Vegetarians come in many forms: ovo, lacto, ovo-lacto, vegans, semi-vegetarians and even lesser-known fruitarians. Some avoid eggs, dairy, honey, cheese or everything besides fruit, but all tend to steer clear of meat. The biggest group of vegetarians falls into the “semi” category and enjoy having occasional meatless meals. Whatever label you prefer, loads of enticing vegetarian options await. Edina restaurants make going meat-free pure pleasure without sacrificing taste.
The garden sotarito is part burrito, part sushi and part Minnesotan. The lively mix of nubby rice, bright vegetables and seductive sauce will make you forget it’s vegetarian. Flecks of black rice stand out against the stark white sushi rice. Threads of pickled purple cabbage, feathery cilantro, asparagus planks and dollops of sweet-potato tempura weave into the oversized sushi roll with tongue-tantalizing taste. Housemade ginger avocado sauce adds an Asian-style vinegar-sweet contrast. Whisper-thin soy paper holds everything together with no fishy seaweed taste. The dish is a clever play on Japanese sushi. A diagonal cut shows off the rainbow-hued interior in vivid form. Sealed in paper and packed snug into a box, the smart presentation evokes sharp Japanese precision. “Sotaritos are kind of our specialty. No one else does them in town,” says Aaron Switz, founder and CEO. $8.50.
VEGETABLE FRIED RICE WITH CRISPY GARLIC TOFU
Little tofu pieces over rice add up to a big meal at Big Bowl, where generous portions and bold Asian flavors are the norm. The vegetable fried rice with crispy garlic tofu keeps the custom going, with an overflowing plate of Napa cabbage, snow peas, carrots, shitake mushrooms, red peppers, scallions, sprouts and eggs. The assortment is wok-cooked into jasmine rice. The authentic Chinese dish wins praise from the meat-eaters, as well as vegetarian and vegan devotees (request no egg). Every dish is made to order, and dietary needs can be met by tweaking ingredients. “Just tell us,” says Linda Koch, general manager. $12.95.
VEGETABLE BEAN SOUP
Move over, chicken noodle soup. Steamy vegetable bean soup soothes the soul and body, with its innumerable healthy attributes. Anasazi beans, vegetable stock and black peppercorn simmer into a nourishing broth. The made-from-scratch blend “has been one of our signature soups since the Good Earth opened 35 years ago,” says Corinne Sherbert DeCamp, executive chef. Good Earth fans embrace the vegetable bean soup and other vegetable-based dishes. “Non-vegetarians have our vegetarian items,” she adds, for taste and enjoyment. Bowl $5.50, cup $4.50.
SPINACH VEGGIE WRAP
Vegetarian and vegan eaters, rejoice! An entire menu is yours for the taking. Jason’s Deli showcases special diet dishes on separate menus. This clear labeling takes the guesswork out of ordering, and non-meat-eaters have a full course of choices, including the spinach veggie wrap. Loads of color and fresh, crisp ingredients make this a pleasing vegetarian meal. For a feather-light dish at only 390 calories, the spinach veggie wrap packs in a lot of flavor. Asiago, housemade guacamole and pico de gallo pep up fresh mushrooms and organic spinach. The fun of this wrap is its tidy rolled finish, begging to be dipped into a side of salsa. In keeping with the healthy food theme, the wrap is organic wheat. $6.59.
CHIA SEED PUDDING
Agra Culture Kitchen & Press
Be adventurous with your food and be better for it. Begin your day with the protein boost of chia seed pudding. Soothing, filling and surprisingly luxuriant, this is more than a day-starter. The breakfast menu never ends at Agra Culture, and chia seed pudding is a welcome treat all day long. Enjoy as a light meal, snack or a responsible dessert. With its power-food healthiness, chia seed pudding warrants a second look. These tiny powerhouses are loaded with calcium, antioxidants, omega-3s and fiber. Add almond milk and chia seeds swell and thicken into an all-natural, gel-textured wholesome sweet. $4.50.
SESAME TEMPEH SALAD
Linden Hills Co-op
The name reveals the truth about this savory salad. Marinated tempeh, roasted sesame seeds and sesame oil form the dish. The cubed tempeh looks sculptural as it cascades among shredded carrots, chopped green onions, cilantro and parsley leaves. The healthy attributes are unmistakable. This salad has a robust, earthy flavor that lingers with a well-rounded fullness. Much of the staying power comes from the protein. “Tempeh is a gluten-free product made from inoculating soybeans with a nutritious strain of mold. The mold ferments the soybeans, making them more easily digestible while maintaining a firm and chewy texture. In our sesame tempeh salad, baked tempeh is the perfect meat substitute with its firm texture and savory marinade,” says marketing manager Madeleine Isaacson. Intensify your healthy fermented pleasure with a Tapuat kombucha pear beverage from Door County. $8.99 pound.
JEWELED CRANBERRY QUINOA SALAD
Lunds & Byerlys
Ancient grains fuel the heft of this salad. This vegetarian salad has a mighty meaty bite. A complete protein lies within the quinoa, and the white-red combination has eye-catching appeal. Healthy ingredients charm the senses in a salad that is savory yet sweet. Toss in some dried cranberries and apricots with matchstick carrots and chopped parsley for more nourishment. Crunchy pepitos and a chiffonade of fresh basil garnish the jeweled cranberry quinoa salad. Look for this tasty salad star in the deli case. It’s substantive enough to be a meal in itself, yet light and fruity enough to pair with an entrée—the best of all worlds. $7.99 pound.
HIBACHI VEGTABLE LUNCH
The hibachi lunch is a full meat-free, fish-free meal. Clear soup (miso or onion) begins your experience with enticing warmth. A heaping plate of fried rice and stir-fried vegetables shows off zucchini, carrots, broccoli, bean sprouts and onions—a harvest of Asian garden delights. The veggies retain their brilliant freshness under a veil of faintly sweet and salty sauce. The secret is the hibachi cooking method; very little oil is used, explains Lydia Liu, manager. Hibachi means “grilled” in Japanese. Hot green tea served in an exquisitely ornate china teapot and a no-handle cup completes your meal with all the elegance of a formal Japanese tea service. $9, green tea $2.
Main dishes, soups, salads, sides and more make for plenty of vegetarian dishes. Come fall, sides make the meal, and the veggie stuffing is a prime contender. Selections vary, but on Tuesdays at 4 p.m., the veggie stuffing appears along with roasted sweet potatoes and garlic mashed potatoes. Subtly seasoned bread-cube stuffing pairs perfectly with other vegetarian foods that you can find in abundance here. Dozens of meat-free dishes are available, and if you count the salad bar, there’s even more, says owner Mickey McCabe. “We always do something vegetarian no matter what night of the week. That’s the beauty of our restaurant. Vegetarians are satisfied and omnivores also find different meat items to keep them satisfied, too.” Full buffet and beverage $12-$14, some special pricing available.
BLACK BEAN AND SWEET POTATO TOSTADA
Boasting a beneficial lineup of ingredients, the black bean and sweet potato tostada remains popular not just with vegetarians but meat eaters too. Spiced sweet potatoes, black beans, purple cabbage, pepitas, queso fresco and avocado pile on crispy tortillas. A touch of maple syrup gives the sweet potato chunks and cabbage shreds a hint of natural sugar. Count on Peoples Organic to use locally sourced and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. “It’s light, sweet, crunchy, spicy, salty and very flavorful—seriously hits them all,” says chef-owner Ray Roberts. Don’t be afraid to customize your dish. Roberts suggests adding an over-easy egg on top for breakfast; you can also make vegan or gluten-free. The possibilities are endlessly delicious and all good for you. $12.