Filed under: Vegetarian Dining | Tags: A-dong, des moines, Fresh Cafe, Gateway Market Cafe, Locust Tap, Slight Ranger, vegetarian, whoops
Yesterday I took a chance posting from my new platform (a netbook) in a new location (Downtown Public Library). One or both of these factors contributed to the deportation of over half the post to a place famous for breeding mysterious professional wrestlers…PARTS UNKNOWN. The result was a rant about being vegetarian in DSM(DMI) and a small blurb about ONE RESTAURANT, which probably seems to some readers as pretty normal behavior on my part. Not the case. Today I will attempt to recapture the magic lost at the Public Library yesterday (just MY particular magic, not the other magic I witnessed being lost during my library-ular stay).
Ok, here we go…
THE LOST LOST TRIBE…STUFF.
I think that starting semi-fresh would be the way to stay today. I have a new location (The Incredible Locust Tap…great Wifi) and a new attitude. Before we get back to the nuts and boltz of the situation, I would like to address the ONE comment left by a reader “Christa” from Tuesday’s mishap of a post. Christa sez…
“I’ve found Des Moines to be surprisingly veggie-friendly, so long as you stay away from the obvious non-herbivorous spots (BBQ places, steak houses, Machine Shed, etc). I’ve also found that any place that *doesn’t* have obvious vegetarian choices will usually be willing to whip up something special if you ask nicely (and tip well).”
First I would like to thank Christa for her comment. I value your opinion and readership. Thank you, Christa. Now, Christa, I wouldn’t call Our Fair City Veggie Friendly. I think of it more as Veggie Tolerant. Des Moines lacks the restaurant, co-op, and general support that a good vegetarian friendly city enjoys. Whole Foods (the Wal-Mart of natural food stuffs) has done a series of studies in DSM and has determined that we will not be ready for a Whole Foods/Co-op or a vegetarian restaurant for 5 or more years. I call bullshit on that study, the people I talk to on a daily basis are ready for a real Co-op (ala New Pioneer in Iowa City) and a true sit-down vegetarian/vegan dining experience. Iowa City has been blessed with The Red Avocado, the aforementioned New Pioneer Co-Op, and Masala (vegetarian Indian cuisine). Des Moines has Ritual Cafe and Fresh Cafe (1721 25th street, West Des Moines) which are great in their own right, but we lack a dining experience akin to one you can find even in smaller cities like Laramie, WY of all places. (Anyone want to step up to the plate?)Yes, we also have Campbell’s and New City Market (hey guys, see you for some Gluten soon), but nothing that compares in size to New Pi. We even have a few Raw Foodist Chefs including Sherri Clark (what up!). A few chefs have done what they can to raise awareness/fight the fight of vegetarian cuisine in fine dining, namely George Formaro and yours truly (I know, lame self-service) but Des Moines is still in the Vegetarian Dark Ages in comparison to the rest of the country. Vegetarian Tolerant. Remember that phrase.
Now, in response to Christa’s claim that you can just show up and get vegetarian food wherever and reader Maria’s question as to why she can’t get vegetarian dishes unless is all about the cream and cheese (or cream cheese in La Mie’s case). Here is the proper way to go about dining out at a locally owned fine dining (or casual dining) restaurant.
- Don’t be afraid to use the telephone: If you know in advance that you will be dining at a particular restaurant and you have special dietary requirements, call during off-peak hours (maybe in the morning before lunch or between 2-4pm) and ask about the menu. Let the person on the phone know what you desire (don’t ask for Thai food in an Italian joint though) and what limitations you have. If you are REALLY afraid of calling, try e-mail, but it isn’t the recommended protocol.
- Be serious about being serious about calling: Don’t procrastinate, if you need special attention from the chef/cook staff the worst way to go about it is to just show up for your reservation and expect the green carpet rolled out for you. As a chef, I am always up for the challenge but always appreciate when people make it a little less challenging by giving a little fair warning. Extra time gives the chef a chance to formulate a game plan and maybe pick some supplies up from the store. Small kitchens/restaurants have small menus and keep a small stock of provisions usually tailored toward their current menu.
- Seriously, call ahead: or maybe visit if you are in the neighborhood.
That’s how it is done. Now, as far as casual places or chains go, you are at the mercy of your own creativity. Look at what is on the menu and deviate where necessary. One major word of caution is CHICKEN STOCK. Wait, that’s two words. There are a few soups out there that contain chicken stock that you wouldn’t suspect. Two culprits off the top of my head are the house soups at Centro and South Union Cafe. The tomato-basil-tortellini soup and the Potato Pepperjack are, to my knowledge (I used to make it on a daily basis and tried to change the recipe to no avail) still being made with chicken stock. You really have to watch for this. I was drug off to the Quiznos on Grand Ave for lunch one day and the staff there went way out of there way to check with some higher up office as to whether their soup du jour was fowl-free. It wasn’t, and I was saved from a few extra trips to the rest room that day. Thank you, ladies.
We do have a number of Vegetarian-Friendly restaurants in the city. My original post yesterday contained some blurbs about a few of them, but we all know what happened with that little chestnut of info. Here is another short list, sans blurbs but with the normally absent location information, of a few of my recommended restaurants.
Fresh Cafe, 1721 Twenty Fifth Street Suite 110, West Des Moines 515 440 4700 This place was recommended to me by the cast of Lion King when they were in town. Fresh Vegan and Vegetarian fare including catering, and fresh Wheat Grass shots.
Gateway Market Cafe, 2002 Woodland Avenue, Des Moines 515 243 1754 Gateway has not only a cafe with clearly marked vegetarian menu items, but a hot case, cold case, grab-n-go, and entire grocery section with plenty of veggie items. If you can’t decide where to eat, it is a pretty good spot to end your hapless hunting.
Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust St, Des Moines 515 288 4872 Refer back to here for the info.
A-Dong, 1511 High Street, Des Moines 515 284 5632 Good, basic Vietnamese cuisine with a seperate Vegetarian menu. Best Veggie Eggrolls (1C) in town.
These are just a few of the places I will be talking about over the next few weeks (Note: this will not be pre-empting my normal bull-honkery).
Eat Your Vegetables,
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