Vegetarian Restaurants in Houston

1. Field of Greens has been in Houston a long time–I don’t know why it took us 12 years to find it. I’ve gone twice by myself for lunch, and took the wife and son there yesterday. There are lots of vegan options (and many of the vegetarian items can be easily modified). The food is good, fresh, and diverse, with some interesting combinations (the seaweed club, for instance), and attractively presented.

2. Quan Yin is run by a Buddhist sect (cult?) run by Supreme Master Ching Hai. No matter, it stands out among a sea of tepid buffets as having some of the best Chinese/Vietnamese food I have had in Houston. The dishes are generous, and quickly made, and feature some amazing manipulations of soy protein. It looks like a hole in the wall, and hard to pick out from so many similar looking places on Bellaire Blvd. in Alief, but it has long been one of our favorite restaurants.

3. The Hobbit is not vegetarian, but has lots of vegetarian options, including several Mexican items and humongous sandwiches. Inside, it’s decorated with Tolkien themes, as you’d expect; outside there’s a wrap-around patio (that also wraps around a large tree). One of my favorites is the spinach and mushroom enchilada, with mole sauce. Yum!

4. Sadly, I must follow that by mentioning A Moveable Feast. It also is not vegetarian, but has a number of vegetarian options–none as creative as what The Hobbit offers. I decided to try their spinach and mushroom enchiladas, to compare, but there is no comparison. The cafe is attached to a “health food” store (of the new-agey and overpriced supplements variety). I suppose I’ll go try it again, just to see if my first impression was amiss, but not with much enthusiasm.

5. On a more positive note, Pepper Tree has a good vegetarian buffet. I haven’t eaten off the menu yet–need to return.

6. Madras Pavilion on Kirby is especially popular with Orthodox Jews (because it is vegetarian, there are no kosher issues). I’ve been there with Jewish friends, and also with family members, and had a wonderful experience. But one day I went with an Indian friend who is from Madras. He had a mediocre review of the food (not like his mamma made it)–but what stood out for me was how poorly we were treated. It seemed clear to me that there was some racism being directed toward my friend by the staff (who were not from Madras). We had to ask for things that were supposed to come with our meal, and had a hard time getting the attention of the wait staff (unlike the others in the small restaurant). I wrote to complain to the management afterward, and didn’t get the benefit of a response. I haven’t been back.

7. The Garden of Life Vegan Deli is a newcomer, and is very hard to find in a strip mall on the west side of Veteran’s Memorial, just north of Antoine. The menu is meagre–I’d encourage you to order the special. I was the only one there when I stopped by for a late lunch, and had friendly service.  I ordered a spinach and avocado wrap. I’ll be trying it again–and I encourage you to check it out.

8. San San Tofu is a store and cafe which specializes in, you guessed it, tofu. If all you know about meat analogues fits under the Worthington, Loma Linda, or Morningstar Farms heading, you may be surprised by the many varieties of meat and fish substitutes produced in Asia. I picked up some fish (wrapped in seaweed), fish balls, bacon (round “Canadian” style), and chicken.

There are so many places I could mention: DiMassi’s, with a great Mediterranean buffet with lots of vegetarian choices; Chuy’s, which is, I’m told, the only Mexican place where vegetarians can safely eat both the rice and the beans. Chipotle is the best burrito stand, with vegetarian options and a social conscience. Georgia’s Market has the best salad bar, and the market is known for fresh (mainly local) produce, and lots of herbs.

There are other places a vegetarian can survive. I’ve been soured on some, like P.F. Chang’s (because of the excessive sodium), and Freebird’s World Burrito (whose “wheat” burritos are merely “whole wheat flavored,” a staff member informed me). Olive Garden lost me when, after my meal, I noticed lots of cockroaches spilling from the picture next to me (sure, it was only one restaurant, but I can’t go in one without remembering that Hitchcockesque experience).