Archive for December, 2010

The second half of my cross-country trek started in the plains of the midwest.  Speckled with small towns, this is farm country, where I would have imagined the options to be slim.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Lincoln, NE

Lincoln has a couple veg friendly restaurants, but I wasn’t able to find any that were open.  Fortunately, the Open Harvest Coop had a wide selection of prepared foods and local baked goods.

A plate at the coop: emerald kale salad, gingered tempeh pasta and the alpha-omega salad.

Des Moines, IA

I swung by Ritual Cafe in Des Moines for breakfast, an all-vegetarian coffee shop and performance/art space.  There I found a delicious grilled tempeh sandwich.

Grilled Tempeh Sandwich: Lightly grilled and seasoned tempeh served with red onions, roasted red peppers and yellow mustard on sourdough with dun-dried tomato spread.

Iowa City, IA

Iowa City was a bit of a surprise.  It’s a small college town surrounded by hours of farms, but inside this small town are a surprising number of veg-friendly establishments, including an all vegan restaurant, Red Avocado.  Unfortunately, Red Avocado is only open for dinner on weekdays, so I had to skip it this time (and when will I ever be in Iowa City again?), but the menu reads like a gourmet restaurant for a fraction of what it would cost in NYC.  Instead I went to Fair Grounds, another all-veg coffee house.  Fair Grounds has a number of vegan options, as well as a completely vegan cupcake counter.  They also have their own line of vegan cheeses with a surprising number of options includine brie, chipotle “chedda’”, olive jack, smoky “mockstarella” and nacho.

Grilled Vegan Panini Cheeseburger: Grilled vegan burger with vegan cow mockstarella, grilled red onions, tomato, organic baby spinach, and a creamy relish.

Vegan baked goods at Fair Grounds Coffeehouse.

Chicago, IL

It wasn’t easy to decide where to go in Chicago for breakfast, but the decision was simplified by the three day closure of The Chicago Diner.  I opted for french toast at Victory’s Banner, an all-vegetarian restaurant with a separate, completely vegan menu.

Vegan french toast.

Cleveland, OH

By the time I hit Cleveland, I was running a little late, so I had to get a meal to go.  I went to The Flaming Ice Cube, an all-vegan sandwich shop with smoothies and baked goods.  The highlight was the sweet potato peanut butter bisque, which was rich and creamy and tasted like autumn.

Homemade vegan burger with pasta salad and sweet potato peanut butter bisque.

Pittsburgh, PA

My last stop before hitting New York was The Double Wide Grill in Pittsburgh.  While not even a vegetarian restaurant, Double Wide does offer a number of veg options, including a pulled seitan sandwich, lentil burgers and seitan wings.  I opted for the “wings” which ended up actually being in the shape of cubes.  They were delicious none-the-less (anything is when smothered in BBQ sauce).

BBQ Seitan Wings

By the time I hit New York, I had eaten at ten different restaurants, seven of which were at least all-vegetarian.  I was genuinely surprised by how many times I had to choose which place to go.  It was also interesting to see, especially across the midwest, what a college can do for a town.  The more colleges, the more vegetarian restaurants (go figure).  Next time, I’d like to take a month and really try every restaurant along the way.  And fortunately, there will be even more by then.

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