L’Thai Organic Cuisine & Wine Bar's menu lists organic Thai dishes including curries made with vegetarian-friendly sauces and noodles and fried rice prepared on special high-heat jet stoves that can be found on the streets of Bangkok. Appetizers, such as the vegetarian-style spring rolls ($4.95), and soups, such as the coconut-based tom kha ($4.95), lull appetites into a false sense of security before entrees, such as the garlic pepper beef ($12.95) or tippling drunken noodle tofu ($12.95), sneak in to deliver the culinary coup de grâce. Diners can supplement their smorgasbord with L'Thai Organic Cuisine & Wine Bar’s extensive beer and wine list, which overflows with fine fruit bloods such as Night Harvest chardonnay ($7/glass, $23/bottle) and Silver Ridge cabernet sauvignon ($7/glass, $24/bottle).
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.
Sweet Tomatoes silences grousing stomachs by serving up a buffet of healthy eats, allowing guests to collate a customized meal from daily selections of soup, salad, baked goods, and pasta. Upon entering the restaurant, cavernous appetites will find a 55-foot-long salad bar holding welcoming portions of verdant salad greens, including tossed varieties such as Wonton Chicken Happiness and caesar asiago, unlimited vegetables, and toppings. After anointing vacant plates with gardeny sculptures of Aristotle, guests will purchase their meal ($8.59/lunch, $9.99/dinner) and then roam to one of Sweet Tomatoes' other food bars.
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.
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).
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.