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: MoKaBe's Coffeehouse (3606 Arsenal Street; 314-865-2009)
Neighborhood: Tower Grove South
Overview: MoKaBe's Coffeehouse is a popular brunch spot and coffee shop nestled at Arsenal Street and South Grand Boulevard in Tower Grove -- so close it practically plays neighbor to Tower Grove park. The large café boasts plenty of outdoor and indoor seating, with Wi-Fi and local art to keep you entertained and a nightly midnight curfew that outpaces most of the local competition. Though the baristas whip up delicious hot and cold beverages, the kitchen almost outshines with its lengthy, beloved breakfast menu and very vegetarian-friendly options. While MoKaBe's is not completely vegetarian, a large portion of the menu is solely (or easily modified) to cater to meat-free palates, with even some vegan-friendly fare, too.
Highlights: Though salad is a rather obvious (read: boring) vegetarian option, MoKeBe's makes leafy greens fun for its veggie-loving patrons by excluding meat from its salad menu. The house salad, for example, combines romaine lettuce, artichoke hearts, yellow peppers, portabella mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese drizzled with sun-dried tomato dressing or peppery Parmesan cheese dressing. The restaurant offers several veg-friendly sandwiches, including its vegan housemade veggie burger, black-bean burger and grilled veggie sandwich, and vegetarian options such as the portabella sandwich, the veggie Reuben and the "Who Needs Meat?" sandwich, MoKaBe's take on grilled cheese. The veggie burgers can be spiced up (as in, de-veganized) with guacamole or a variety of cheeses and special house sauces. If you're looking to veer away from burgers, you can try a falafel sandwich, veggie stuffed grilled cheese or a grilled vegetable wrap.
The grilled vegetable wrap includes yellow squash, zucchini, portabella mushrooms, green peppers and onions, all slathered in a flavorful Italian dressing and wrapped in pita bread. For an extra $1.25 you can add tofu or feta. Gut Check decided to spring for the feta and, as usual, had no regrets.
The vegetables were so perfectly grilled and beautifully complemented by the Italian dressing that the lack of meat was a non-issue. The feta melded perfectly with the fresh, bright veggies, making the wrap an irresistible delight down to the last bite.
The wrap, paired with Billy Goat Chips, makes for a satisfying meal, but Gut Check couldn't resist trying one of the vegetarian-friendly sides. We chose the hummus plate, which includes housemade hummus topped with feta cheese and scallions served with warm pita bread. While warm pita and feta are hard to mess up, the hummus itself left a little to be desired. The dry texture made it nearly impossible to get any hummus on a pita wedge without the use of a knife to scoop and spread it. The hummus could have benefited from olive oil and maybe some paprika, but honestly we were so full by the meal's end that it didn't much matter.