World Vegan Day, commemorating all things plant-based and celebrating a plant-based, animal-free lifestyle, kicked off a month of celebration on Nov. 1. As food culture continues to shift, it’s become easier than ever to order up a meat- and dairy-free meal nearly anywhere in town — and sometimes in the spots you’d least expect to find them.
Sunday in Saigon, 682 N. St. Asaph St.
Old Town’s newest Vietnamese haven offers a wealth of vegetable-centric entrees, ranging from Hu Tieu Xao, a rice noodle dish teeming with tofu and veggies, to Com Tay Cam Chay, a rice dish served in a clay pot topped with seitan, pumpkin, leeks and more. Most notably, last week, Sunday in Saigon announced that their progressively priced Tuesday pho deal now applies to vegetarian tofu pho as well, meaning that the piping-hot dish is $5 at 5 p.m., $6 at 6, $7 at 7, and $8 at 8 p.m.
Tequila and Taco, 540 John Carlyle St.
It’s no secret that Mexican restaurants are general veg-friendly, but Carlyle newcomer Tequila and Taco goes the extra mile with its interesting plant-based taco offerings. Both the cauliflower and kale and mushroom tacos fit the bill when it comes to spiciness, rich flavor and outside-the-box thinking (the black-bean tacos so ubiquitous to vegetarian Mexican cuisine are not even given billing on the menu). Not in the mood for tacos? No problem — the vegetable burrito and bowl are both within easy reach and are certainly worth your time (and calories).
Hard Times Café, 1404 King St.
At first blush, a chili joint may not seem to be the most vegetarian-friendly spot on the planet. But look again at Hard Times Café’s menu and you’ll see a hearty vegetarian chili right there amid the restaurant’s four options. Indeed, Hard Times has offered a plant-based chili since well before such options began to take the main stage, and while its ingredients have changed a little over time (no more peanuts in the stew, for one), the deep tomato-based comfort food remains the same. Order a bowl of it straight — no sour cream or cheese, of course — or get it atop spaghetti, Fritos or tater tots for a protein-and-carb delight.
Pizzeria Paradiso, 124 King St.
When it comes to a dairy-free meal, pizza joints are hit-and-miss. But Pizzeria Paradiso, near the foot of King Street, comes through with a bang. Every offering on the menu can be made with dairy-free cheese — and sans meat, for that matter. A go-to is the Genovese, a potato pizza drizzled with olive oil. Order it without the pesto and with the dairy-free cheese and you’re on Easy Street. Wash the pie down with one of Paradiso’s many beer selections and a good time will be had by all.
Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.