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: Olympia Kebob House and Taverna (1543 McCausland Avenue; 314-781-1299)
Neighborhood: Dogtown/Franz Park
Overview: When it comes to traditional Greek fare, you won't be hard-pressed to find vegetarian options on the menu at Olympia Kebob House and Taverna. The owner's grandfather is from Greece, and he has been passing down authentic family recipes ever since. While seafood, lamb and other meats are featured on the menu, the majority of Olympia's appetizers are vegetarian, with a separate section of vegetarian entrees. Olympia offers a casual atmosphere and decor and eye-popping foods such as flaming cheese (complete with opas) to make you feel right at home.
Highlights: Olympia's pita pizza is typically served with a choice of chicken or gyro meat, but naturally, the Veggielanted opted for cheese only. The pita, sourced from Chicago, was crunchy on the bottom and sturdy enough to easily hold the weight of the toppings. The housemade red sauce added a nice tang to the pizza, thanks to ingredients such as red wine, cumin and garlic. The pizza was topped with green peppers, onions and a generous portion of salty feta cheese to put a Greek spin on the dish for just $7.50.
But it just wouldn't be a Greek restaurant experience without a gyro, and Olympia doesn't disappoint. Instead of ground beef or lamb, this gyro was piled high with all sorts of fresh vegetables including zucchini, cucumber, peppers, tomato and lettuce sourced from Produce Row. The veggies came piled upon a soft pita -- a fork and knife are required to take down this monster. The gyro ($8.95) was mixed with a cooling touch of tangy tzatziki sauce and feta.
To get a feel for the bulk of the vegetarian options on the menu, we also indulged in the vegetarian platter, which consisted of fried eggplant, spinach rice and mixed vegetables. The eggplant, topped with tomato sauce and Parmesan, was soft rather than crunchy as the name would have us believe. The spinach rice was garnished with parsley, dill and lemon juice, giving it a distinctive and pleasant flavor. The mixed vegetables, which included carrots, zucchini, beans and potatoes, were lightly dressed with lemon juice and oil. For $10.50, the vegetarian platter came with so much food, undoubtedly forcing even the toughest carnivores to loosen their belts.