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.
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.
If you stumble over a few of the ingredients in Life Alive’s signature Goddess bowl, don’t worry—you’re not the only one. That’s why the restaurant’s website keeps a glossary of its menu’s potentially baffling ingredients and their health benefits. The Ginger Nama Shoyu sauce, for example, may seem outlandish to Americans but “the Champagne of Soy Sauce” shouldn’t be. It’s 100% organic and non-GMO, ages for four years in cedar kegs with less salt than traditional soy sauce, and is completely raw. Ginger adds an extra dose of healing, since it naturally eases digestive issues and nausea, as well as ulcers and inflammation. In this particular dish, the potent sauce flavors a medley of carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, tofu, and short-grain brown rice—a nutritional powerhouse all on its own. The Goddess bowl epitomizes Life Alive’s approach to vegan food: it should be organic, whole, and therapeutic, and use ingredients that come from local farms. And, it should meet these requirements without sacrificing flavor or convenience. In addition to nourishing the body, Life Alive believes that cuisine should also benefit the environment and the community. That’s why the restaurant sources its ingredients sustainably, recycles and composts scraps, and uses biodegradable packaging and cleaning materials formulated without chemicals or bacon.