Go veggie!

Here's a roundup of the best places to be vegetarian in Baltimore.

restaurants & food

April 06, 2005|By Beckie Burkhardt | Beckie Burkhardt,Special to Baltimoresun.com

Finding and eating extraordinary crabs in Baltimore is as easy as getting caught in traffic on the Beltway during rush hour. Seafood is king here, so pleasing friends who refuse to eat red meat and poultry is a no-brainer in these parts.

But where do you take your other friends? You know the ones. They won't split a pepperoni pizza, they invariably order the dinner salad and the veggie burger at Applebee's and they always inquire if the soup was made with chicken stock.

Vegans.

Often misconstrued as "tree huggers" and people who only eat "rabbit food," vegans -- although strictly herbivores -- need to eat real food, too. If you regularly dine with them, you understand the dilemma that many vegans face when attempting to order at a restaurant.

Typically, vegans choose not to eat anything that comes from an animal. This choice is usually made for ethical and health reasons, and many vegans are also involved in the animal rights movement. Abstaining from all meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, vegans instead choose diets rich in fruits and vegetables, tofu and, more recently, a number of imitation meats such as "Not Dogs" and "TuNo." Although it is quite easy for a vegan to eat at home, dining at restaurants can be tricky.

The following guide provides a few suggestions for making sure your veggie friends don't go home hungry. Whether they are vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs but not meat, or "fishatarians" who forgo red meat and poultry but will eat seafood, several Baltimore-area restaurants provide veggie-friendly options.

Do not worry about being sent off to enjoy the appetizing menu at "The Wheat Grass Cafe" and other restaurants that only feature sprouts. While this list suggests some venues that do not serve meat, it isn't going to strain any friendships. Each of the following restaurants is sure to please everyone from the most carnivorous diner down to the strictest of vegans.

Veggie venues

The most obvious restaurant choices for vegetarians are those with names that suggest they cater to the meatless. These dining options feature almost exclusively vegetarian menus, but their food is appealing to non-veggie clientele as well. For the widest range of animal-friendly menu options, try one of Baltimore's hip, hippie diners.

Liquid Earth

Far more than just a smoothie joint, Liquid Earth is a vegetarian bistro for people on the go. Grab a meatless Reuben or a vegetarian soup, and chase it with a freshly-squeezed orange juice smoothie. If you have more time, lounge on the couch with a book while you savor a slice of homemade vegan chocolate cake.

One World Cafe

Located near Johns Hopkins University, this restaurant/coffeehouse/bar combination has what it takes to please any hip co-ed. The Cafe offers vegetarian twists on classics like a steak and cheese sub and a club sandwich, and any menu item can be "veganized" by requesting non-dairy mayonnaise and soy cheese. If you find organic tofu hard to swallow, you can stick with the impressive hummus platter that comes with carrots, cucumbers and pita wedges, and enjoy a real tuna fish sandwich for your entree. Homemade vegan desserts are also available to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Yabba Pot

This mini-restaurant is among the few strictly vegetarian venues in Baltimore. An ideal hangout for veggie college students because of its inexpensive menu, the casual atmosphere keeps customers of all diets coming back. The eclectic menu changes daily, but favorites include hearty macaroni and soy cheese and barbecued tofu. For animal rights activists, the restaurant also serves as a meeting place for vegans on the first Saturday of each month. Visit vegan.meetup.com for more information.

Ethnic eateries

Another option that friends of vegetarians have is to simply go with their guts. If you are in the mood for a certain type of cuisine, the chances are high that you can find a spot that satisfies your cravings and also happens to feature veggie options. Although most American restaurants still do not feature tofu as a staple on their menus, Chinese and Indian restaurants have been doing it for years. Here are some of the best ethnic restaurants for herbivores and omnivores alike.

Bombay Grill

Begin your meal with a vegetable samosa, but be careful not to eat too much. With so many meatless options on the menu, you will want to order everything you see. The chenna masala and vegetable korma are delicious, but make sure to order them mild unless you truly love extremely spicy food. The quiet dining room is bathed in candlelight, giving the inexpensive restaurant an upscale feel and making it an ideal place to take your vegetarian date.

Cafe Isis/Al Pacino Cafe

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