by Sara Graham
Some have forsaken meat for dietary reasons, some do it to lessen their impact on the environment and some have joined the recent "Meatless Mondays" movement. For chefs and restaurants owners, it doesn't matter why, it just matters that there is delicious, satisfying food available for those seeking it. And these days, there are a surprising number of strictly meat-free restaurants and many that offer meat- and dairy-free options. It's not always easy to find them, so we've assembled a list of our ten favorites.
Lulu's Local Eatery (3201 South Grand Boulevard; 314-300-8215)
Lulu's Local Eatery creates sustainably sourced, all-natural, made-from-scratch, fresh, plant-based and affordable dishes with a focus on flavor and creativity. This is made possible in part by partnerships with like-minded farmers and businesses with the same earth-friendly vision. Favorite dishes on the winter menu include the sweet potato falafel, butternut squash enchiladas and sweet potato black bean sliders, which are served with house made buffalo, ranch, chipotle and butternut squash cheese sauces.
Tree House (3177 South Grand Boulevard; 314-696-2100)
Tree House specializes in globally inspired vegetarian and vegan comfort food. This is the place to go for inspired vegetarian versions of popular, traditionally meat-based dishes such as chorizo tamales, bao dumplings, jambalaya, moussaka and beef bourguignon. This kitchen turns out rich, complex flavors and textures from local and seasonal ingredients that satisfy all foodies, including carnivores.
Frida's (622 North and South Road, University City; 314-727-6500)
Owners Natasha Kwan and Rick Roloff opened Frida's (named after their cat) as a haven for those with dietary sensitivities, such as a gluten, soy or oil. Vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes are made from scratch using produce from area farmers and bread from local bakeries. All of it is butter- and sugar- free. The most popular items on the menu include the Frida burger, the signature kale salad, a taco with "meat" made from sunflower seeds and daily soups. The desserts are all organic — the peanut butter cup and chocolate-walnut torte have a loyal following.
Small Batch (3001 Locust Street; 314-380-2040)
Small Batch offers a unique approach to vegetarian dining — pack the food with flavor, passion and color and then serve it up with a whiskey that is equally well-crafted. As owner David Bailey explains, "We are big fans of taking things that people consider disparate and creating bridges between the two. So the question isn't why whiskey and vegetarian, the question is how to simultaneously provide balance and asymmetry within menus." The diverse food menu includes handmade pasta, fresh bread baked daily, risotto, quinoa fritters, ferments and pickles, pickled eggs and gougere. Plus, the whiskey, bourbon and rye menu offers more than 91 labels.
Seedz Cafe (6344 South Rosebury Avenue; 314-725-7333)
Seedz Café offers 100 percent organic plant-based entrees, desserts, cold-pressed juices and smoothies. The name of the restaurant is inspired by Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, as well as the copious amount of sprouts used in the kitchen. Customer favorite dishes include the "rawviolo," beets marinated and filled with a macadamia and pine nut pesto and the tempeh Reuben, smoked, fermented tempeh with sauerkraut, housemade Thousand Island dressing on a sprouted grain wrap.
PuraVegan Organic Café and Yoga (307 Belt Avenue; 314-932-5144)
PuraVegan offers a whole-body approach to healthy living with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food alongside a regular schedule of yoga and nutrition classes and a website with instructions on cleansing and detoxing. Dishes are noted as cooked, raw, oil-free, nut-free or soy-free to assist customers with specific food sensitivities. A customer favorite is the Sprout Lovers Taco made of a sprouted organic corn crust, carrot-walnut taco meat, tahini cheese and alfalfa sprouts.
Pizzeoli Wood Fired Pizza Napoletana (1928 South Twelfth Street; 314-449-1111)
Pizzeoli offers all-vegetarian, traditional Neapolitan pizza, fired in a 900-degree, wood-fired oven for just 45-60 seconds. The resulting leopard-like crust has an almost pastry-like texture and flavor. The house specialty pizza is the "Bianca," with a béchamel sauce (made of milk, butter, flour and nutmeg), fresh rosemary, garlic, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Another favorite is the "Soulard," a classic margherita pizza with vegan sausage and chili flakes. All pizzas can also be made vegan with house-made cashew "cheese" and vegan parmesan (nutritional yeast flakes).
Café Natasha (3200 South Grand Boulevard; 314-771-3411)
While Café Natasha is not a vegetarian-only restaurant, the restaurant's namesake, Natasha, turned vegetarian at age 12, leading the restaurant to provide a larger variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes. This approach has continued over the years with the addition of texturized vegetable protein into dishes such as the vegan stuffed pepper and tomato, and osh, a Persian lentil soup with barley, mung beans, rye and beans. In addition, Persian cuisine is characteristically a healthy, low-meat cuisine centered on fresh herbs, cultured yogurt, rice and vegetables.
Pi Pizzeria (400 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-4300)
Many of the pizzas on the menu at Pi are vegetarian, and it's long been a favorite of diners of all ilks. The new menu includes a vegetarian spin on the traditional Italian arancini rice balls. The rich and cheesy "Not-So-Cinis" replace prosciutto with Tuscan black kale and mushrooms. The current seasonal special, "Gringo," inspired by its sister Mexican restaurant, includes chipotle tomato sauce, mozzarella, fundido (melted cheese), black beans, pico de gallo, marinated red onions, avocado, feta, chili and lime.
The HotPot (11215 Manchester Road, Kirkwood; 314-315-4421)
The HotPot offers Asian-inspired, responsibly sourced entrees and smoothies, many of which are vegetarian and vegan. The tofu, chicken, beef and pork is local and non-GMO. The menu is packed with dishes where vegetables are the star, such as zucchini noodles. There is also a healthy array of protein packed, grain-free options, such as brown rice and quinoa. Much of the menu is organic.