Eating vegetarian isn’t just for vegetarians anymore.
Sam Auen, the guy behind vegan/vegetarian-friendly Tacopocalypse, plans to open Vegetaire in October in the skywalk’s Kaleidoscope Hub downtown. He attributes Des Moines becoming more veg-friendly to a rise in “occasional vegetarians.” There are foodies who may like a good steak for dinner, but a falafel for lunch.
Health and environmental factors also play into it. For green eaters, organic veggies from the farmers market are easily obtainable and come from areas close to home, which cuts down on fuel consumption.
In addition to the soon-to-open Vegetaire, places like Ritual Cafe and Fresh Cafe offer completely vegetarian menus. Meanwhile, A Dong, Centro, Bandit Burrito, Mars Cafe, Proof and an increasing number of other local eateries feature menus that vegetarians and carnivores drool over. Menus are getting increasingly specialized, as options like gluten-free are also popping up at pizza places like Fia’s and Gusto.
Lindsey Smith, 31, and her husband became vegans about a year ago and found that the lifestyle change put few constraints on dining out. They enjoy options like vegan cheese on their pizza at Gusto and Fong’s and easily can find alternatives, even at places like the Drake Diner and Big City Burgers. “It’s not just vegans and vegetarians going out, they’re going out with their friends and families,” she said.
Sites like veganiowa.blogspot.com and veggiedesmoines.com spotlight options around town, and vegetarians spread the word on dining options via Facebook groups and Twitter.
Auen, who cooks meat options for his Tacopocalypse, has found that learning to cook vegan/vegetarian can be a bit more difficult than cooking for carnivores, since there can be more variables to consider.
“You can’t just rely on ‘This is a porkchop and this is how it will taste,” Auen said. “Tofu you have to beat up a little bit and let it know who’s boss. Ethically, of course.”