Dining Out: A Beginner’s Guide To Veg-Life

It Ain’t All Just Rabbit Food

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So for your New Year’s resolution you decided that you are going to eat healthily and stop participating in the industrial slaughter of millions of animals for human consumption. Well, as lovely as the past two weeks of giant salads and peanut butter sandwiches have been, you can only go so long before you need to venture out into the bitter cold to see if anyone else has this whole vegetarian-vegan-pescatarian thing down better than you. So for the newbies, here is a selection of local restaurants that will cater to your veg preference and delight your taste buds.

Dining Out Tofu Curry Noodle Soup

I remember my first visit to Pho Linh, wherein I wandered across the parking lot lit by the buzzing neon sign of the Desert Sands Motel. It was another January, years ago, on my birthday, with my best friends. We seated ourselves right in front of the large fish tank; I always end up returning to this table. The tofu curry noodle soup was the first dish I ever tried at Pho Linh—and I’ve tried a lot of their dishes in the time that has passed since my first visit—but I always return to this one in particular.

This pho is gently curried, but the spice can always be revved up. The heat and spice warms up a sad heart or cold hands.The abundant portions of tofu and noodles make this soup satisfying with their delivery of protein and carbohydrates. Tossing in bean sprouts, jalapenos and cilantro at will can quickly fill up the massive bowl, already filled to the brim with rich broth. In addition to serving up a wealth of vegetarian and vegan dishes, the staff of Pho Linh is unfailingly kind and accommodating to individual dietary needs.

Dining Out Calzone Vegetariano

As you, like me, must have guessed, calzone vegetariano is probably something like Italian for "vegetarian calzone." I had an ex-girlfriend turn me onto it. I’m fairly omnivorous, but I definitely lean toward the meaty end of the trophic scale. I don’t really feel satiated until my stomach is grinding away on a hunk of protein. At the time I probably complained, "Why would I get a vegetarian calzone when I could get a good one?" She probably called me a wimp, then in typical dating bravado I proved I was not by ordering one. Or that could have been one of the other six dates I ever went on. Whatever. I’ve ordered it every time I’ve gone to Il Vicino since.

And it’s fantastic. Savory and filling. A pretty straight forward calzone—a pizza crust on the outside, mozzarella and marinara on the inside. The individual components are all done right. In this particular calzone there are lots of awesome brine-y things happening together in the mingling flavors of feta, artichoke hearts and calamata olives. That saltiness and sharpness set off the mild sweetness of the roasted red peppers. The spinach leaves retain most of their structure, by which I mean "don’t cook to mush," adding a pleasant texture and along with the chunky artichoke hearts, a heartiness.

Vegetarians should check it out both for its vegetarian-ness and for its merit. But carnivores should also check it out for its merit. It’s very meritorious. And it’s $.75 less expensive to go veg. So, you know, merit and cost effectiveness.

Dining Out The Veggie Cali Burrito

My favorite veggie dish is at The Last Call. This may surprise some because TLC is known for their Cali burritos, which many assume to only contain meat, but the Veggie Cali is absolute perfection. My other vegetarian friends are huge fans of the truffle grilled cheese sammich but—I swear to Shiva, the most benevolent destructor, which we have in common when it comes to this treat—that this burrito is a gift from God. It should be handled with care. It should be treated like a queen. It should be eaten like it’s your last meal in this vain existence.

Because it’s so perfect and wonderful, it’s too good for me. It contains peanuts, gluten and dairy which I am mildly allergic to, but that only makes my encounters with this specimen more meaningful. The combination of vegetables, fries, mexican cream, chile, cheeses and chipotle aioli creates a euphoric heat in my mouth, sober or drunk.

For you simple angels who have yet to experience this level of heaven, you may know it as the late night, fast food eatery that drunkards in Nob Hill go to. This is partially true, but you can go early on a weekend night or on a weekday to avoid this chaos. Trust me, it’s worth it.


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