At Lucy’s Lair Fine Ethiopian Cuisine, traditional East African spices infuse a menu of authentic Ethiopian eats prepared for all diets. When not savoring an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet, vegans can customize the vegan delight platter with injera—traditional ethiopian flatbread—and four animal-free dishes such as collard greens or red lentils. Meat-eaters can opt for yebeg alicha, a mild lamb-and-green-pepper dish, or an extra-spicy doro wat plate with chicken, fresh ginger, and boiled eggs.
At brunch, Lucy’s Lair prepares other traditional Ethiopian dishes, including crushed fava beans and jalapeños, as well as Lucy’s special omelet with feta and salsa. Diners can even quench their thirsts in authentic Ethiopian fashion—chai tea and imported African beers are a few of the options.
At Tillie Gort’s Cafe, the ingredients matter. This special emphasis is not a culinary ploy but a decision to serve people who want fresh, healthy fare that accommodates vegetarian, vegan, and wheat-free diets. The strategy has drawn flocks of hungry patrons and even inspired the Monterey County Weekly's Best of Monterey County to award Tillie Gort's with 17 consecutive nods as the area's Best Vegetarian Restaurant.
The house specials spotlight the cuisine’s discretion. On the middle-east combination plate, scoops of homemade hummus brush against spanish-saffron rice, a tabouleh salad, and the diner’s choice of grilled chicken or soy strips. With vegan cake alongside smooth, rich flan, this conscientious consideration extends to the dessert menu, from which vegetarians sate their sweet tooths and vegan clowns order materials for pie-in-the-face gags.
After a breakfast frittata, diners with french-roast coffee venture beyond the façade’s floor-to-ceiling windows to the outdoor patio. Red-clay roofing tiles cast cool shade over tabletops that await elbows, books, and post-brunch kisses.
Burgers, breakfasts, hot dogs, and other classic diner dishes get a vegetarian spin at Dharma's Restaurant. The kitchen staff stocks the pantry with as many organic ingredients as possible, including grains, fresh vegetables, and soy-protein products that have not been genetically modified or ever seen by cows. For breakfast, organic tofu is scrambled with thai curry spices, kalamata olives, or pesto. Whole-wheat buns embrace burgers formed from tempeh or spicy tofu and topped with vegan cheese and soy mayo. Chefs create a map of international flavors by sautéing baked tofu with thai peanut sauce or salsa, or simmering the cubes in curry and serving with papadam. Most items have vegan alternatives available, and a separate menu highlights gluten-free recipes.
Owner and chef Ayoma Wilen took the reins at Pearl of the Ocean in 2010, and that year, the restaurant was named Best New Restaurant by both the Santa Cruz Weekly and Santa Cruz Good Times. Focusing on fresh, organic ingredients, Ayoma oversees the vegetarian-focused menus that outline delectable arrangements of locally sourced ingredients, including some culled from the area’s farmers markets, and Sri Lankan spices. These arrangements are manifested in dishes as colorful and complex as a 20-sided Rubik’s Cube. Pearl of the Ocean’s staff also pours a variety of libations and non-alcoholic beverages, such as the spicy chai tea, and their signature drink, Kiss of the Island Princess, is composed of Montresor Prosecco, hibiscus flower, and love potion.
From a business started in 1979 inside a tiny house on Mission Street, Saturn Cafe has grown into a green-certified restaurant filled with decorated tables, colorful booths, and a retro feel. Every night chefs whip up local and organic ingredients into vegan and vegetarian versions of traditional American diner staples.
In the kitchen, cooks prepare award-winning fries in trans-fat free oil that they recycle into bio-diesel fuel, and craft a BLT on sourdough with fakin' bacon. Skilled hands assemble omelets with organic eggs, red onions, and red chard, and whip up vegan and vegetarian milkshakes to wash down wheat- and gluten-free bites.
Vegetarian House uses organic, locally grown, genetically unmodified ingredients to create a menu of sustainable sustenance that will prolong, if not completely circumvent the evolution of human flippers. Preface your dinner with an order of quinoa sushi (red quinoa with avocado, mushroom, onion, pickle, carrot, and a creamy sauce wrapped in sushi nori, $9.95), a bowl of Thai curry soup (potato, carrot, soy protein, tofu, and coconut milk, $8.95/small), or a plate of raw fettuccine (celery-root noodles, collard greens, carrot, tomato, beet, cucumber, red pepper, pistachios, and almonds in a creamy almond sauce, $12.95). Sweep your taste buds off their soft-tissue toes with Spicy Cha Cha (yam-flour crescents crumbled and seasoned with spices, red bell peppers, basil, and chili, $12.95), Gurus Curry (exotic blend of curries and spices, soy protein, potato, tomato, and onion, $11.95), or a lunchtime avocado BLT (tempeh seasoned with smoked paprika and mixed spices, topped with avocado, lettuce, and tomato, $10.95). Desserts include a gluten-free organic Meyer lemon curd ($5.95), vegan cheesecake ($4.50), and Italian sorbet ($5.95). Accompany the delish eats with a glass of fresh, organic carrot juice ($4.50), non-alcoholic beer ($3.50), or a refreshing root-beer float (Virgil's root beer and soy ice cream, $4.50).