10 April 2011

Tasty Eats for Vegans and Vegetarians in Salt Lake City

Recently, I was back in the Salt Lake City area to visit family and friends, as well as to tour some amazing special collections and archives (which will be posted soon on Here and There). When I'm in town, I always look for new places to enjoy fresh and tasty vegan and vegetarian eats. One of the best resources is City Weekly, the free weekly paper that specializes in an alternative look at the city and its surrounding areas. During my visit, the CW had released its "Best of Utah" issue (a misnomer, really -- it's more of a best of SLC with a handful of others tossed in for good measure), with all kinds of fun and useful spots to experience. I used it to find a few of the restaurants I tried for the first time this visit.

Here's a short list of the restaurants and stores I patronized while I was there (starting with the places that were new to me this visit) and what I thought of their products and services:

1. The Blue Plate Diner -- I went ovo-lacto here since I'd read nothing but great reviews about their omelets, however, there are a few vegan choices, such as tofu scrambles and burritos (more choices at lunch and dinner). I went for "The S.M.A," which was stuffed with spinach and mushrooms, and topped with sliced avocado. I also added some cheddar cheese for good measure. It was the fluffiest and largest omelet I've ever had. The side potatoes were crispy cubes of well-spiced tastiness. And the toast, well, pretty typical toast for Salt Lake, which is to say, Sourdough-based and not my speed. Otherwise, a big bang for the buck. Avoid the vegan sausage.

2. Vertical Diner -- While the Blue Plate is located in the funky and diverse neighborhood of Sugar House, Vertical Diner is a bit out of the way in back of a heavily industrial area, but it's more than worth the finding. Everything on the menu is vegetarian (a bit confusing because the menu mentions chicken, but it must be veggie chicken), and they serve a selection of gluten-free items as well, such as pancakes and their famous biscuits. This is definitely the place for cheap and tasty eats served by awesome punk folks in black playing college radio from the 1980s. At Vertical Diner, I had the best vegan pancakes I've ever eaten for $3.00. Fluffy and delicious, not to mention HOT. Next time, I'll try their biscuits and vegan gravy with fried "chicken."

3. Sunflower Farmers Market -- This chain of markets has been around since 2002, but they just opened a new store right up the street from a HUGE new Whole Foods store in Trolley Square. Frankly, I'm not sure how Whole Foods will complete, except on the convenience factor since Trolley Square is a bit of an upscale mall. And, they really are the place to go for good organic produce in the valley. However, I was very impressed by the variety of organic, vegan, and vegetarian packaged food options at much lower prices than Whole Foods at the new Sunflower Market. Next time I'm back in town, I'll have to check out the Murray store, which is much closer to where we stay.

4. Sage's Cafe -- For the past few years, each time I visit, I make sure to eat at Sage's. This upscale vegan restaurant located within a few blocks of both Trolley Square and the Main Branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library (a must-see! Check it out below.) is definitely the place to take a non-vegetarian to show them how incredibly tasty meatless meals can be. The Nut Burger is one of the best vegan burgers I've had (rivals even the bean and quinoa burger at the Bear Dance Cafe in Midway, UT).

From Salt Lake City July 2009

Back to Sage's, the food is always thoughtfully prepared and delicious. They have a gluten-free options menu, too. Definitely try the weekend brunch. I'm a fan of "The Mountain."

5. Good Earth Natural Foods -- This health food store has several locations around Utah, but the Sandy store is the closest to Salt Lake City (and the closest to where I stay). It has very high quality fresh produce, some fresh breads, a good bulk foods room, many frozen and refrigerated options, and local and nationally available brand packaged foods. The prices are comparable to Whole Foods, but in some cases, they are lower. Also, depending on the day, the produce might be fresher and less expensive. Go to their web site first since they do feature coupons.

6. Whole Foods -- Because I normally live in a part of NJ where the closest Whole Foods is 35 minutes south or 40 minutes north and west, I am glad that there are so many Whole Foods stores in the Salt Lake City area. When I'm up in Park City, there's one. There's a store within 10 minutes of my in-laws' house. And, there are a few downtown. So, while they can be expensive on some items (not called "Whole Paycheck" for nothing!), if I use coupons and shop wisely, I can do pretty well on my staples. But, I think I might be spending more time at Sunflower Markets now that I know they are much less expensive on many of those staples.