The Flaming Ice Cube might as well be a good vibes factory. Part cafe, gift shop, and yarn shop, visitors can stop in for a veggie burger, knitting lesson, or soy candle. At the cafe, chefs craft homemade vegan plates from a menu that includes a BBQ chick'n sandwich and brown rice bowls layered with asian vegetables, marinated organic tempeh, and the cafe's signature plum sauce. Meanwhile, instructors get needles moving at knitting classes, during which participants learn knitting basics or more advanced techniques for creating hats, scarves, and impractical bikinis.
Margaret and Phillip Nabors were ahead of the curve in championing natural and organic foods when they opened Mustard Seed Market & Café in 1981. To ensure the integrity of every item stocked on their shelves, the Nabors developed a list of golden standards—nine guidelines that range from a ban on high-fructose corn syrup to selling only cruelty-free cosmetics. This combination of rigor and passion has propelled Mustard Seed for more than 30 years, filling two locations with locally grown produce, fresh-baked vegan cookies, and naturally lean-but-tender beef from certified Piedmontese cattle, which are raised on an all-vegetarian diet free of steroids and antibiotics.
Today, the Nabors' children, Abraham and Gabe, have joined their parents in leading Mustard Seed's team of natural-foods experts—who include everyone from the customer-service associates to the stockers, ensuring that shoppers can find answers to their questions around every corner. The store also educates customers through classes and free lectures on topics such as California wines and what’s going to happen when they run out of letters to name the vitamins.
When guests walk into the bright blue confines of Square Caf?, they find owner Sherree Goldstein and her friendly crew serving up smiles and steaming cups of custom-blended Kiva Han coffee. Preparing eclectic breakfast and lunch dishes, chefs crack shells for three-egg omelets, green eggs and ham with homemade pesto, and form their own housemade veggie burgers. Attentive servers endlessly refill freshly brewed ice tea and help health-savvy diners find the best menu options. Inside, colorful local artwork fuels discussions about which colors deserve to be primary, and on the sidewalk patio, diners can scan the street for signs of Square Caf?'s vegetable-oil-powered Mercedes.
Gayot proclaimed Square Caf? a "vibrant eatery," describing the "generously portioned, cooked-to-order breakfast and lunch items on huge square plates." In addition to the well-crafted eats, the staff's energy and enthusiasm keep the caf?'s sizeable crowd of regulars coming back?the manager, Kevin, even sports a Square Caf? tattoo as evidence.
You wouldn't expect a restaurant that specializes in beef brisket, wood-grilled steaks, and burgers to be referred to as "a hidden vegan-friendly gem" by a blogger from Yummy Plants. And yet, Double Wide Grill satisfies both meat- and vegetable-lovers, with menus that run the food-chain gamut from lentil veggie burgers to St. Louis–style pork ribs. Adding to the eclectic feel, both of the restaurant's locations are housed in converted gas stations where vintage pumps still stand out front. Indoors, the decor pays homage to these rugged beginnings with bottle-based chandeliers, a hubcap ceiling, and a vintage trailer that recalls Floridian vacations to the wetlands where all lawns' pink flamingos migrate every year.
Patrons can also stop by on weekend mornings for brunch on the outdoor patio, or hang around until late at night for karaoke and more than 30 types of beer at the license-plate-covered bar. Sports fans can watch games on four 10-foot-wide high-resolution projection screens.
The chefs at Zaiaka draw on their knowledge of 1,000-year-old recipes to fill their menu with authentic Indian dishes, which they say helped earn them a 2012 Readers' Choice Gold Award for Best Ethnic Food from Trib Total Media. They cook vegetarian dishes including palak paneer, house-made cheese cubes and fresh spinach cooked in ground spices, and vegetable biryani, the chef's specialty rice entree. Naan bread baked in the eatery’s clay tandoor pairs with rogan josh, lamb cooked in a gravy of aromatic spices. During dinner, the dining area swells with soft music, which is punctuated with the clink of wineglasses full of beverages brought from home. Like a maitre d’ arriving late to work, the dark tables are draped in white tablecloths, and light flutters across the rich tapestries that cover the walls.
Named after retired Chicago police officer Jim Mullen, who was seriously injured in the line of duty, Mullen's Bar & Grill first opened its doors in the Windy City before branching out to Pittsburgh. Classic bar fare such as boneless wings, nachos, and burgers shares menu space with deep-fried philly cheesesteak sandwiches and SpaghettiO's straight from the can. An entire squad of flat-screen televisions hangs from exposed rafters so eaters can easily view broadcasted sports without craning their necks or duct taping rear view mirrors to their wrists. Mullen's Bar & Grill has two locations, one stationed near the cheering crowds at PNC Park and the other in the midst of the nightlife scene on Carson Street.