Repress the flesh
A roundup of vegetarian-friendly restaurants with full flavor
Published: June 1, 2011
International Mini-Café 111 E. Kirby St., Detroit; 313-377-2555: In the basement of the International Institute at Kirby and John R, just east of Woodward, is one of the best lunch deals in town. Each day they offer a different soup; three Indian dishes, two of them vegetarian; a "Mideast feast" of hummus, tabouleh and falafel; a veggie quesadilla; a pasta dish, such as spaghetti with chicken meatballs; nachos; three pizzas; Greek salad; and three American-style sandwiches. Desserts are Middle Eastern pastries, and you will often find crisp, fresh samosas waiting on the entrance table.
Jerusalem Garden 307 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-995-5060: The only place where falafel is more popular than this tiny Ann Arbor spot would be in Jerusalem itself. Ann Arbor is a lot more convenient and the journey to the Middle East won't get you better food. Falafel — fried patties of ground chick peas, onions, garlic, parsley and other seasonings, served wrapped in pita with baba ghanoush, hummus or refreshing tabbouleh — are as cheap ($4.75) as they are delicious. Cheap eats at their best. It's fast, but not fast food as we know it. Splurge and have a cup of lentil soup.
Le Petit Zinc 1055 Trumbull St., Detroit; 313-963-2805: Charles Sorel, raised in France but with the Caribbean personality of his native Martinique, is providing a splash of sunlight at his breakfast-and-lunch spot in Corktown. His small space has bright yellow walls and bright yellow napkins. It's accented in green and turquoise and is adorned with paintings in primary and other cheerful colors. Outdoors is a patio with raised beds for perennials. Patrons may order crepes, salads, sandwiches, cheese, ratatouille and coffee. Doesn't sound cheap, does it? Surprisingly, Sorel's dishes seldom cost more than $8, and every creation, from crepes to salads to classic French small plates, are works of art, meant to be savored.
Motor City Brewing Works 470 W. Canfield St., Detroit; 313-832-2700: Right across the street from Traffic Jam, this brewpub has a quirky tiled interior, with its concrete bar molded in PVC, its Wednesday-night art shows, and its sturdy menu of pizzas and small plates. For less than $10, you can get a pizza made with ingredients from as local as possible. The beers are excellent. And those Wednesday night art shows are a tightwad's dream, offering work from experimental, established and ex nihil artists, often hanging work that goes for as little as $15. Have a vegetarian pizza, drain a craft brew or two, and invest in a work of art for a little more.
Palm Palace 2370 Carpenter Rd., Ann Arbor, 734-971-5700; 2065 N. Squirrel Rd., Auburn Hills, 248-371-9000; 15750 Hall Rd., Clinton Township, 586-416-4800; $$: If you're in an emotional crisis that only the stuffed grape leaves of your youth will solve, but now you're vegetarian? Palm Palace can be your food therapist. They have some of the best hummus, grape leaves and falafel around; and the lemony crushed lentil soup alone is worth the visit. All vegetarian items on the menu are clearly marked, and there's a generous selection for veggies and omnivores alike. Vegetarian moussaka! Pita creations! Spinach pie! It's an adventure for your mouth. And go with the house salad dressing; it's divine.
Rangoli Indian Cuisine 3055 E. Walton Blvd., Auburn Hills, 248-377-3800; $$: Entrées at Rangoli come in small copper bowls. They've got mattar paneer (cheese cubes cooked with peas in a tomato and cream sauce); bindi masala (okra sautéed with onions and dee-licious spices); spicy-hot chettinadu pepper chicken (fiery peppers in a coconut curry); and select entrées can even be made vegan.
RAW Café 4160 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-778-9774; $$: At RAW Café, none of the food is cooked, and it's all vegan and organic, which means it's pretty uniformly healthful. A great midtown location in a striking all-windows space — the former CPop Gallery — that invites hanging out, though without coffee, and only till 6 p.m. The menu includes soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, desserts, smoothies and juices. They're the work of LaKeta McCauley, who attributes her recovery from breast cancer to her switch to a raw vegan diet. McCauley is eager to spread her views on the healing powers of food.
Royal Kabob 3236 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-872-9454; $$: Here's a weird disconnect: In a metroplex with one of the largest Middle Eastern populations in the whole hemisphere, it has been nothing short of challenging to find good Middle Eastern food in the city proper. With the arrival of Royal Kabob on Caniff in Hamtramck, at least that multi-ethnic enclave has a shop that can provide everything from an ambitious platter to a humble, wax-paper-wrapped falafel sandwich. And those sandwiches are deals: A falafel sandwich is $3.55, as are the four other vegetarian sandwiches. For carnivores, meat-kebab sandwiches are around $3.95. As for their entrées, they're big enough to guarantee you'll leave with a box. Jeez, their $29.95 takeout combo for two is enough food for a small army. Though it does a brisk take-out business, the interior is bright and commodious, with enough room for large parties.
Russell Street Deli 2465 Russell St., Detroit, 313-567-2900; $: A meatless Reuben would, for all omnivorous appearances, seem to be missing the most important bit — you know: the meat. But at Russell Street, it holds its own without. The "vegetarian favorite," with a medley of vegetables, Swiss, sprouts, and a smear of hummus on whole wheat, will send anybody's taste buds into back-flips. The large, open space is chatty and crowded on Saturdays when everybody and their mother turns up for the great breakfast menu — now available during the week too. And of course there are sandwiches of the meat-laden persuasion, but why do you need them if you have sammies that include roasted red pepper, zucchini and sun-dried tomato pesto? Closed Sundays.
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