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Alt Food: Where to Take the Picky Eaters

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What do you do when your three best friends—a vegetarian, a vegan and a whole-foodist—all come to visit during the same week? You go out to eat, of course. But where? Short of ordering a grilled cheese sandwich or a plain garden salad, a number of restaurants don't cater to customers with special diets. However, there may be more choices than you realize.

When it comes to ethnic food, it's fairly easy to please vegetarian and vegan foodies. Indian food is predominantly vegetarian, and lends itself easily to vegan needs as well. In Boise, you have three options: Bombay Grill, Madhuban and Taj Mahal.

Most Asian restaurants, notably eateries specializing in Thai and Chinese cuisine, prepare entrees with a choice of beef, chicken or tofu. While most Japanese restaurants in the valley specialize in sushi, nearly all of them prepare fish-free rolls and offer vegan and vegetarian non-sushi entrees, like vegetable tempura and noodle dishes. Valley favorite Zen Bento has been dishing up vegetarian options for years, focusing on healthier brown rice and vegetable combinations rather than simply pleasing the meat-eating public.

Mediterranean cuisine, like Indian fare, is also more vegetarian-friendly than say, soul food. Mazzah, in particular, has a number of meat-free options from falafel and veggie kabobs to Mujaddara, a dish of rice, lentils and spices. Although Cazba's menu offers more meat choices vegan and vegetarian options, diners will find several traditional Iranian, Greek and Egyptian dishes.

When it comes to cuisine from south of the border, options are somewhat limited. Casa Mexico's menu has a vegetarian section, and KB's Burritos will roll a tortilla with tofu or all veggies.

Unfortunately, beyond ethnic eateries, choices can be slim pickins. Most valley restaurants think they're doing a vegetarian right by offering a veggie burger substitute. Some restaurants do, however, cater more specifically to a vegetarian crowd. Bungalow in Hyde Park offers an entirely separate menu with options for vegetarians and vegans. Jenny's Lunch Line always gravitates toward the fresh and healthy, and more often than not, the vegan and vegetarian. A newer addition in the valley, Healthy Living Cafe and Market, is one part cafe and one part market for those whose diets that are organic, wheat- or gluten-free and vegetarian. (And while your vegetarian, vegan and whole-foods friends may not be sensitive to gluten, this would be an appropriate place to note that P.F. Chang's has a gluten-free menu.)

And last but not least, for grab and go from the deli, the Boise Co-op is an all-around sure bet for just about any type of special diet.

—Rachael Daigle and Gretchen Jude

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