If you are an avid vegetarian living in the Boston area, chances are slim that you haven’t at least heard of the Grasshopper or Buddha’s Delight (and Buddha’s Delight Too). These three restaurants cater to those who omit meat from their diet and do so with great care and consideration. The atmospheres of each are slightly different but both are peaceful with friendly staff. Buddha’s Delight has a somewhat religious environment with paintings of what I guess are saints, goddesses, or other important figures on the walls and decorations that remind you of a shrine. Dining at Buddha’s Delight Too, in Brookline, is very similar. The Grasshopper is a room full of dark wooden booths surrounding a few loose tables here and there and feels more like a traditional restaurant. I recommend any vegetarian visiting Boston to check one if not both of these locations out for their dining needs, as there do not seem to be many places in the United States that really are 100% meat free. Most of the vegetarian restaurants around will serve meat as an option for those who want it and so even if they are more keen to vegetarian eating, one always is left wondering whether or not their tofu was cooked on the same platform as their neighbor’s chicken cutlet. And that is never a good thing to have to guess.
Buddha’s Delight, located in China Town has been a Boston landmark for years. People wander into China Town from all parts of Boston (and according to reviews, sometimes other states) specifically to eat at this great vegetarian haunt. The service is a little slow, as there is usually only one server, but if you have a little time to spend, it is not a bad place to spend it. Especially during the buffet hours, which begin around 3:00pm and go on for a few more hours, the specifics depending on which day you are to dine. The buffet is one of the best in town, though, meat restaurants and meat-free restaurants included. With many dishes to choose from Buddha’s Delight offers entrees for everyone. Do you love the taste of meat but just refuse to eat it for particular reasons? The meat imitation dishes are spectacular. A huge favorite of nearly everyone that goes there seems to be the Tofu Chicken Fingers. There are also many selections that are made with imitation pork or beef. Most of these are mixed in with some seasoned rice or noodles. Do you avoid meat because it is too heavy for you? Buddha’s Delight does have some dishes that are completely free of anything meat, not even imitations. If you are looking for just plain veggies and rice, you can also find a good variety here. Overall, this place is really accommodating. The only thing a bit odd about it is a strange silence that seems to be consistent at the restaurant due to the lack of music. It does feel a little awkward to have a normal conversation while dining at Buddha’s because you know your voice will be the focus of every single person’s listening agenda for the time being, but if you can get over that you are all set. Not to mention that the food is so good you probably won’t even feel the need to converse.
Buddha’s Delight Too, the sister of the China Town Buddha’s Delight has the same menu, but is in a more residential and uppity part of Boston area called Brookline. Located on a strip filled with many restaurants and stores that cater to the town’s primarily Jewish audience, Buddha’s Delight Too brings in quite a diverse crowd. You will find yourself dining near families on their way home from Temple, older couples on their version of a hot date, or younger members of the Boston’s more hipster type crowd. The atmosphere is pretty much the same as the China Town location, quiet and filled with religious paraphanelia, but I would have to say it seems a little more awkward this time. With no music, and quite often, few, if any, other patrons, one can hear every little thing they do in the kitchen, the clashing of pots and pans and the conversations in foreign tongue of the restaurant employees. I suppose it is because the restaurant space is much larger than the China Town location, that the lack of music is so obvious but it really is. One plus about the Brookline location, though, is that you will probably be more attended to by the waiter and host(ess). They are quick to serve you, sometimes even too fast, but that is not to say they make you feel rushed. It is simply that you know you are getting your food fresh out of the oven or stove and you will not have to wait for a drink. Speaking of drinks, all of the unique recipes are usually available here, whereas the Buddha’s in China Town sometimes does not carry them all. I would highly recommend trying one of the bean shakes; mung or read bean with coconut milk are my personal favorites.
The Grasshopper is located in Allston/Brighton right next to the infamous punk and/or indie rocker hangout, the Model CafÃ?Â©, which is not really a cafÃ?Â© but a bar. It is definitely the more “hip” of the two restaurants, perhaps due to its trendy location in the outskirts of Boston, and it is not unlikely that your dining experience will be shared with an array “classic-counter culture” examples of individuals, with the latest hair color or styles, the newest anarchist band’s patch sewn on their jackets or the coolest activism buttons on their messenger style bags. There can definitely be a scene here, but only if you want there to be. Run by a handful of friendly Asian employees, this restaurant is not only great for vegetarians but it is also 100% vegan. The tofu chicken fingers here are not quite as classically delicious as the ones from Buddha’s Delight, but they are still tasty. And the menu is quite loaded with good items so no need to worry. The Grasshopper has good food but one should note that it does serve a host of Asian style dishes, including Chinese style soups and heavy entrees. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is like Chinese Takeout, because it is much more healthy and of much better quality, but the thick sauces, and heavy concentration of beef or chicken (imitation of course) is apparent in a great deal of menu items. If you are one that avoids meat because you don’t like the consistency or taste of it, you may not find too much to choose from here. If this describes you, hopefully you like tofu because the chicken fingers would probably be your best bet. And then there is also dessert. The Grasshopper has a couple different desserts to choose from- The flan was the best but rumor has it that this one might be extinct. A good second choice would be the tiramisu.
Buddha’s Delight is located in Boston’s China Town at 3 Beach Street. Be careful at night here. They are hidden upstairs in the building but have a big Buddha’s Delight sign that you shouldn’t be able to miss. Call them first for specific directions if you don’t know the area. It is in kind of a seedy area. They are at 617-451-2395.
Buddha’s Delight Too is in Brookline near Coolidge Corner at 404 Harvard Street. Phone them at 617- 739-8830.
The Grasshopper Vegetarian (Vegan) Restaurant is located at 1 North Beacon Street, in Allston/Brighton, Mass., right where the street splits by Store 24. Just a short walk in the westerly direction from Harvard Ave. Reach them at 617-254-8883.