The Vegetarian's Dilemma

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As a lifelong vegetarian, I often find myself out to eat with friends, scraping together a meal of salad, complimentary bread, and a side dish (boring!). All-vegetarian restaurants aren’t the solution — the food can be either overpriced or bland — nor is that one vegetarian option on the menu, which is inevitably either a fancy mac and cheese or a veggie plate (so 1998!). This leads me to my list of go-to restaurants (all Google mapped here) that give me lots of options, while pleasing even the meatiest of eaters. Omnivores take note — your veggie friends probably don’t like French food, but they can usually do well at Asian or Italian places.

sushi72.jpgKiku (718-638-3366, 177 5th Ave.) Park Slope’s narrow sliver of a sushi place is the only Japanese restaurant I’ve found with veggie options that go far beyond rolls of only cucumber, carrot, avocado, or some combination thereof. Try the peanut, shiitake, or inari (tasty tofu “skin”) avocado roll. The ume (pickled plum paste) roll with shiso leaf, a tangy Japanese relative of the mint family, is a mini taste explosion, and all rolls are served with a gratis edamame side. If you’re not a sushi fan, you can still choose from the standard vegetable soba noodles, tofu teriyaki, or veggie tempura — all good.

Frankies 457 (718-403-0033, 457 Court St.) You can’t go wrong at this Carroll Gardens mainstay, from the appetizers (like a watercress salad with gorgonzola and white peaches), to the side orders (the Jerusalem artichokes are cooked to perfection and delightfully tender) to the crostini (sample a few), to the entrees, like homemade linguine with tomatoes and fresh fava beans, delicately flavored and light enough to leave room for dessert. (Try the red wine prunes with mascarpone or the ricotta cheesecake.) The wait can drag, so you can enjoy a drink in the back garden at the small outdoor bar on weekends. On a recent weeknight the wait for two was about 15 minutes.

dumpling72.jpgM Shanghai Bistro (718-384-9300, 129 Havemeyer St.) This communal-style Chinese haunt is superb. Start with the steamed veggie dumplings with dipping sauce freshly mixed by the server, and any one of their tasty vegetable dishes like the sauteed string beans, tofu with sweet pepper in black bean sauce, and the Asian eggplant in garlic sauce (which wooed even a regular eggplant hater like me). The vegetable mu-shu is indeed fabulous, as the menu boasts.

beer72.jpgRoebling Tea Room (718-963-0760, 143 Roebling St.) I could eat their ricotta and fig paste brunch dish for every meal of the week, but the hidden veggie gem on their dinner menu is the $10 beer and brat, a steal and a full meal, since the plate comes chock full of sides like cornichon, beets and potato salad, with your choice of a pint on tap to wash it down. (Note: Emphasize to your server that you are ordering the vegetarian bratwurst, not the regular one, and avoid the drama of having your first taste of actual meat ever, like I did last month. Oops!)

Illustrations by Jenni Wu. Sent by Chrysanthe.

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