Vegetarians, I have learned, have a variety of strategies for surviving life in Boston, Massachusetts. They ferret out the best restaurants for meatless meals. They wax philosophical in the grocery aisles about organic versus conventional produce. They speak softly with other veggieheads and carry big carrot sticks.
Their particular subculture – predicated upon peacefulness and sustainability – fascinates me. While I am not a vegetarian (read: Buffalo Wings Happen), some of my best friends are. Thus, I dedicate this brief overview of Vegetarian Survival Boston-Style to them.
Since eating is one of the primary pleasures of vegetarians, a proper map of the grocery store and restaurant circuit is needed. A sort of passport for Vegetarians worldwide, and most definitely in Boston, is the VegDining Card. For roughly $15 a year, vegetarians will receive discounts at participating restaurants and can flaunt their membership in an elite veggie club. One notable Boston restaurant to honor the VegDining Card is Grasshopper.
Grasshopper is a well-known eatery with an ambitious mission – all of its cuisine is Asian vegan. It is located in the Brighton-Allston neighborhood, populated largely by college students. Perhaps that is another key to surviving Boston as a vegetarian – look for the neighborhoods with ramshackle homes, their porches laden with beercans and old living room couches, and you are bound to find a good vegetarian restaurant therein. Grasshopper offers a variety of options for relatively cheap. For appetizers, try the vermicelli rolls or the “chicken” fingers (made of tofu). Also, No-Name dish has, in its anonymity, made a name for itself. I will attest that it is worth any gastro-intestinal discomfort from overconsumption. This marinaded tofu and rice dish is scrumptious. Grasshopper even offers vegan cheesecake for dessert!
Another of my favorite vegetarian destinations in the Greater Boston Area is Veggie Planet, a restaurant that shares its space with the non-profit concert venue Club Passim in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. Your best directions are not via Mapquest, but rather by following the sounds of folksy music and the sights of granola types to this adorable underground cafe. Come for the delicious, hearty vegetarian meals and stay for the live performances. I highly recommend the Dinner for Henry pizza, with goat cheese, carmelized onions, and butternut squash. You can usually expect to take home a doggie bag as portions are quite generous. You can feel good that all ingredients are vegetarian and that the organic pizza dough comes from a local bakery which employs the homeless. No alcohol is served at this establishment, which offers to a nice alternative to the sometimes recycled “Hahvid Bah” scene.
Some of my veggie friends and their wallets adore Buddha’s Delight for its delicious, healthful, and inexpensive lunches and dinners. It is located in Boston’s Chinatown and is one of the rare eateries in the neighborhood that does not use animal products in its food preparation. Yet, its menu lists “pork” and “chicken” to render the senses to Buddha’s vegetarian imitations. The consistency of the food sometimes eclipses the service which can be uneven. However, if you are looking for a pleasant, casual eating atmosphere for which you will rarely have to wait for a table, visit the Buddha and find out why he is looking so tickled these days.
While there is a vast catalogue of other vegetarian and veggie-friendly restaurants in the Greater Boston area to try, sometimes you just want to cook in the comfort of your own kitchen. For these times, there is the Harvest Co-op Market. I cannot help but crow about my local Harvest market. The organic produce, while slightly more expensive than the conventional, is consistently excellent. Vegetarians will love Harvest’s “meat case” which features many delicious veggie entrees, i.e. lettuce rolls, ravioli, artichoke salad, which would work well for those eating solo or hosting a dinner party. There is one Harvest located in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, and another located in Cambridge, MA at Central Square. Harvest strives to maximize on local produce from local farmers, and also hires local folks from the neighborhood. Thus, the quality and freshness of their goods is superior. Of course Harvest receives extra veggie points for giving back to the community that supports it. Anyone may shop at Harvest, but those who put up the annual $20 for membership receive extra benefits such discounts at other local vendors and 10% off all grocery items on “Membership Days” which occur once per month.
While vegetarians may have to do a little extra homework and/or legwork to maintain their lifestyle in Boston, their interests are surely represented at several local establishments. There are many delicious and affordable options for eating in or out, and perhaps someday I will join their ranks full-time in the pursuit for meatless meals.