Friday, January 7, 2011

Faux Meat 102 - Where to Dine

So now you're a fan of these meatless meats, but when you want to go out to dinner with some friends, you don't know where you can find any soy options?

Carrying soy foods has yet to become the norm for restaurants. The best soy-catering restaurant I have ever experienced was Cafe Bamboo while I was on vacation in New Orleans; unfortunately, my veggie paradise has now closed. They carried amazing Creole-seasoned soy food, such as the BBQ Chik'n Po' Boy Wrap--made with organic meatless chicken. There are probably local restaurants in your own area that carry a veggie burger; here, in Richmond, Ky., a locally owned restaurant where I used to bartend, Madison Garden, has a very popular, and massive, veggie burger.

Chain restaurants, which will connect to blog readers nationwide, are not as easy to pinpoint. I have scrambled together a list of those popular restaurants I know serve soy foods, and any additions to this list are certainly welcomed, so please write me!

1.) The BK Veggie Burger, at Burger King
It's actually quite yummy, and their website allows you to customize the burger how you would actually want it prepared (add mayo, hold the tomatoes, etc.) to find out the exact amount of calories, carbs, and grams of fat it would have.

2.) The Black Bean Burger, at Chili's
I couldn't find this on their website. I've had it before, and I thought it was decent. It's a huge burger, so at least it's filling.

3.) The Veggie Burger, at Ruby Tuesday
Ruby Tuesday's veggie burger is at least better than just munching on a salad and fries, and we certainly appreciate the effort of recognizing herbivores on the menu.

4.) The Boca Burger, at Denny's
Well, if you go to eat at Denny's in the middle of the day, this veggie patty may seem bland. But at least in my age group, Denny's is a late-night haunt after the bars are closed, and I suppose this ordinary dish is fine cuisine that early in the morning!

5.) The Substituted Veggie Burger, at Ted's Montana Grill
Five well-deserved stars. Ted's will substitute any of its interesting burger combos with a veggie patty; I often get mine with sauteed mushrooms and Swiss cheese on a heated wheat bun, but there's a limitless variety of options. The best part about this burger is that they treat it like they would meat--they grill it to perfection instead of just popping it in the microwave, which is clearly what Denny's, Ruby Tuesday, and Chili's do. My boyfriend loves to tell the story of the first time he took me to Ted's; I was so impressed that I wrote a note to the manager complimenting how well the kitchen had prepared my burger. Seriously, it's very, very rare that soy burgers are given such careful treatment, and the results are delicious. We go to Ted's quite frequently, and I always make my meat-eating friends try the burger. A couple of weeks after trying a bite of my veggie burger there, a meat-eating girlfriend of mine went back with her husband and ordered the soy burger for herself!

6.) The Gardenburger, at T.G.I. Friday's
I've eaten their Gardenburger before, and a quick Internet search confirmed that many other people have as well, but when I went to Friday's in Lexington, Ky., during an afternoon of Christmas shopping last month, I was told it was no longer served. I don't know if they meant just at lunch hour, or just that location, or what exactly was meant. I remember Friday's burger being rather good, similar to Chili's.

7.) The Veggie Burger, at The Hard Rock Cafe
Any time I visit a Hard Rock, no matter what city I'm in, I know I'm going to get the veggie burger. While it's not the incredible perfection of Ted's Montana Grill's soy options, Hard Rock does an awesome job at cooking and preparing their veggie patties.

I've also read that Red Robin has a veggie burger, which I have yet to try, and apparently some Subways in the United States have soy patties for their sandwiches. Doesn't it seem strange, too, that McDonald's locations in Germany, India, and other countries serve veggie burgers--but none do in the United States?

Have you noticed something about this list? It's all veggie burgers. And, if you remember from the "Faux Meat 101" entry, soy burgers are hardly the best-tasting or most useful of soy food options! Alfafa in Lexington, Ky., is likely to be the most vegetarian-friendly restaurant near me, but even they only have the soy burger as a faux meat option. Restaurants like the Soy Cafe in New York City also offer soy ham; apparently there is also a Soy Cafe in Philadelphia that has a soy steak wrap. Do you know any restaurants that serve faux meat dishes? If so, please write on this blog! I--and, surely, many other vegetarians and vegans--would love to try these places out, even if we have to wait until our next vacation!

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