Udipi Cafe's traditional Indian ingredients and recipes form the basis of its expansive menu of flavorful vegetarian delights. Serenade taste sensors with appetizers such as a delectable potato-cauliflower duet of aloo gobi ($8.50) or the broad tasting board of the assorted sampler platter ($7.95). Dry and spicy chickpeas swim in a pond of piquant curry sauce in the chana masala curry ($8.50), which pairs pleasantly with a side of paratha bread ($1.95). Indo-Chinese specialties transport diners to the northern climes of the subcontinent with flavor combinations such as vegetable hakka noodles ($7.95), and dinner specials fill traditional platters with offerings such as the royal madras special thali and royal south indian thali ($13.50 each).
Every pizza at zpizza is freshly prepared, hand thrown, gently coaxed into the oven using soft birdcalls and pheromone trails, and fire-baked to crispy perfection. The dough is prepared fresh daily from 100% certified-organic wheat, and z is also happy to offer certified organic and gluten-free crusts, sating the pizza desire of the allergic, dieters, and wheat sympathizers. Toppings include award-winning Wisconsin skim mozzarella, MSG-free pepperoni, certified-organic tomato sauce, additive-free sausage, and fresh produce. Try a large ZBQ pizza (with barbecue sauce, mozzarella, barbecue chicken, roasted pepper, red onion, tomato, cilantro, and sweet corn, $20.95) or a chicken curry and yam rustica (with mozzarella, curry chicken, yam, mango chutney, raisin, and cilantro, $8.95). Vegans can delight in a small Berkeley, a soy-cheese veggie pizza (with pesto, soy cheese, veggie burger crumbles, zucchini, tomato, mushroom, red onion, and bell pepper, $9.95), while traveling tongues can sate their wanderlust with a mouthwatering Moroccan rustica (with pesto, mozzarella, roasted eggplant, feta cheese, caramelized onion, and pine nut, $8.95). Zpizza lets you wash it all down with a variety of organic wine and beer.
Humanitarian and spiritual leader Supreme Master Ching Hai is the mastermind responsible for Loving Hut, a vegan restaurant chain awarded VegNews Favorite Restaurant Worldwide in 2010. Each Loving Hut location's menu and philosophy is rooted in the idea that a plant-based diet is healthier and more sustainable for the planet. The restaurants span 13 countries including Taiwan and New Zealand, and each offers a 100% plant-based menu of gourmet vegan cuisine. Traditional meat dishes are replicated with tofu, soy proteins, and fresh vegetables. The menus are customized to reflect local cuisine and include chef’s specials that recreate regional dishes, which diners eat as the staff plays the country’s anthem enthusiastically on the tambourine.
At first, Tin Drum Asia Café's rapid service and bright decor evoke the aromatic street stands of Hong Kong, where founder Steven Chan ate throughout his childhood. The traditional ambiance is no accident—the franchise's name also harks back to a bygone era, when a tin drummer would awaken citizens and regale them with current events as they ate the day’s first meal. The electronic kiosks dotting the café, however, plunk this traditional scene in the middle of a cyberpunk setting. They allow patrons to customize their orders based on taste preferences and nutritional content, accommodating dietary endeavors such as vegetarianism and weight-loss goals.
This merger of technology and urban convention reflects a penchant for edgy ideas that also affects the menu. Items inspired by the culinary techniques of Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand share space in the savory catalog, taking the form of street tacos, soups, and mango chicken, a take on the general tso's staple that's sweeter than a syrup-soaked army helmet. Music is the final ingredient that charges the atmosphere. Nation's Restaurant News reports that it typically plays at an energizing 120 beats per minute and was a factor in attracting the café's initial college crowds.
At Soul Vegetarian, gravy cascades over the burgers and country-fried steaks and creamy cucumber sauce nestles into a gyro pocket. This picture of decadence aside, even as the chefs eschew animal products, they also avoid heavy fats or preservatives. The result is a surprisingly healthy take on classic Southern cuisine, including macaroni and cheese and cornbread. Savory protein comes in the form of tofu, lentils, and a flexible vegetable-protein roast they've dubbed "kalebone."
Even dessert has a healthy side at Soul Vegetarian. Blenders whir with fruit smoothies and soy shakes, many of which incorporate nutrient-dense foods such as coconut milk and almond butter, and even energy or protein supplements. To make perfectly creamy shakes, the restaurant's food inventors created the soy-based Dream Kream—also available by the scoop.