by Bryan Peters
The Veggielante has had it up to here with people bitching that St. Louis restaurants are vegetarian unfriendly. Sure, we'd like to see more restaurants offering more meatless dishes, but there are excellent choices out there if you take the trouble to look for them. We're not here to proselytize about greening up your diet. Our only motive is to spread the word about places where you can order good grub that ain't got no meat. To enhance your reading experience, we've settled on a handful of criteria we'll use to suss out a restaurant's vegetarian friendliness.
Destination: Pi Pizzeria (10935 Manchester Road; 314-966-8080)
Overview: With three sit-down restaurants, one carryout and one food truck, Pi is doing everything it can to spread the word about its pies. There's been much fanfare over the last three years, what with Obama's public endorsement and a whole warehouse of awards, but fewer people know of Pi's commitment to St. Louis' vegan scene. Recently, we visited Pi's Kirkwood location to see if its vegan deep dish cuts the vegan mustard.
The Grub: Pi's thin-crust pizza is always vegan, and you can find vegan cheese and meat substitutes courtesy of Daiya and Match. But Pi butters its deep dish pans, so folks have to put in a special request (at least six hours notice) to make it vegan. Match is good enough to fool most meat eaters, and we hardly noticed the absence of dairy, thanks to the Daiya. And though the crust loses much of its buttery richness, this is still a top flight vegan offering.
Seasonality/sourcing: With new head chef Steven Caravelli at the helm, Pi's locavore philosophy stands to grow even stronger. Caravelli plans to use produce from independent farmers.
Resistance to clichés (vegetable medleys, pre-made veggie burgers, etc.): Pi's menu hasn't changed much in three years, and many of its appetizers lack originality. Still, Pi's myriad topping combinations provide more than enough variety to keep even the regularest of regulars interested.
Improvisations & accommodations (vegan, gluten-free, etc.): Not only does Pi provide multiple vegan offerings, but it also offers gluten-free crusts. And with the "Create Your Own Pi" option, you can order a pizza pretty much any way you want it.
Extra credit: One of the eco-friendliest restaurants in town.
Standout item: Cornmeal crust