You can ask Eden's Grill owner Nahren Kawry what spices up the popular Mediterranean restaurant's veggie patty ($13.95), but she won't tell you. "I'm not allowed to say. They're Middle Eastern spices and it's my mom's recipe. She's the cook," Kawry says. Fine by us. You don't need to know the secret ingredients to swoon over these crunchy golden orbs.
For vegetarians, steakhouse menus can be problematic. But not at J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician, which offers a stunning vegetable risotto that changes with the seasons. In the spring and early summer, chef de cuisine Jacques Qualin cooks up a tasty asparagus risotto ($10) with a twist, veering from traditional Arborio rice. “We wanted to include a little bit of an Asian touch, so we use Nishiki sushi rice,” Qualin says.
You probably don’t expect to see “bone-in” ribs ($13) on the menu of a vegetarian restaurant, but veggie ribs are exactly what you’ll find at 24 Carrots. Fashioned from shredded beets and carrots, fennel, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, garlic, onions, and roasted fennel and coriander, the ribs have a crunchy texture and a meat-like appearance from the red beets. After they’re slow-baked and basted, the ribs are griddled with a house-made barbecue sauce of locally-grown tomatoes, mustard, vinegar and a dab of coconut sugar and molasses.
Valley chef Eddie Matney is a well-known carnivore, and given the choice, he’d eat a cheeseburger every day. But when it comes to the menu at Eddie’s House, the chef makes sure there’s a good option for vegetarians at all times. “I always felt that the vegetarian dish should be consistent with the rest of the creativity that goes into our restaurant,” Matney says.
An homage to fresh, seasonal vegetables, the Vegetarian Platter ($18) sports an edible centerpiece: a ripe tomato stuffed with creamy goat cheese, covered with bread crumbs lit up with crushed red chili, fried briefly in canola oil and then finished in the oven and served with onion frizzles. The result is a crunchy mix of sweet tomato and tangy goat cheese that packs a spicy punch.
If you’re craving tacos, Chelsea’s Kitchen might not be your first thought, but the chic Arcadia diner sports six varieties of the Mexican staple, including the very satisfying Ethan’s Vegetarian Tacos ($15 lunch/$17 dinner).
Named for a longtime customer, the tacos are loaded with an ever-changing parade of locally farmed and seasonal vegetables. In winter, the taco platter is laden with zucchini, red bell pepper, mushrooms, carrots, spinach and Brussels sprouts. In other seasons, the culinary team might throw in corn, asparagus or artichokes.
When it comes to labels, the Windsor veggie stack ($12.50) defies definition. The star-crossed, sandwich-meets-salad entrée starts with a grilled pita, slathered with house-made hummus and packed with fresh garlic, tahini and peppery olive oil. The next layer combines a mixture of crunchy quinoa studded with slivers of cucumber, chunks of colorful Easter Egg radishes, juicy tomatoes and buttery avocado, bathed in an orange-basil vinaigrette. Ringed with red beets pickled in-house and topped with fresh watercress and a dollop of green goddess dressing made with Greek yogurt, the veggie stack rocks its own category.
Finding paella on a Mexican menu, especially vegetable paella, is a rarity. At Otro Café, Chef Doug Robson serves up a full-bodied vegan version of the Spanish rice dish that will make you wish it was an every-menu Sonoran staple.
Traditionally, saffron-scented paella – which earned its moniker from the wide and shallow pan in which it cooks – teems with meat and shellfish. It's also typically prepared over an open flame, with the ingredients added in a specific order. "It's hard to execute in a restaurant setting," Robson says. "We don't have an open flame, so we start it on the stove and then finish it in a cooler area on the grill."