BEST VEGETARIAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT - 2008
Quick: When you think of vegetarian food, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Beans and rice? Pasta? Tofu à la king? Not so at Brenda Langton's Spoonriver, which proves that vegetarian cuisine doesn't have to wear Birkenstocks or smell like patchouli. Spoonriver is the gourmet-natural evolution of her Café Brenda: a long, sleek eatery with big glass windows, a narrow bar, and a specialty cocktail list. The food is still pure and healthy, it just feels more refined: The pairings are more daring, flavors more delicate, and the presentation more elegant. We've delighted in such dishes as tangy, Asian mock duck; house-made beet ravioli; and mushroom-pistachio terrine, perked up with mustard, fruit chutney, and cornichons. But what we're really hoping will return this summer is a sculptural salad of heirloom tomatoes and watermelon, accented with hints of basil, celery, and vanilla. With a menu also boasting several naturally raised meats (Fischer Farms pork tenderloin, Wild Acres duck and chicken liver pâté), one of the best aspects of Spoonriver may be that vegetarians can bring their meat-eating companions without any kicking and fussing.