Before the meat-eaters flip the page, hear this: Restaurant chefs are working overtime to prepare delicious, meatless meals that will satisfy even the hungriest carnivore — and their not all whipping up salads and fettuccine alfredo.
It’s a trend, this meatless thing. It’s not aiming to convert us to vegetarians, it’s simply giving us more health-conscious, locally-conscious options.
“For the first time it seems, the Midwest is not five years behind the curve,” Lynn Pritchard, owner and chef at Tartine, said. “Because of social media, we are dining at the same pace as the coasts now. People are constantly looking for the new alternative.”
Pritchard, a self-described “alternivore,” eats meat, but works completely meatless days into his diet at least once a week, often more. He’s a chef with a love of food, so eggplant and grilled portobello mushrooms aren’t going to cut it, he said.
Tartine, a restaurant that serves local foods from Iowa farms and companies, has an organic, healthful focus, and is preparing to unveil its new fall menu soon. On it, Pritchard said, will be more vegetarian (and gluten-free) options.
“We’re listening to the customer’s desires,” he said. “Ten years ago, it was steak houses coast to coast. Now, restaurants are more focused on the customer’s health.”
Chef George Formaro, of Centro and Django, said he chooses to eat a vegan diet simply for the health benefits.
“I try to stick to a plant-based diet so it frees me up to eat whatever I want, even if it isn’t whenever I want,” he said. Formaro, who was in New York City during our interview, said he indulged in a burger and pastrami sandwich the day before, and so was sticking to an all vegetarian diet that day.
Formaro has been creating a steady stream of vegetarian and vegan options for his menus at Centro, Django and Gateway Market. “I still want comfort foods,” he said. “I work tirelessly to create satisfying comfort foods in vegan form. The key is re-creating the things you already enjoy, like putting vegan pepperoni on a pepperoni pizza. If you only eat a salad, but you’re not a big salad eater, you’re not going to be satisfied and you’re not going to stick with it.”
Try a few of these vegetarian and vegan options for your next meal.
Garden omelet, a customer favorite with roasted red peppers, portobello mushrooms, fresh arugula and goat cheese. $8.
Find it: Tartine, 12695 University Ave., Clive.
Pan-seared tofu gnocchi, a decadent mix of sauteed mushrooms, red onion, tomato, spinach, garlic, basil, shallots and spicy red pepper flakes. $16.99
Find it: Centro, 1003 Locust St.
Vegan banh mi sandwich, made with Vietnamese barbecued tofu, vegan mayo, sriracha, julienne carrots, cucumbers, red onion and cilantro on a South Union hoagie. $8.50.
Find it: Gateway Market, 2002 Woodland Ave.