Sunday, January 3, 2016

New York , New York (Dec. 2015)

I just returned from my annual trip to New York City, and can happily report that I enjoyed two very delicious vegetarian meals at two very different Latin American restaurants. 

My first meal was at Toloache, a bustling Mexican restaurant in the Theater District that also has locations in the West Village and the Upper East Side.  I was excited to try this restaurant because it offered a separate vegetarian menu.  And the food and service did not disappoint!  The traditional guacamole, served with chips and a tangy salsa, was addictive.  And my entree -- mushroom and cactus tacos -- was spicy and flavorful.  I ordered vegetarian black beans and rice on the side.

Toloache's tortilla chips, guacamole, and salsa

Toloache's mushroom and cactus tacos

According to Toloache's website, the owner and chef is a protege of Richard Sandoval, who owns many of my favorite restaurants in Washington, DC, so I should not have been surprised that the place was so accommodating of dietary restrictions (both the regular menu and the vegetarian menu also clearly identify gluten-free items).

My second meal was at Cuba, an aptly named Cuban restaurant in the Village.  Although not evident on the version posted on the restaurant's website, the menu clearly shows which items are vegetarian (and there are several options to choose from).  As usual when eating Cuban food, I opted to make a meal out of the traditional side dishes, filling up on black bean soup, white rice, yuca con mojo, sweet plantains, and salad.  I could not have been more satisfied, as the food rivaled that of Miami Beach and even Havana.  I did not bother to take a picture of these dishes, because this blog already displays several versions of this exact meal (see here and here, for example).  But in addition to the food, I really loved the atmosphere which apparently includes live music on weekends. 

Cuba restaurant in the Village (photo courtesy of the restaurant's website)

Toloache 50 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato   

Cuba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dallas, Texas (Oct. 2015)

I've had a couple of stopovers in Dallas in recent years, and both times I ended up grabbing a quick meal at Iron Cactus, a Mexican grill and margarita bar in the heart of downtown.  

Iron Cactus is a local Texas chain, and I would not be surprised at all if there were other Mexican restaurants in Dallas that are more authentic, upscale, or vegetarian-friendly, but I've ended up at Iron Cactus largely because of convenience.  The restaurant is located right on Main Street, and offers a lively atmosphere with both indoor and outdoor seating.  

That said, I've been very pleased by the quality of the food and the service, and also by the restaurant's accommodation of many dietary restrictions (a separate gluten-free menu is available upon request, and also includes vegetarian options).  The homemade tortilla chips and fresh salsa were absolutely addictive, and my veggie enchiladas were not only delicious, but also unique in that they were prepared with charred tomato butter and sun-dried tomatoes.  The veggie option also came with meat-free black beans and rice on the side.  Veggie fajitas, guacamole, and few other options are also available.

Veggie enchiladas with black beans and rice

Iron Cactus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, October 18, 2015

DC Spotlight: Three Very Different Asian Restaurants in Three Different Neighborhoods

Today's spotlight shines on three very different Asian restaurants in three different DC neighborhoods, where vegetarians and others with dietary restrictions can dine without stress.  

The first restaurant is Izakaya Seki, a small neighborhood Japanese restaurant near U Street.  A number of items are vegetarian or can be made vegetarian upon request.  I loved my assorted mushrooms, cucumber salad, and fried tofu.  The restaurant also has an extensive sake list.

Assorted mushrooms, cucumber salad, and fried tofu

The second restaurant is Rice, an elegant Thai restaurant on the 14th Street corridor.  The "Healthy Green" section of Rice's menu is entirely vegetarian, "meaning no fish sauce nor oyster sauce," according to the website.  I've eaten at Rice several times and always have left satisfied.  This (very spicy) sauteed basil tofu and mixed vegetables dish is one of my favorites (during the holidays, I also love to indulge in the pumpkin empanadas).
Sauteed basil tofu with mixed vegetables

The third restaurant is Mandu, a traditional yet modern Korean restaurant near Dupont Circle (with a second location near Mount Vernon Square).  A number of items on the menu are vegetarian or can be made vegetarian.  I loved my vegetarian bibim bap served in a hot stone bowl.

