VIVA Vegetarians

Local Restaurants that Cater to the Meatless Diet Crowd

Mtn Living Mag June 2014

Food is fuel for the body.

June 14 VeggieThe higher the octane, or nutrition, the better the body responds. For that reason and others, more than seven million Americans choose a vegetarian diet. It tends to be low in cholesterol as well as total and saturated fats, which guard against Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. Besides forgoing meat, poultry and fish, a vegetarian diet may include dairy and eggs or not. A vegan diet adheres to stricter boundaries, eliminating animal sources and their products, such as milk, eggs and honey.

The more restrictive the diet, the more challenging it can be to get the nutrients necessary. So if you’re considering eating a vegetarian diet, slowly ramp up the number of meatless meals each week, learn to substitute extra beans for beef in chili or tofu for chicken in fajitas and branch out, eating at ethnic and vegetarian restaurants. Let’s start with two Flagstaff favorites on the south side of the tracks, who’ve served up the right stuff for three decades.

Macy’s European Coffee House and Bakery has been a preferred watering hole for the ultimate cup. But only a few years back, it also was voted by Arizona Daily Sun readers as the Best Vegetarian Restaurant. “From the farm to your lips,” they claim and strive to be the “best bite around.” From cage-free eggs to organic spinach, owner Tim Macy believes their customers are family and treats them as such.

The breakfast sandwich is a fluffy scramble with a choice of veggie, such as bell peppers and green onions, plus jack cheddar on a crispy croissant. It’s a fresh, light classic. Or think red and green, like the café’s color scheme, and order the mozzarella sandwich. The iconic caprese salad becomes a handhold with thick slabs of creamy mozzarella and tomato on baby spinach, kicking it up a notch with smoked paprika and balsamic-drenched onions on a grilled bun. The plate comes with chips or a salad of sprouts, cucumber, tomato wedges and red onion on spring greens in tart basil vinaigrette. Macy’s is a bakery, so make room for the flaky, phyllo-snake of cinnamon roll, unwinding to an oozy deposit of spice—the perfect sidekick to a San Fran cappuccino.

Julia Bianconi had big shoes to fill when her mentor and the original owner of Morning Glory, Maria Ruiz, passed away in 2009. But Maria’s presence is still felt in the warmth and familiar recipes. A happy musical vibe and swirling, contemporary canvases line the walls of the shotgun style eatery. Jules, as she prefers, said, “The blue corn tamales and hempburger duke it out for house favorites.”

The simple, quality, roasted masa from New Mexico is mixed with vegetables, like zucchini and spinach, bathed in red enchilada sauce and topped with avocado and cheese. Vegan options are available. Bianconi’s expanded the menu, making specials standard, and her pureed cup of tomato cashew soup is an example. A side pasta salad on spinach with tomatoes and shredded cabbage, cukes and carrots is pesto magic.

Hemp is an excellent source of protein and is incorporated into items from the cookies to the famous hempburger. The patty is moist, well-seasoned and has good texture. Bianconi buys locally and credits Ruiz for being ahead of the nutrition curve and believes the light shining on her prep table blesses the kitchen.

Red Curry is the first vegan and newest ethnic eatery in downtown. Stalwart restaurateur Chada Tirakul created a menu of Vietnamese, Thai and Indian-spiced dishes. “I’m concerned about cutting out meat, and there are some wonderful, new products in the market, so it’s easier to make adjustments with coconut or almond or soy milk for sauces, and use red kidney, black beans and tofu,” she said. “Asian is my specialty.”

Mussamun curry combines potato, onion, carrot, spinach and cauliflower in slightly sweet, ground-peanut gravy. Yen-to-fo soup is a popular street food in Thailand, made with spinach and three types of tofu—firm squares, curds and baked, Portobello clones—floating in a spicy bean paste broth with a tang of vinegar plus rice noodles. The kale salad is simple and simply delish. The nutritious green is mixed with red leaf lettuce and tossed in lemony olive oil, red onion, dried cranberries, avocados, cucumbers, tomatoes, sunflower sprouts and pepitas for a zesty mouthful.

Try the kale chips, and you’re hooked, and the lemonade is homemade—clean, tart and refreshing. The fun and funky décor with chandeliers and photography make Red Curry a great spot to test your taste buds. It adds yet another option to the meatless alternatives in Flagstaff’s culinary scene.  NAMLM  Gail G. Collins

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