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: Foundation Grounds (7298 Manchester; 314-601-3588)
Cuisine: American, Contemporary
Overview: Foundation Grounds is a colorful coffee shop and café in the bustling Maplewood neighborhood that prides itself on serving fresh, organic food and quality coffee. The coffee is tastier than many of the larger corporate competitors and certainly much more ethical.
The shop itself is whimsically decorated. The comfy chairs are covered in funky patterns, and tall columns are adorned with mosaics made of broken mirror pieces. There is even a tree painted teal stretching its branches out over framed work for sale by local artists. The lighting is relaxed, with plenty of sunlight pouring in from large windows, making this café an excellent work or study spot.
The menu is very kind to vegetarians and offers a variety of options. On the sandwich menu, you have your choice of five different sandwiches, including the Goddess, Vegan Tempeh Salad, the Lucy, A Perfect Pear, and the Madahoocheese. The Vegan Tempeh Salad includes organic tempeh, vegan mayo, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, onion and celery. If you're looking for something cheesier (and more fun to say) the Madahoocheese includes Tillamook cheese, Parmesan cheese, organic tomatoes and olive oil drizzled on top of baby spinach.
If you cheese lovers out there are begging for more, check out the quesadilla menu. Quesadillas such as the Koa Joe, Mama La, Miss Luna, the Brother Jones and Pedro's Pesto all offer a different cheese and veggie combinations. One of these gooey pockets of cheese and vegetables is sure to strike your fancy.
The salads are meat-free and delightfully fresh. The Foundation salad offers a bed of mixed greens with Gorgonzola, dried cranberries, marinated red onion, apples and homemade croutons. The Grounds salad also includes marinated red onion, but is served atop spinach with candied pecans, hormone-free feta cheese and sliced pears. Gut Check has been known to call salads the boring or obvious choice, but this time, the salad sounded too good to pass up. The Grounds' salad was artfully assembled, making it pleasing to look at and to eat. The candied pecans offered just enough sweetness to offset the strong and unique flavor of the marinated onion. The salad was so good that Gut Check is not ashamed to admit that we made good use of the whole-grain piece of toast that accompanied the salad and used it to mop up every last bite of spinach and dressing.
Gut Check did not forget about the mighty drink selection at Foundation Grounds, and you shouldn't either. Foundation Grounds serves 100 percent organic coffee from Goshen Coffee Company. You can either go for a specialty drink, such as a latte, or order one of their regular coffee blends, which include free refills for dine-in customers. If you are not a coffee drinker, try a "Hannah Banana," "the Goods" or "Blue Monkey" smoothie. Each is made to order with fresh, organic fruit.
Gut Check was pleased to see that the Foundation Grounds menu offered more options for vegetarians than meat eaters. The few dishes that contained meat used only hormone-free products. Foundation Grounds is definitely a great place for any hungry vegetarian who wants to relax and enjoy the atmosphere while enjoying fresh grub.