BEST VEGETARIAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT - 2007
Readers' Choice: Café Brenda
What carnivores fail to understand is that vegetarians are vegetarian for a number of very good reasons: They don't want to hurt animals, and they don't want to end up in the cardiac care unit, the oncology unit, or frankly any hospital unit whatsoever. Brenda Langton really gets that, gets it deep down in her soul, and so she serves vegetarian food that is clean, healthful, true, and visionary. Also, it's delicious. A savory wild mushroom and pistachio terrine served with fruit chutney is as big and meaty as one made with pork, but with none of the potential downsides of a bacon bomb. Asian barbecued mock duck is made fresh and lively with Thai basil and fresh pineapple, but given weight with peanuts and brown rice. Really, Spoonriver's menu is full of unique dishes created from locally grown, sustainable ingredients that push past the conventions of tired meatless fare, while going out of its way to accommodate wheat-free, vegan, and similarly deeply considered diets. Yes, the menu offers Minnesota lamb and Wisconsin trout for omnivores, and while those dishes are great, it tends to be the vegetarians who rejoice most strongly in the ethos and spirit of Spoonriver: Someone finally really gets it! And they get it with style.