought out between starters and the main course. The corn bread muffins were divine. They were drowned in a bath of garlic butter and tasted good enough to justify me eating three plates worth of corn bread.

The vegetarian delight was an acorn squash stuffed with broccoli, cauliflower, black beans, sweet potatoes and onions in a coconut curry. The presentation was a beautiful array of colors. The flavors ran the gamut from sweet to spicy to rich to vegetal. Many of the sides are vegetarian, as well, including mashed potatoes, okra and collard greens.

Dessert was a bread pudding that was like a liquid version of a cinnamon roll. It was a savory take on delicious.

The bar does a fairly brisk business. Jacques-Imo's doesn't take reservations for parties less than five, and patrons wait patiently at the bar for tables to open up.

My personal highlight from the bar was the special Jockamo IPA from Abita. The aggressively hopped brew was a perfect foil to the spicy food.

One of the other highlights at Jacques-Imo's is the two top truck. Two patrons may sit at a table in the back of a Jacques-Imo's pickup truck in front of the establishment and enjoy the atmosphere of Oak Street.


Jacques-Imo's Cafe on Urbanspoon

04 May 2009

Vegetarian tips for New Orleans

Before I get started on vegetarian dining in the Crescent City, I will dole out some advice on meatless eats in a city that would put bacon in the drinking water if they were so permitted. With some careful planning, enjoying the simple pleasures of New Orleans' food without the burden of flesh-eating guilt can in fact be as easy as it is epicurean.

One of the more useful resources I stumbled upon in my searches was a blog Eating Out New Orleans. It's a mish mash of reviews of vegan restaurants in New Orleans. They offer short, humorous takes on the many different cuisines, markets and hot spots for all types of palates in the city. The author has moved away from New Orleans, so you might want to call these places before venturing there. That being said, I found some great places on this site, and this is a fun way for a vegetarian to walk in someone else's shoes and eat in (or out) NOLA.

When you're in New Orleans, there is obviously no shortage of big name chefs in bells-and-whistles establishments that anybody in any city would know. K-Paul's. The trio of Emeril Lagasse's restaurants. Brennan's and Commander's Palace. And while I'm sure that these places might attempt to cater to vegetarian dining requests, many other big ticket places do a better job highlighting a commitment to vegetarian-conscious dining. That is why I choose to highlight them instead.

  • August--Superstar Chef John Besh has no shortage of accolades. According to his bio, Besh has been named Top 10 Chef in America by Food and Wine Magazine, Best Chef of the Southeast by the James Beard Association and a number of other stratospheric recognitions too numerous to credit here. Suffice it to say, the guy is talented. There isn't much on the every day menu or the pre-set degustation that is vegetarian appropriate. The degustation can be ordered vegetarian with advance notice, and coupled with the atmosphere and the service, it would be certain to amaze.
  • Galatoire's-- Smack dab in the middle of the madness of Bourbon Street sits Galatoire's. It is an old-fashioned Creole/French affair where both the staff and the patrons are dressed to impress. There are a number of vegetarian side dishes in addition to the grilled vegetable platter. The salads are also mostly vegetarian.
  • Andrea's--Italian restaurants are typically very kind to vegetarians. Andrea's, considered one of the city's finest Italian restaurants, is no different. There are many salads, bruschetta, and an assortment of of pasta dishes on the menu (There were a few other Italian places with vegetarian options on the menu, including Carmelo's).

New Orleans is a giant melting pot of culture. As a result, the Crescent City's restaurants share a similar international flair.

  • Sake Cafe--This is a funky Japanese place in Uptown New Orleans. There are portabella sushi rolls, edamame, miso soup, noodle dishes and a number of other vegetarian options on the menu.
  • Hoshun Restaurant--Hoshun is a Pan-Asian spot that also has a couple of vegetarian choices on the menu. The cuisines represented on the menu are Thai, Chinese and Japanese.
  • CoCo Hut--This Caribbean outpost has many options for vegetarians and vegans alike.
  • Juan's Flying Burrito--This colorful place features plenty of international vegetarian and vegan choices in a Mexican vein. It is not necessarily the most authentic option, but the menu looks fun and flavorful. A Midwestern equivalent would be Mad Mex or Casa Nueva.
  • Byblos--Mediterranean restaurants always do a great job feeding vegetarians, and Byblos is no exception. All of the favorites, from hummus to falafel to grape leaves, are available in addition to vegetarian entrees and combos.
  • Salt N' Pepper--I eat Indian food all the time, but I must say that I have never eaten at a Pakistani restaurant. Salt N' Pepper features Pakistani food coupled with New Orleans favorites. Many of the choices are vegetarian friendly.

    There are many fast and faster food restaurants in New Orleans that cater to vegetarians. One of the most notable is the Gumbo Shop. Gumbo is not a dish most associate with vegetarianism. However, the Gumbo Shop features Gumbo Z'Herbes, a vegetarian gumbo eaten during Lenten months. Although some restaurants sneak ham bones or bacon into their Gumbo Z'Herbes, the Gumbo Shop makes its version for vegetarians. There are a number of other vegetarian options on the menu, including a veggie po' boy and a Creole vegetarian dish of the day.

    There are a number of other options in New Orleans that I haven't even begun to discuss. I'll write about a few others in the coming days. Even that won't really begin to scratch the surface of the international boiling pot of vegetarian stew simmering in this Mississippi River city.

    Panini Pete's

    Panini Pete's is a sandwich shop in Fairhope, Alabama, that offers a little bit extra than the typical fast food joint. This small place, tucked into Alabama's French Quarter, puts its heart and soul into grill pressed, Italian-style sandwiches.