Bimbim bap, served in a host stone bowl with egg, veggies, tofu, and gochujang (spice chili and bean paste)

All three of these restaurants take dietary restrictions seriously.  In addition to the numerous, clearly marked vegetarian items, they also offer gluten-free items and are happy to modify dishes to accommodate food allergies and preferences. 

Izakaya Seki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Mandu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hawaii -- Lahaina, Maui and Honolulu, Oahu

Vegetarians traveling to Hawaii won't have any problem finding nice restaurants where they can eat . . . so long as they don't mind eating Japanese food almost every day!  At least that was my experience.  While Japanese restaurants predominate, you can also find a number of other Asian-themed restaurants, and of course many Hawaiian restaurants, or fusion-type restaurants that serve some combination of Hawaiian and Asian cuisine.  American, Italian, Mexican, and other restaurants exist as well, but are in the minority.  

I did plenty of research before traveling to both Lahaina (in Maui) and Honolulu (in Oahu), and I really looked forward to checking out a number of upscale vegetarian-friendly restaurants.  Unfortunately, I acquired food poisoning on my second day (word of warning:  AVOID the vegetarian lunch option on certain snorkel-sail tours -- be safe and bring your own food!), so my ability to enjoy food during my vacation in Hawaii was severely limited.  

In Maui, for example, I had high hopes for Star Noodle and Lahaina Grill, which got great reviews, but I was unable to make it to either place.  Before the food poisoning, however, I did manage to have dinner at the very touristy Hula Grill on Ka'anapali Beach, which specializes in Hawaiian cuisine and offers a hearty tofu and vegetable entree, along with a number of meat-free appetizers, salads, soups, and side dishes (gluten-free items were clearly marked; the restaurant also has a Waikiki location, but with a different menu).  I was pleased to find the tofu option, especially at a restaurant so close to my hotel.  The restaurant also has nice outdoor seating overlooking the beach.  

Organic miso tofu and local vegetables with fresh herbs, rainbow quinoa, and soy-ginger vinaigrette

Before getting sick with food poisoning, I also managed to enjoy some casual quick eats at two places that appear popular with locals.  Choice Health Bar is a vegan cafe that is known for its acai bowls, smoothies, and fresh juices.  It also serves heartier dishes for lunch and dinner.  I stopped by for a healthy snack and enjoyed an acai bowl with gluten-free granola.

Acai bowl with acai, gluten-free granola, bananas, and honey

And Maui Tacos, a local fast food chain that is now a national franchise, is popular with surfers and celebrities.  The menu includes many vegetarian options, including the specialty taco pictured below.  Customers also can help themselves to all of the hot sauce they want from the Maui Tacos salsa bar . . . but only if they can stand the heat!

Maui Vegetarian Taco with "THE WORKS":  beans, rice, potatoes, fresh mix greens, tomato, and guacamole (vegan style without cheese or sour cream)

Once I started recovering from the food poisoning, I found my way to Japengo, an upscale pan-Asian restaurant that, like Hula Grill, overlooks Ka'anapali Beach and is walking distance to many hotels.  Although I was craving the stir-fried vegetables and tofu, I decided to go easy on my poor stomach and stick with veggie sushi rolls (note that Japengo also offers a separate gluten-free menu and has a Honolulu location, but the menu there is different).   

Veggie roll with avocado, cucumber, yamagobo, kaiware, and papaya in soy wrap

Fortunately, by the time I got to Honolulu, I was feeling much better, and so that is where I found my best meal: at Nobu in Waikiki.  Although Nobu is a world-renowned restaurant with locations all over the globe, this was my first experience dining there, and I could not have been more pleased.  The service, atmosphere, and food were all first-class, and the vegetarian options were abundant.  Chef Nobu Matsuhisa serves "new style" Japanese dishes that sometimes have a South American flare.  I absolutely loved my mushroom and tofu tobanyaki and vegetable sushi rolls!
Mushroom and tofu tobanyaki

Vegetable rolls

By my last day in Hawaii, I was a little tired of eating Asian food, so on my way to the airport I stopped and had lunch at Kan Zaman, a charming Middle Eastern restaurant (located in Chinatown, ironically) that has outdoor seating in a relaxing garden setting.  After a week of tofu and veggie rolls, my Moroccan salad and falafel mezze really hit the spot!

