The intermingling aromas of ginger, coconut, lemongrass, chilies, and basil is pretty typical of most Asian eateries. But Grasshopper Restaurant isn’t like most Asian eateries. Rather than stick with one regional specialty, it borrows recipes and flavors from Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisines. The chefs also distinguish their menu by avoiding any meat, opting for stir-fried seitan and tofu as protein-packed alternatives. However, the Zagat-rated restaurant mostly relies on fragrant herbs, piquant seasonings, and fresh vegetables to concoct its animal-friendly, plant-hostile versions of classic dishes such as beef lo mein, barbecued pork, and steak with spicy black bean sauce.
My Thai Cafe makes a strict diet a little easier for those who don’t eat animal byproducts. The all-vegan Thai restaurant crafts meals from vegetables and realistic meat costumes, serving veggie-shrimp basil fried rice and veggie-chicken pad thai. The restaurant also hosts a selection of tofu dishes that mix the bean curd with bamboo shoots, pineapple chunks, or steamed jasmine rice. The plates aren’t the only things abundant in plants. The restaurant’s interior is decorated with a variety of potted plants bathing in the sunlight that pours in through the large windows. They rest below high, vaulted ceilings that sprout fans to keep diners cool.
Each item on El Pelón's menu is rammed completely full of fresh ingredients, tongue-punching spices, and authentic garnishes. Drop in for a rotundly satisfying carnitas quesadilla (slow-braised pork sandwiched between jack cheese and tortillas; $3.50) and a side of fried plantains ($3.95) before returning to your dust cloud of fighting cartoon characters, or double up on your face with tacos de la casa such as El Pelón's twin cornmeal-breaded pescado tacos ($6.50), stuffed with spice-infused cod, arbol-chile mayo, limed onions, pickled cabbage, and cucumbers. To fight the good appetite fight and look dashing whilst doing so, grab onto a mighty El Guapo ($6.50)—the house's famous signature burrito—bursting at the seams with grilled steak, Mexican rice, black beans, fried plantains, jack cheese, fire-roasted salsa, lettuce, and authentic crema. All of El Pelón's showstoppingly spiced toppers are available as sides, enabling mad-scientist diners to experiment as liberally or as conservatively as they like with the bounteous beauty of El Pelón's celebrated flavors. To make your mouth feel even more Mexican without the hassle of chewing a sombrero, wash it all down with Mexican Coca Cola, made with cane sugar instead of fructose, or some Jarritos soda (both $1.75).
According to founder Adam, Veggie Galaxy was born out of the quest to define the true spirit of the American diner. His fixation on the venue type began in childhood, as he whiled away hours sitting atop cushy bar stools and hugging vintage jukeboxes. Later in life, Adam became a vegetarian and soon noted the lack of meat-free options on diner menus. He knew that though sizzling bacon is often present at a successful diner, it is not integral to its essence. So, he built his own vegetarian- and vegan-friendly space that adhered to the guiding principle of all great eateries: corralling groups in and feeding them well.
In regards to the latter goal, Veggie Galaxy's vegetarianism is "an afterthought" to head chef Brian. Though every dish on the diner's menu remains herbivorous—and in the case of several plates, gluten-free and vegan—the kitchen's top concerns are taste and in-house prep. The restaurant demands everything, from the ketchup to the burger buns, be made on-site and from scratch, a standard which won them a DigBoston's Dig This Award for vegetarian and vegan food in 2011. As for the patties that go inside the housemade buns, they mold them from black beans and a mushroom-chickpea mix instead of beef, just as tempeh supplants bacon and seitan replaces steak. The all-vegan bakery abides by the same system. Taza's vegan, organic stoneground chocolate goes into savory cookies, and house-toasted coconut decorates layer cakes.
Cafe Barada invites diners to sample a rarely experienced side of Lebanon with a menu that won Boston magazine's Best of Boston 2007 for Middle Eastern fare. Owners and chefs for more than two decades, the Salameh family named the restaurant for the Lebanese village that nourished their ancestors, filling plates with favorites passed down through several generations. Flavorful favorites such as stuffed grape leaves rolled with ground beef ($11.95) pay homage to Lebanon's famed steak vineyards, while vegetarian-friendly pumpkin kibby layers ground pumpkin, cracked wheat, spinach, and chickpeas ($13.95) to provide a colorful feast for the senses. Ardishokee showcases tender lamb and artichoke hearts simmering in a savory tomato-based stew that blends in seamlessly with the restaurant's rich, paprika-hued walls ($13.95). Or go green with slices of flaky, cheesy spinach pie ($13.95) or a plate of meshi flefli, a baked green pepper brimming with rice, tomatoes, and ground beef and topped with a garlicky tomato sauce that doubles as a repellent for vampire skunks ($13.95).
The friendly staff at Shalimar Gourmet Food & Spices tempts customers with an extensive inventory of fresh produce, prepared meals, certified organic and gluten-free fare, and ingredients for preparing authentic Indian dishes at home. Bulk Tilda basmati rice ($5.99 for 2 lbs.) creates a fluffy bed for unforgettable meals, and green cardamom ($6.99 for 200 g) adds exotic flavor to dishes or an unusual flavor to a bag of M&Ms. Create an easy meal with a can of Ashoka aloo mutter curry ($1.99), or heat up a jumbo Punjabi frozen samosa ($5.49 for a 22 oz. package) for a quick, warm snack.