Ask the Critics: Where Should a Brooklyn-Based Vegetarian Celebrate Her Birthday?
In need of a seitan steakhouse?
Alainna L. asks: I'm celebrating my birthday this month, and I'd like to go out to eat with a few (six- to nine-ish) of my friends. The problem? I'm vegetarian, but they're not. Any suggestions of places that could accommodate all of us, so I'm not stuck with the sautéed mixed vegetables as my birthday meal? I'd prefer Brooklyn but would venture to Manhattan.
Dear Alainna: Clearly the veggie dilemma is a pressing issue! My colleague Robert Sietsema answered a similar query a few months ago, focusing on Manhattan joints, but seeing that you're looking for a birthday-worthy place in Brooklyn, here's what I can offer you.
My go-to answer would be Buttermilk Channel because I think the food is tasty, and it even has its own separate vegetarian menu -- so what more could you want? Entrées like the cranberry bean and fennel stew and the cheddar waffles with roasted mushrooms and brussels sprouts are about as far away from a ho-hum vegetable plate as you can get, plus the ambiance is warm and cozy without being pretentious.
I'd choose al di là for similar reasons. You can't go wrong with anything on the Northern Italian menu, and especially not with their malfatti or red-beet ravioli with poppy seeds. The vegetarian choices basically limit you to pasta, but along with a salad and a few glasses of wine, you don't need much more, do you?
If Bay Ridge isn't too much of a trek, I'd recommend Tanoreen, which Robert reviewed earlier this year. Dishes like the makdous, or eggplant in pickling juices with chopped walnuts, and the muhammara, a walnut and red pepper dip, will convert your meat-eating friends (at least for the evening).
Purple Yam could also be a fun choice if you're looking for something a little more casual and a cuisine that's a bit out of the ordinary. The Ditmas Park restaurant dishes up home-style Filipino cuisine (mostly meat-driven) as well as veg-friendly Korean-influenced dishes like jap chae and bibimbap made with edamame, burdock, bean sprouts, spinach (but with Filipino rice, natch).
Finally, if you're willing to head to Manhattan, I'd certainly recommend ABC Kitchen, which has many veggie delights and embodies the whole rustic-chic-sustainable-organic thing, if that's what you're into. I'm a carnivore for life, but I recently swooned over such meat-free dishes as their velvety smooth cauliflower soup with Rupert cheese, mozzarella salad with tart cranberries (it almost makes the classic Caprese pale in comparison), and roasted brussels sprouts with a spicy mustard dressing. The pumpkin spice cake can also double as a birthday cake. All you need is the candle.
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