Veg Out!

Finding great flavor in meatless dishes around town

Written by Gail Collins

Striving for healthful, responsible eating means including more veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Vegetarian dishes often invoke creativity and color urging cuisine in flavorful directions with earthy lentils, creamy cheeses, garden produce, aromatic spices and satiating sauces. Flagstaff has an abundance of such choices on the menus of our ratcheted-up restaurant scene. Here is overview of vegetarian dishes from some innovative kitchens.

Sosoba

This nonstop noodle shop is not just ramen, but a full-service restaurant incorporating authentic dishes with farmers market finds. The starters boast unique concepts:  balls of fire mac ‘n cheese; flash-fried cauliflower with madras curry aioli and scallions; steamed edamame dusted with zippy togarashi and more. The salads add inventive goods, like rice noodles, shaved veggies, nuts and seeds plus citrus-soy dressing. But who are we kidding? We’re here for the noodles. The SUV—So, You’re Vegan—piles noodles with roasted veggies, sautéed greens, squash and rayu’s chili-sesame spice for a Japanese curry. The Mothra bowl layers broccoli, peas, cabbage, herbs, sriracha, fried garlic and marinated tofu over the noodles. And Yakisoba is stir-fried carrots, onion, celery, garlic, scallions and herbs in a Thai peanut sriracha sauce. This noodle house is hot on a winter’s day. 12 E. Route 66, Suite 104

Root Public House

This rooftop bar and grill offer peaks views and comfort cooking. Chef and owner David Smith draws on a southern background for inspiration. Root changes up the menu weekly according to fresh accessible ingredients, but vegetarian dishes are always available. One option is the cold, roasted vegetable salad contains seasonal garden goodies tossed in cream cheese vinaigrette with a scattering of fermented black garlic. Of course, there are salads, like the baby greens topped with tempting bee pollen, feta, candied walnuts and carrot vinaigrette. For a savory main, try the ricotta gnocchi with seasonal vegetables, olive, lemon, Black Mesa Ranch goat cheese, plus pecans. 101 S. San Francisco St.

Casa Duarte

Tina and Gonzalo Duarte own the Mexican café above downtown and serve MartAnne’s famous breakfast menu. This includes chilaquiles—a piled plate of leftover corn tortillas, sauce, eggs and more. “We’d already created the perfect menu there, so we kept it and added on,” Tina said. Casa Duarte’s menu channels authentic street food items. The stacked enchiladas are a meld of red-sauced corn layers with fresh crumbled queso fresco, tomato and cilantro. For a side, try the elote, tender, charred kernels brushed with butter, covered with a generous grating of cotijo, sprinkle of chili and slather of mayo. Add a squeeze of lime for corn extraordinaire or order the elote street corn dip to share. 1000 N. Humphrey St. Suite 243

1899 Bar & Grill

1899 is the kind of place where friends can meet for a drink and linger for an upscale meal. Executive Chef Dennis Reuter delivers hand-crafted items to keep the menu exciting, such as the vegan burger with 30-plus ingredients. The starter menu lures diners with vegan minestrone made with rice noodles and mushroom broth, purple sweet potato gnocchi in watercress cream with crispy kale bits and lemon zest, roasted cauliflower with masala-lemon vinaigrette and wasabi pea crumbs or the mains risotto made with ancient farro, mushrooms, baby kale, sage and vegan ricotta. The little gem on Northern Arizona University’s historic North campus also offers students the best mac ‘n cheese anywhere—sorry, Mom. GeeGee Basone, operations director, said, “Though the restaurant is fine dining, it was never intended to be an occasion-only meal, but an affordable alternative.” 307 W. Dupont Ave.

Toasted Owl

The best sandwich art begins with classics and builds on them. Cecily Maniaci, owner of Toasted Owl, took it further. “When my kids were in school, I asked them to share their lunches with others and give me feedback.” Those trials led to her menu top-sellers. The Grilled Cheese Incident stuffs a ciabatta with mozzarella, white cheddar, roasted artichokes, pesto and sautéed spinach. For southwest spice, the Snowbowl Fiesta buries scrambled eggs with house made guacamole, green chiles, jack cheese, onions and secret salsa and tortillas. Maniaci employs natural alternatives for a top-notch nosh, like Tepa™, used in the vegan burrito, brimming with kale, avocado and seasonal vegetables. 12 S. Mike’s Pike and 5200 N. Cortand Blvd.

Fat Olives

If it’s pizza you crave, Fat Olives of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives fame has options in the Neapolitan tradition. The standard margherita or bufala showcase San Marzano tomatoes, fior de latte, parmigiana reggiano and fresh basil and, like most dishes, are drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. The marinara is bright with fresh garlic and oregano and free of cheese. Di fungi showcases wood-roasted mushrooms and onions plus mozzarella. The farmer builds on that base, adding crimini mushrooms, roasted red peppers, olives and tomatoes. Just sipping something red? Scoop the fresh stracciatella with a crostini or try the wood-fired veg platter, packed with seasonal offerings plus lentils and baby spinach for hearty heft. As owner John Conley said, “There are no rules in the kitchen—it’s a playground back there.” 2308 E. Route 66 NAMLM

 

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