“Another weirdo.” The waitperson’s unspoken thought in the face of a vegetarian or vegan request was typical not too many years ago. No longer. But even though the raised-eyebrow reaction is not predictable anymore, it’s still often a bloody challenge to find restaurants with generous menus for vegetarians and vegans (we’ll call them VVs here). Die-hard carnivores, who regard VVs as gastronomically disabled, exhibit disdain, puzzlement, pity, resigned tolerance, or all of the above. Because Americans tend to be more carnivorous than many other nationalities, VVs find the most friendly menus in ethnic (especially Asian) restaurants. Chinese food can be a bonanza, particularly for vegans, who, in addition to shunning flesh foods, also avoid dairy products and eggs; rarely, if ever, does a Chinese eatery use dairy foods (as the Chinese say, “Cheese smells like dirty feet”). Italian restaurants, with their pastas and pizzas, are another good bet. Still, vigilant VVs are ever on the lookout for such seemingly innocuous dishes as Asian soup that has a nonveg base; Chinese noodle and rice dishes that may have been simmered in meat broth, or the noodles laced with oyster sauce; Indian sauces and breads made with dairy products like ghee (clarified butter); Italian spaghetti sauces containing meat, and risotto traditionally sautéed in butter before simmering; Mexican dishes cooked in lard. Some restaurants (mercifully unidentified here) believe they’ve done their bit by offering a tasteless, overcooked mess called a “vegetable plate.” Fortunately, if for some reason VVs are stuck in a fast-food joint, they can usually order a baked potato or two and a salad. Any sensible VV will steer clear of such eateries as Cattlemans, Hungry Hogg Barbecue, Hamburger Heaven, and the ubiquitous Lyons (whose menu is a VV’s nightmare). Raw-food VVs may really be up against it, but for the rest, here’s a far from exhaustive list of choices:
Acre Cafe and Lounge 420 Center St., Healdsburg. 432-1302.
Aram’s Cafe 131 Kentucky St., Petaluma. 765-9775.
Blue Heron Hwy. 116 and Moscow Road, Duncans Mills. 865-9135.
Breaker’s Cafe 1400 Hwy. 1 at Pelican Plaza, Bodega Bay. 875-2513.
California Thai Restaurant 522 Seventh St., Santa Rosa. 546-6142.
Costeaux French Bakery and Cafe 417 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg (433-1913); 104 Calistoga Road, Santa Rosa (539-3357).
East West Bakery Cafe 128 N. Main St., Sebastopol. 829-2822.
East West Cafe and Restaurant 2323 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa. 546-6142.
El Patio Mexican Restaurant 425 Stony Point Road, Santa Rosa. 578.4757.
Fresh Choice Restaurant 5080 Redwood Drive, Rohnert Park (585-1007); 1018 Santa Rosa Plaza, Santa Rosa (525-0912.
Gary Chu’s Gourmet Chinese Cuisine 611 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. 526-5840.
Higher Grounds Cyber Cafe 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. 525-8125.
Inn of the Beginning 8201 Old Redwood Hwy., Cotati. 664-1100.
Marbles Cafe 1770 Piner Road, Santa Rosa. 576-8003.
Slice of Life 6970 McKinley St., Sebastopol. 829-6627.
Sonoma Taco Shop Gateway Shopping Center, Petaluma (778-7921); 913 Golf Course Drive, Rohnert Park (585-2944); 100 Brookwood St. (Creekside Center), Santa Rosa (525-8585).
Stella’s Cafe 4550 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol. 823-6637.
Viva Mexico 6536 Front St., Forestville (887-8388); 842 Gravenstein Hwy. S., Sebastopol (823-555); 7234 Healdsburg Ave., Sebastopol (824-8482).
Yao-Kiku Japanese Restaurant 2700 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa. 578-8180.
Brix Restaurant 7377 St. Helena Hwy. (Hwy. 29), Napa. 944-2749.
French Laundry 6640 Washington St., Yountville. 944-2380.
PJ’s Cafe 1001 Second St., Napa. 224-0607.
From the July 20-26, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.