“Beyond Salad” for Pasadena Weekly’s Dining Guide

Vegetarian and Vegan Eats at Mainstream Restaurants

July 2009

Vegetarians and vegans—those who avoid dairy and eggs as well as meat—are not a rare breed in Southern California, but restaurants that cater specifically to herbivores are scarce in Pasadena.

Orean’s Health Express (817 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena, 626/794-0861) is a vegetarian fast food favorite, with soy versions of burgers, hot dogs and other classics.

Though Chipotle (246 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, 626/229-9173; 3409 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626/351-6017) serves chicken, beef and pork, the majority of its other ingredients are vegan and vegetarian-friendly and the chain prides itself on hormone-free dairy (as well as pork) items.

But what are vegetarians and vegans to do when carnivorous friends want to grab a meal at a popular, local restaurant? If the thought of another salad evokes images of growing rabbit ears, discover these different choices and leave worries of being a starving outcast behind.

Pasadena mainstay Mi Piace (25 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626/795-3131) transports diners to Italy, where non-meat eaters are welcome. Vegetarians can feast on vegetarian lasagna, ravioli with butternut squash and ricotta cheese filling, or ravioli with spinach and ricotta cheese in marinara sauce. The marinara sauce is made mostly of vegetables and is free of any dairy or meat ingredients.

Vegans can enjoy the large grilled vegetable plate, comprised of shitake mushrooms, Maui onions, asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini and more, topped with rosemary.

The penne arrabiata pasta has a red pepper flake tomato sauce and is free of eggs or dairy. Spaghetti aglio olio is simply delicious with extra virgin olive oil, shallots, chili flakes, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon. Just ask that pastas not be topped with cheese.

“We can accommodate almost everything the customer needs,” says executive chef Gil Saulnie.

Minestrone soup is a safe bet since it’s made from vegetable broth and combines carrots, celery, beans leeks and potatoes. Most Mi Piace soup du jours are vegetarian but some may use chicken or beef stock so ask your server.

Barney’s Beanery (99 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626/405-9777) is a lively destination to hang out or refuel after a late night, especially since they recently revamped their large menu.

“We have a 12 page menu so it makes things a little easier,” says food and beverage director Jacque Duryee.

Vegetarian selections include their homemade veggie patty or spicy black bean patty that can be substituted in a burger, grilled vegetable pizza, grilled vegetable sandwich with pesto on a warm French roll, grilled vegetable quesadilla, pasta New Orleans without the meat, and spicy garlic noodles with vegetables. For those in the mood for breakfast anytime, try an omelette, breakfast burrito, pancakes or new bananas foster waffle.

Vegans can devour vegetarian chili—in a sourdough bread bowl if they’d like—pizza without cheese, the vegetable sandwich without cheese and appetizers like fried zucchini, fried pickle chips, or fried mushrooms.

Tropical getaway Islands (Paseo Colorado-330 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626/304-9050; 3533 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626/351-6543), accommodates vegetarians with its veggie patty that can be substituted in any of their 11 burgers. The quesadilla or nachos are a good, filling appetizer.

The grilled veggie tacos served with island slaw are vegan if you specify not including cheese and butter. It’s the same drill with the California tacos—an off-menu item with cold veggies instead. Vegans can modify a sandwich by removing the meat, cheese and mayonnaise, though there won’t be much left, but thankfully the bun contains no eggs or dairy.

Kabuki (88 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626/568-9310; 3539 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626/351-8963), known for delicious Japanese fare and reasonable prices, provides dishes for vegetarians and vegans such as the mushroom miso soup, asparagus roll, cucumber roll, avocado roll, vegetable roll and oshinko (yellow pickled radish) roll. Vegetarians can also choose from three types of noodles: Mori soba (chilled buckwheat noodle with dipping sauce), cha soba (Chilled green tea noodle with dipping sauce), and soy ramen.

Regardless of diet restrictions, many can enjoy a trip to legendary Mexican eatery El Cholo (958 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, 626/441-4353), so no need to miss out on a culinary fiesta.

Annie’s enchilada is popular with vegetarians, as are vegetable fajitas or nachos without meat.

“Lots of people ask about our [vegetarian] green corn tamales,” says host Rick Ventura. The tasty dish is made through October, but Ventura suggests calling to ask about availability.

Solve the vegan predicament at El Cholo by ordering the vegetarian items without cheese.

Cheesecake Factory (2 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626/584-6000) produces a lot more than their signature dessert—as if they need to.

Senior manager Andrew Manila recommends vegetarian dishes like Evelyn’s favorite pasta (veggies, pine nuts and parmesan cheese), marinara pasta, arrabiata pasta, garlic noodles without chicken or shrimp, the eggplant sandwich, and grilled cheese sandwich.

Vegans can modify the “grilled portabella on a bun” to be wrapped in lettuce and nix the cheese and mayonnaise. Substitute mushrooms for the chicken in the Thai lettuce wraps and you’re in business.

Hopefully the menus at these Pasadena favorites have been demystified a bit. Since menu options and ingredients are always subject to change, it is a good idea before ordering to ask about a dish.

So go forth and dine in harmony, veggie and meat lovers!

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