Winter comfort food at Portland's Natural Selection might include a tasty bowl of carrot-parsnip soup.
Head-to-tail menus? So last year. Root-to-shoot is the latest trend. Even diners who insist a steak is what they really want for dinner go gaga over vegetable entrées crafted with skill. Here are ten restaurants in the West where meatless dishes apologize to no one.
Berkeley, Calif. The menu at Gather is always half vegetarian, with vegan options including the signature four-part “charcuterie” built from up to 18 local, seasonal vegetables. (510) 809-0400, gatherrestaurant.com.
Boise Shangri-La Tea Room and Vegetarian Café has the city’s only meat-free menu. A pudding with raw organic cocoa, avocado, and goji berries is so popular that a Pennsylvania woman once asked owner Toni Hodge to overnight her a batch. (208) 424-0273, shangrila-tearoomandcafe.com.
Jackson, Wyo. Raw and vegetarian choices pop at Lotus Café, among them pho (a Vietnamese noodle soup) and vegan chocolate cake and cheesecake. (307) 734-0882, tetonlotuscafe.com.
Las Vegas Canyon Ranch Grill at the Palazzo offers gluten-free and vegan options and lists nutritional details for every dish. Standouts include a quinoa salad with chanterelle mushrooms and butternut squash. (702) 414-3600, palazzo.com/las-vegas-restaurants/casual-dining.
Missoula, Mont. Iza Asian Restaurant lets diners choose among pan-Asian noodle dishes and stir-fry bowls, any of which can be made with tofu instead of meat or with veggies only. (406) 830-3237, izarestaurant.com.
Napa, Calif. Ubuntu’s Executive Chef Aaron London is not vegetarian, but he sends out plates ablaze with the flavors of fresh organic produce. Such dishes as Seville orange–scented, toasted pearl pasta in corn broth won Michelin stars for Ubuntu in 2010 and 2011. The restaurant is taking a winter break; it reopens in spring 2012. (707) 251-5656, ubuntunapa.com.
Palo Alto, Calif. Tal Ronnen and Art Smith, chefs at the new Lyfe Kitchen, create fast, healthy dishes with no more than 600 calories each. On the menu are shrimp risotto, corn chowder, eggplant parmigiana, and chocolate volcano cake. (650) 325-5933, lyfekitchen.com.
Portland The 30-seat Natural Selection offers stunning four-course vegetarian and vegan tasting menus. “I can cook meat and fish really well,” says chef and owner Aaron Woo. “But if I can thrill diners with this food, I’m doing things right.” His dishes—also served à la carte—change weekly. A menu: sunchoke bread pudding, butter lettuce salad, chanterelle and potato hash, and blackberry clafouti. (503) 288-5883, naturalselectionpdx.com.
Salt Lake City Sage’s Cafe features inventive meatless fare such as a pad thai made with raw ingredients only. (801) 322-3790, sagescafe.com.
Seattle Eco-conscious Cafe Flora has been packing diners in since 1991. Try the puff pastry stuffed with portobellos and leeks or the tacos filled with mashed potatoes, smoked mozzarella, lime crème fraîche, black bean stew, and greens. (206) 325-9100, cafeflora.com.
Check out the rest of our food getaways package:
The West’s Best Chocolate
Our Pizza Obsession
Peter Merriman: The Aloha Chef
Portland vs. San Francisco: Best Food City in the West?
Photography courtesy of OMFG Co.
This article was first published in January 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.