Perhaps because I’m an unabashed omnivore, game to try anything, I have a certain sympathy for dining companions who—by biological necessity or by choice—have to navigate a minefield of forbidden ingredients when dining out. As a result, I always notice when a menu offers a number of vegan and vegetarian options. For this guide, I’ve noted a few I’ve encountered and enjoyed in recent months.
Many of the places mentioned include gluten-free options, but I won’t list them all individually lest I summon a gluten demon for saying the “G word” more than thrice. Besides, gluten or no gluten doesn’t count toward being vegan or vegetarian.
For those who long for fast food without the guilt, House of Mexica’s mix of sandwiches, burgers and Mexican favorites hits the spot, and almost everything is house-made and organic. The flavors are very good, and the “Impossible Burger” will easily satisfy the meat lover in your group. Its seasoned vegetable and black magic medley is impossibly similar to grilled ground beef. Diners can find a completely vegan meal without a salad in sight.
Great Full Gardens is perhaps leader of the pack among restaurants a group of diners with varying tastes can enjoy, now with four locations across town. Though meat, egg and dairy are present, much of the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan by request. You can find something here that will satisfy everyone at the table, including those avoiding the “Big G.” My favorites at the South Meadows location were a pair of portabello mushroom caps stuffed with a seasoned, vegetarian boca mix, topped with melted mozzarella, vegetable shoots and sprouts—plus a cup of the organic tomato soup. The ‘shrooms were fantastic, and the soup was zesty, with black pepper, fresh herbs and big chunks of heirloom tomato. I consider it the best tomato soup I’ve ever had.
The DeLuxe is a bit more boutique, but follows the same, “just ask, and it will be vegan,” ethos. For instance, their chicken and pork tacos are alternately offered with a choice of seasonal veggies, organic tempura tofu, and sauteed or fried oyster mushrooms. The Pizza Collective has more veggies than meats on the menu, and I’m in love with the heirloom tomato and regional mushroom varieties. Homegrown Gastropub has plenty of meat, but easily just as many organic, veg-friendly items. I was lured in by a savory, spicy portobello mushroom stack of roasted vegetables, greens, goat cheese, tomato basil sauce, quinoa and sprouts. Yes, I adore mushrooms.
For an utterly vegan lunch, Maya’s South Indian Cuisine can’t be beat, substituting the traditional ghee with rice bran oil. The herbed masala dosa stuffed with a spiced mixture of yellow potato and onion is what I’d call elevated comfort food. Serving dinners in the same restaurant space, Thali serves a delicious weekly all-you-can-eat meal of organic vegetarian food with dishes meant to complement each other. As I watched a pair of women cranking out rounds of chapati bread in the open kitchen, I felt this might be the closest I’ll come to a “home-cooked” Indian meal. For a mixed group, Royal India has plenty to offer for both veggies and carnes, and is currently my favorite all-around Indian restaurant in the area.
For vegetarians and pescatarians—vegetarians who also eat fish—there is, of course, Reno’s armada of sushi joints. Just skip those nefarious cream cheese and mayo items, and you’ve got tons of veg and seafood to enjoy. Sushi One and 2 Tha Joint were among those I sampled and enjoyed this year, but I could fill this entire article with all those worthy of praise. Perhaps even more veggie friendly is our recent spate of poke restaurants. Although poke bowls center on fish, their inclusion of greens and/or rice, and a plethora of other non-animal toppings make them a go-to option. Bluefin Poke, Pola Poke and Poke King were among my recent visits—each offering enough variety to stand apart. My poke-loving grandson and I and enjoyed every one of them. He enjoys the “bubbles,” i.e. tobiko.
Rounding out my list of veg-friendly venues for the year, Saffron and Bella Vita in Carson City each offer several tasty, meatless dishes beyond mere salads. Saffron’s “special eggplant,” a.k.a. kashke bademjan, is a Persian mashup of eggplant, onion, garlic, mint and roasted walnut—with flatbread and yogurt—that even aubergine objectors could love. Bella Vita has so many veg options it’s hard to choose, but the pear Gorgonzola salad with candied pecan and shallot thyme vinaigrette, and roasted beet salad with honey gastrique and goat cheese are a good start. Suffice it to say, Northern Nevada has come a long way in the area of healthy, organic, delicious options for those who aren’t seeking a steak.