    The actual Panini Pete is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He has years of industry experience, and it shows in his carefully crafted fare.

    Panini Pete's is so noted, in fact, that it was featured in an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. There is even a Guy Fieri bobblehead by the cash register to thank the Food Network star for his free publicity.

    All of the food, from the chips and fries to the bread and mozzarella cheese, are made in-house. Panini Pete's serves breakfast and lunch, and they stay busy throughout the afternoon.

    Vegetarian options include the tomato and mozzarella panini. The soft, creamy mozzarella is stacked high on grilled foccacia bread with sliced tomatoes, torn basil leaves and a balsamic vinaigrette. When you only have one vegetarian sandwich on the menu, it had better be good, and Pete's truly delivers with this one. The chips are crisp and deliciously salty, with a hint of smokiness on the finish.

    Crescent City fans will also enjoy the beignets. Pete's makes the New Orleans pastries for the breakfast crowd (although they can also be enjoyed after lunch by a less traditional diner).

    Panini Pete's

    Panini Pete's on Urbanspoon

    03 May 2009

    Hurricane Brewing

    Hurricane Brewing is a brew pup in Downtown Mobile with six or seven brews on tap. Five of them are produced by the on-site brewing facilities.

    Hurricane features typical pub grub with a requisite number of vegetarian options including pizza, macaroni and cheese, cheese sticks, chips and salsa, and quesadillas.

    The Storm Surge Stout is coal black. The carbonation is full. The aroma is a complex blend of maple, coffee and chocolate with a hint of smokiness. The finish is medium long, and the hop character evidences itself on the back end.

    Some of the other regular brews include the Insurance Adjuster Pale Ale, Projected Path Amber Ale, and the Floating Car Amber Ale. The seasonal offerings are the Flying Debris Mardi Gras Ale, Category Four Leaf Irish Ale, an ever-changing wheat beer and an Octoberfest. The guest taps were Brooklyn Brown and Woodchuck Cider.

    Hurricane Brewing

    02 May 2009


    NoJa is the shorthand name for North Jackson, the location of Downtown Mobile's finest restaurant. NoJa is a fusion spot right in the heart of the city.

    Both the location and the boss have an interesting history. The space was formerly a private residence, a taxi station and a popular bar. The Ethiopian-born ower and chef Chakli Diggs formerly ran the popular Bienville Bistro. He uses his international upbringing as an influence on his multicultural menu.

    The beautiful dining room is upstaged only by the more dynamic courtyard. The staff is as knowledgeable as they are courteous and attentive. Fernando was an excellent server.

    The menu at NoJa is slanted in favor of the carnivorous consumer. However, the staff was very accommodating when I called ahead with my vegetarian concerns.

    The tomato and sunchoke cream soup was vegetarian safe. The creamy tomato was offset by a rich, earthy sunchoke finish. Fresh pepper created a beautiful spiciness that rounded out the flavors.

    The Mediterranean pasta dish was vegetarian when prepared without chorizo. Pepardelle pasta was tossed with spinach and grape tomatoes in a citrusy olive oil and cheese sauce flecked with pine nuts, peppercorns and green onions.

    The wine list contains a number of esoteric selections. The beer and cocktails are equally colorful.


    No Ja on Urbanspoon

    McAlister's Deli

    McAlister's is Alabama's answer to Panera Bread. They feature soups, salads and sandwiches alongside a few other options like pizza and baked potatoes. It is a fast casual restaurant with locations throughout the Yellowhammer State (and many other states, as well).

    The veggie sandwich is a wrap stuffed with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red pepper and Swiss cheese with a side of ranch dressing. It is as fresh as it is colorful.

    Sandwiches come with a choice of side dishes. The vegetarian choices include macaroni and cheese, potato salad, chips, fresh fruit and applesauce.

    McAlister's also features a veggie chili. It comes in a cup or a bowl, or poured on top of a platter of nachos. The chili is chock full of tomatoes and other vegetables, and it does not contain soy.

    The menu also has three flatbread pizzas and a baked potato for vegetarians. The other big seller on the menu is McAlister's Sweet Tea, which comes by the glass or by the gallon.



    My trip to the Gulf Coast started off with a stop at Wesley True's restaurant in Mobile, Alabama. True (the chef) is a Gordon Ramsey alum aiming to bring a Manhattan dining experience to the Alabama shore. True (the restaurant) is an artfully appointed attraction in a modern style that showcases an exceptional attention to detail.

    Like the majority of the restaurants in the Old South, True's menu is big on seafood and other denizens of the animal kingdom. However, the best kept secret is that the sous chef David Rowe and his wife are both vegans, and they take great care in presenting vegetarian courses that shine as brightly as the items on the regular menu. It is recommended that you call ahead for vegetarian options (as it is with most restaurants in Alabama and Louisiana).

    The amuse bouche was mangoes, walnuts and goat cheese presented on a silver teaspoon. The fruity sweetness was tempered by the cheese's acidity, and the nuts provided a great textural contrast to the softness of the other ingredients.

    The salad consisted of haricot verts, hearts of palm and chives in a creamy dressing. The presentation was as dazzling as the flavor.

    The main course was pan fried quinoa patties on a foundation of red peppers, zucchini, green olives and ginger. The red sauce was sweet, and the green sauce was light and herbal. The quinoa was crispy and delicious.

    True has a great wine list, as you would expect from a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner. The Monday special features the house red and white wines with free refills for $11. The cocktails and sake selections are also very nice.

    The service was exceptional. The server (Taylor) did an admirable job considering the bustling nature of the restaurant.


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