Plenty of quality dining options exist for the herbivores among us
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, dining out can ruin your appetite. It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s say you love the restaurant experience but crave more options than a generic salad and microwaved potato. The good news? Many area restaurants have boosted their vegan and vegetarian options, thanks to customer demand. We selected five area eateries that aren’t limited to vegan and vegetarian fare, but don’t slack on that portion of the menu. These hearty, meat-free meals will please herbivores, omnivores and carnivores alike.
Who says vegetarians can’t enjoy a steak? Lemon Tree Kitchen’s signature wood-grilled cauliflower steak is so meaty in texture that you might forget no cows were harmed to make it.
While you’re at it, forget your traumatic childhood memories of overcooked cauliflower. This paleo-friendly steak substitute is drizzled with a zingy chimichurri sauce and served atop a sweet butternut squash purée with honey-roasted carrots and broccoli rabe served alongside. Lemon Tree’s menu also offers vegan burgers, vegan pizzas made with “cheesy” cashew cream, portobello “carpaccio,” and vegetable pho bowls. Your carnivorous dining companions will be kept happy with plenty of meat, seafood and chicken options, although don’t be surprised if they stare longingly at your plate. No matter how complicated the diet, Lemon Tree’s creative menu offers a simple solution. 1289 N. Palm Ave.; (941) 552-9688; www.tableseide.com.
Seasons 52’s foodie philosophy boils down to seriously seasonal, locally sourced, creative choices for a wide range of diets. They back it up with separate menus for diners who are gluten-sensitive, lactose- and dairy-sensitive, vegetarian and vegan. Amazing, right?
Take their hand-rolled vegetarian lasagna, created with creamy ricotta and pureed butternut squash and loaded with healthy veggies, including kale and mushrooms. The slightly sweet tomato-basil sauce pairs perfectly with the ricotta for a light and luscious meal that tastes just like your vegetarian Italian grandmother spent all day making it. And just because you’re vegetarian doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the pleasures of vino, right? If you hadn’t guessed, there are 52 vintages to choose from here. We chose the Antinori Santa Cristina Rosso from Tuscany — and we’re glad we did. Salute! The Mall at University Town Center; (941) 702-9652; www.seasons52.com.
A tartine is an open-faced sandwich, bien sûr. At Lolita Tartine, each tartine is named after a French painter. Most feature smoked salmon or duck, so vegetarians have to skip the tartine portion of their edible artistry. But fear not. The goat cheese and spinach feuilleté still awaits you in all its flaky puff pastry glory.
This is pure comfort food with a French accent — and it’s so good that even your carnivorous chums might steal a taste. Pair it with a fresh green salad and one or two glasses of the crisp Rosé de Provence. Then sit back and enjoy the charming bistro ambiance bustling with a clientele that ranges from the local opera subculture to the downtown art crowd. Save room for the pistachio crème brûlée or the tarte au citron meringue (lemon tart). Even vegetarians can veg out at this hip urban bistro. 1419 5th St.; (941) 952-3172; www.lolitatartine.com.
Finding the vegetarian variation of Vietnamese cuisine can be tricky because so much of the diet is built around meat and seafood. Indeed, people flock to Pho Cali Vietnamese Noodle House for its delicious seafood- and meat-based noodle and rice dishes and their phenomenal, fiery pho. (Alas, if you’re on a meat-free diet, the pho is a no-no because of its beef broth base.) But vegetarians can still fill up on the vegetarian fried pancakes, a crispy appetizer stuffed with tofu, vegetables, and bean sprouts. Then move on to the vegetarian egg roll vermicelli bowl, a heavenly mix of rice noodles, crispy veggie egg rolls, crunchy fried onion, peanuts and fresh broth. (Feel free to spice it up to your liking with serious shots of sriracha.) Still hungry? The tofu and eggplant is worth a taste — but make sure to ask for the fried tofu (instead of steamed) to give it more oomph. 1578 Main St.; (941) 955-2683; www.phocalisarasota.com.
Fun fact. You can find some of the area’s tastiest vegetarian fare at the area’s three most popular barbeque joints. Nancy Krohngold is the owner of the original Nancy’s Bar-B-Q in Sarasota. She’s also the mastermind behind Nancy’s Bar-B-Q On Lorraines Corner in Lakewood Ranch.
Although pork, chicken and beef rule here, Krohngold says she strives “to please our non-meat-eating friends with a variety of vegetarian offerings—and not just side dishes.” Nancy describes her Smoked portobello mushroom sandwich as her “vegetarian secret weapon.” The ‘shrooms are served on a Martin's potato sandwich roll, topped with her cider vinegar and honey-based sesame crunch slaw. Add a side of her signature edamame succotash — and that’s a wrap.
Cheese aficionados will be happy to know that Nancy’s is now Florida’s exclusive retail purveyor of Clemson Blue Cheese. According to Krohngold, this small-batch, artisan cheese is Clemson University’s most popular export, aside from Clemson Tigers T-shirts and fan gear.
“We’re serving up wedges, wheels and crumbles,” she says. “This heavenly cheese has developed quite a cult following. One bite, and you’ll see why.” Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, 301 S. Pineapple Ave.; (941) 366-2271. Nancy’s Bar-B-Q On Lorraines Corner, 14475 E. State Road 70, Lakewood Ranch; (941) 999-2390. www.nancysbarbq.com.