Moroccan salad and falafel
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Click to add a blog post for Kan Zaman on Zomato 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

DC Spotlight: Veggie Dogs at Nationals Park

I am a huge Washington Nationals baseball fan, so in celebration of today's three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves, I am including a post about vegetarian options at Nationals Park.   

While the food may not be first class, the team (in my biased opinion) certainly is, and it makes me very happy that vegetarian fans who pay good money to see a game are not treated like second-class citizens.  In fact, last year PETA ranked the Nats ballpark fifth in its list of most vegetarian-friendly ballparks!  As indicated on the Nationals website, plenty of meat-free eats are available throughout the park.  On a cold night at the beginning or end of the season (or during the playoffs, because hey, we're talking about the Nats here!), a cup of vegetarian chili from Ben's Chili Bowl really hits the spot.  

(Photo from Ben's Chili Bowl website)
But during the hot summer months, I usually stop by the Field of Greens concession stand in Section 136, which is entirely vegetarian.  

And because a baseball game just wouldn't be the same without one, I always pick up a veggie dog! 

While I am hopeful that one day veggie dogs will be available throughout the park (as I found they were at Citi Field in New York when I took in a Nats-Mets game a couple of years ago), I am content for now that I can find them at Field of Greens.  

Go Nats! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Miami Beach, FL (Apr.-May 2015)

I just returned from another long weekend in one of my favorite cities.  Regular readers know that, among Miami Beach's many first-class restaurants, I also love the city's casual, family-owned Cuban restaurants (click here for my previous Miami Beach posts).  For years my favorite was David's Cuban Cafe, which sadly closed last year after nearly four decades in business.  This weekend I learned, however, that the family decided to reopen on Alton Road, which is a bit off the beaten path for tourists and in a much more affordable rent district for the restaurant's owners.  David's Cafe Cafecito is a smaller version of David's Cuban Cafe, but still serves all of the great vegetarian Cuban staples that I love. 

Cuban black beans, white rice, fried yuca, sweet plantains, and salad at David's Cafe Cafecito

After getting my fill of casual Cuban food, I was ready to find that perfect first-class dining experience.  I could not have been more pleased with the food and elegant atmosphere at Oolite, just off Lincoln Road.  This beautiful restaurant by Chef Kris Wessel specializes in fresh and healthy regional cuisine, which includes influences from Florida, the Caribbean, the Gulf, and the American eastern seaboard.  The restaurant is 100% gluten-free and offers a number of vegetarian options, including a separate vegan tasting menu.  The items from the tasting menu also are available a la carte, so I mixed it up a bit and ordered a vegetarian appetizer from the regular dinner menu and a vegan entree from the tasting menu.  Both dishes were delicious.

Fried green tomato arepas

White chayote stuffed with red rice and mushrooms over a black bean and grilled corn guajillo

Oolite Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 5, 2015

DC Spotlight: Dinner at Doi Moi (redux)

About a year ago I visited Doi Moi shortly after it opened.  At that time the restaurant still was working out the kinks, and the menu changed before I even had a chance to post my write-up.  I recently returned to Doi Moi and was very pleased that the restaurant continues to offer a separate (and somewhat improved) gluten-free/vegan/vegetarian menu.

The restaurant is first-class all around -- from its elegant atmosphere and exceptional service to its extensive wine list.  That it caters to vegetarians and others with dietary restrictions without compromising the quality gives it a high rank in my book.  The food is beautifully presented and, if you can stand the heat, quite delicious.  Both the dishes I ordered (pictured below) were very spicy. 

Crispy radish cakes made with wild mushrooms and peanuts and served with a mushroom-soy dipping sauce

Fried tofu salad with mixed greens and fresh cilantro, spearmint leaves, red onion, and red pepper

TIP:  Doi Moi does not accept reservations after 6pm, so go early or plan to wait for a table, especially on weekends.

Doi Moi on Urbanspoon