Archive for the Restaurant Reviews Category

Restaurant Reviews

Posted in Restaurant Reviews, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle on November 30, 2009 by Verge

So, this is an intro to our restaurant and lounge reviews.  This is no easy, “liked it,”” didn’t like it” kind of review.

Monika and I don’t attend many restaurants.  There are many reasons for this.  I guess, right now, a big part of the reason is that it’s expensive to dine out, especially when it involves a few cocktails, as it always does for us.  But, a huge part of the reason is that dining out as vegetarians, much less vegans, is complicated.

We are often invited out to social occasions to restaurants for dinner.  We try our best to not be difficult, and try our best to let people know not to go out of their way to accommodate our “special” diets.  Monika and I have combined over 25 years of finding things to eat in less-than-accommodating establishments and situations.  Shit, she’s even got more experience than me; even before Mon was a vegetarian, she was and has been Kosher her entire life.

Most times we’re invited to regular, every day, American Cuisine restaurants.  A shot list:  TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdsay, Fudruckers, PH Whelihans, Chaamps Americana.  People in South Jersey know them all quite well.  There’s always something we can find on the menu at these places, as any vegan can attest.  It’s usually a salad.

The big problem with eating a salad at a restaurant is a fundamental mindset of American Cuisine!  Specifically, that for a meal to be a meal, it must contain meat.  That argument aside, the more direct problem with ordering a salad at a restaurant is price.  They’re priced with grilled chicken, or grilled tuna, or deep fired, batter dipped chicken chunks, etc.  Great!  $8.99 for a bed of shitty Iceberg lettuce a couple of tomatoes and stale bread crumbs.  Oh, wait a minute, hold the chicken, that’ll save me a couple dollars, right?  Yeah, sure.  The fact that I’ve worked in more than a few kitchens in my life and I know the quality of salads alone is fodder for another blog all together and something we’ll choose to ignore for now.

So, for American Cuisine, for a vegan at least, the holy grail is a solid salad bar.  At least for under ten bucks you can really have a full meal.  All you can eat…yeah, even vegans love the sound of that.   They’ll even add some great stuff at the better restaurants:  sunflower seeds, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, those little mini corn on the cobs!  And, you make your own, which, contrary to my idea being served, makes dinner kind of an arts and crafts for dinner experience!  Oh, and you can actually see the sanitary conditions right in front of you (through a sneeze guard, of course).

You’ve committed to thus blog this far, and I’m not even close to being done, so hang in there.

Okay, so, American Cuisine aside…what else is there?  Well, common enough is the so called “Italian” cuisine.  Don’t get me wrong here, I wouldn’t know real Italian food from fake because I’ve never had it, really.  Being vegan pretty much excludes you from the start on that endeavor.  Nevertheless, it always strikes non-vegetarians as a good compromise to invite their vegetarian friends to an Italian restaurant.

And, to be honest, it is.  But, we have some complaints.  I’m not short on complaints, as you’ll eventually discover.  First, people assume that pasta is a safe bet.  We only eat whole wheat pasta.  Not available at most places.  Okay, regular is not so bad, though nutritionally void.  But, why pay 10 bucks a plate for noodles and red sauce, er, gravy.  We don’t even get meatballs!  Oh, usually, there is eggplant, which is vegetarian, right?  Well, sure, but not vegan since it’s probably batter dipped with eggs or milk and then deep fried, hopefully in something that isn’t animal based.

Beyond that, there are many options for vegetarians and vegans, actually!  Mediterranean, Turkish, Greek, Indian, Moroccan, Chinese, Japanese, Caribbean, Thai, Vietnamese.  It is no wonder to a vegetarian that most of the “international” cuisine doesn’t place meat as the centerpiece.  Most of the time, the traditional meals of the world use whole grains and basic staples because that’s what they can afford.   And, with the use of hundreds of years of tradition, and local herbs and spices, they’ve made things delicious.

It’s great when we go out with friends that want to try the new Vietnamese restaurant.  But, it kind of does suck when we have to go to the regular old crappy salad restaurant.   Too much money, too little choices.

Over the years, I’ve been slowly devising a rating system for restaurants and bars.  It’s not perfect, and will most likely be the subject of many a blog, but I’m open to suggestions.  Because Monika and I go out to eat very seldom, and because I hold such high standards,  I thought that it would be fun to begin to categorize our favorite and least favorite places.

I’ve been turning this one over in my mind for years.  I haven’t even touched upon the fallacies of bars and lounges, but I’ll get to them.  I have high standards, what can I say.  I can’t wait to share my overwhelming scrutiny and obsessive-compulsive mania that is my view of the world.  Monika is along for the ride, in so many ways more than one.

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