Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 1:04 p.m.
Tofu scramble from Seward Cafe: Heavy on the broccoli, light on the cheese
In a day or so, perhaps even sooner, you'll be sick of trying to get creative with whatever odd scraps of holiday leftovers are still lingering in your fridge and definitely not in the mood for more carbs, cream cheese, or cookies.
It's that post-holiday, getting back in the swing of the regular work week, battle with lethargy and we want to help you win it. Maybe you're inspired to get a jump start on your 2013 resolutions to eat more whole grains, raw foods, less meat, or to make a more concerted effort to eat local. Or maybe your body is just trying to tell you it needs a vegetable that is not accompanied by bacon or smothered in cream-of-something soup. Either way, we have a round-up of local restaurants where you can re-energize, eat light, and still be merry.
From the ashes of Uptown date spot The Duplex, local powerhouse restaurateurs Heidi and Stewart Woodman created this homey hub of "healthy everyday, all day options for the entire family." Sounds simple, but the food is well-executed, always interesting, and doesn't rob you of the feeling that you are out for a special meal. Go for vegan eggplant croquettes, a baby kale salad with Caesar-seasoned tofu, the amazing spelt waffle with a reasonable portion of creamed chicken, and wash it down with a fresh-that-minute vegetable juice spritzer. You'll feel euphoric...and full.
Several Thai places around town boast low calorie options like papaya salad and fresh spring rolls, but few are as committed to locally sourced ingredients as Northeast noodle house Sen Yai Sen Lek. Nutritious and delicious options include the miang kam which are often made using kale as the wrapper, there's always a vegetarian curry special, and you can exercise the option to have your tilapia steamed instead of fried with your long beans and Thai basil. Pro tip: Sen Yai also offers an entire wheat-free menu. Awesome if you already know you have a sensitivity or are finally doing the elimination diet your doctor urged you to try to get rid of your mystery rash.
Ah, the most virtuous intersection of all the strict diets: raw AND vegan. What do you even eat? For those who have never been, EcoPolitan is a unique and eye opening experience. Those who go often are privy to the well-guarded secret that uncooked food can still be quite satisfying even if it's not going to inspire a full-time lifestyle change. There's a salad made with cumin and chilie-spiced lentils that tastes remarkably like tasty taco meat, and it's topped with a mock sour cream made from cashews; organic, vegan, raw, gluten-free pizza made with savory olive tapenade, smooth red avocado, meaty marinated mushrooms, and cilantro; and even a deceptive version of mac and cheese made with ribbons of zucchini in place of the noodles and a sauce made of who-knows-what that manages to mimic that creamy-good texture of bechamel with a load of cheddar blended in.
The gyro and the melt sandwich are strong cornerstones of any good diner, and at this cluttered-in-a-charming-way cafe (near other local vegan/vegetarian favorite Pizza Luce) you'll find plenty that's familiar with a little twist on tradition. All Seward's sandwiches are meat-free (made with tempeh and tofu, respectively, in the aforementioned examples) but still super hearty thanks in large part to their homemade herb bread and helpings of vegan mayo. For years Seward has been a favorite for vegetarian breakfasts, especially the egg mock muffin (get it?), Earth breakfast (big veggie-laden hashbrown scrambles, often served with their rancheros sauce), and buckwheat pancakes. Fill up on fiber and flavor.
For the really, truly good gluten-free cookies alone (ok, maybe they are entirely healthy, but you have to wean yourself off the cookie-a-day things somehow) alone, Foxy Falafel is worth a stop. But of course owner Erica Strait wouldn't be where she is without knowing a thing or two about how to flavor and fry up some falafel. She uses only whole wheat pita (or do it with corn chips and extra hummus on a platter if you are going GF), and offers the much lower-carb option of having schwarma meat or beet falafel balls in the form of a salad. Her seasonal preparations of quinoa are inspiring and an excellent source of protein, sans any actual meat.
Greek food doesn't immediately evoke the words "light" or "granola" but the Mediterranean diet, rich in fish, olive oil, tomatoes, dark greens, chickpeas, and dark vegetables, is inherently heart-healthy, rich in antioxidants, natural estrogen, fiber, and vitamins A and K. More importantly, it's also rich in garlic, lemon, and everything that brings out the flavor in otherwise lighter dishes. Gardens of Salonica is also particularly good about identifying the vegan and vegetarian offerings on their menu. Share a bunch of small plates like horta - steamed greens with lemon and garlic; piaz - organic black-eyed peas with olive oil; fava bean dip; cured artichoke hearts; and a side of pita and you'll be sitting very pretty.
It's a standby for a reason, people. They were doing "California health nut" way before that saying went out of style and barley risotto was suddenly popping up on menus from coast to coast. Their vegetable and anasazi bean soup is always available and there's usually a pureed one that tastes much more sinful than it really is. The almond tuna melt is open-faced to cut down on calories, made with cholesterol -free mayo, and finished with a thin layer of mozzarella cheese instead of greasy cheddar. And you can always get the turkey meatloaf with spinach served with gingered yams if you are still in the food for comfort food.