Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.
Fish tacos with radishes at Common Roots Cafe
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 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. Today we continue our list of local restaurants where you can re-energize, eat light, and still be merry.
Often named amongst the best vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the whole of the Midwest, it makes sense that pioneering chef Brenda Langton's chic riverside restaurant would be at the top of our clean eating list. Langton's food is impeccable and doesn't need to rely on lard, bacon, heavy cream, or additional sweeteners to make it soar. That's evident in dishes like her wild mushroom and pistachio terrine with cornichon and chutney; salmon okisuki with ginger broth and seasonal vegetables; and grass-fed beef meatballs with sumac yogurt and pomegranate molasses.
Perhaps the best late-night eating for the post-concert, post-bar vegan and vegetarian crowd, Hard Times is now even a more desirable destination since its scrub-up and recent remodel. The tempeh Reuben, the vegan banh mi with homemade seitan, pumpkin whoopie pies, vegan grilled cheese, and all day breakfast service make this place the ultimate diner for West Bank customers looking for an animal product-free meal and a rousing game of chess.
There's a true community feel at the long-running Birchwood Cafe in the Longfellow neighborhood of south Minneapolis. That feeling has as much to do with the regulars who come in for coffee and savory waffles with fruit compote for breakfast and their famous garlicky turkey burger for dinner, as it does with the relationships that Birchwood's owners have built with local farmers and other local restaurants over the years. You can go in and order confidently at any meal and whether you eschew meat or lean towards a more omnivorous diet, you know you'll always be getting food that is hormone-free, humanely raised, as local and sustainable as possible, and above all, very tasty. Their handpies are killer, their parsnip-walnut spread tastes like pate, and their lovely buttery quiche comes in unexpected varieties like ham with Brussels sprouts and chili-pumpkin coulis.
Kimchi Tofu House
- 307 SE Oak St., Minneapolis - 612-331-1112 - KTH on Facebook
This cozy U of M area Korean restaurant boasts some of the best vegetarian food in the area at a very reasonable price. Students of Korean descent and self-professed kimchi snobs alike have praised this restaurant for its quality and authenticity. The variety is also pretty astounding. Get your comforting dumpling hot pots with everything from silken soft tofu to spicy pork to octopus. The clear, light broth will cure everything from holiday hangover to a winter cold and the soondobu - a spicy stew of seafood, uncurdled tofu, and a raw egg that cooks in the still-boiling broth - has a cult following. You won't walk away smelling like a deep-fryer basket and there are lots of rice and rice noodle dishes if you are going gluten-free.
Their motto is "don't compromise your values, or your tastebuds", which they definitely live up to and that's enough for them to make this list. The popular Uptown cafe is committed to making as little impact on the environment as possible, but their food is still pretty high-octane. Their gorgeous beet fettuccine allows you to still enjoy pasta and still cram some veggies - including caramelized fennel - into the dish. The cumin-crusted fish tacos are made with sustainably-sourced cod (or tofu, if you aren't doing the fish thing) and come on corn tortillas which have generally have fewer calories than flour ones.
Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan cuisine often has lots of meat-free options, but sometimes when dairy-based products replace the meat, you don't know where it's coming from. Gorkha makes it known that they use organic milk, butter, and cheeses, and if you do order something with chicken or lamb, it's often from a local farmer. When you get your order to-go here, it doesn't come in the familiar styrofoam packaging you often see at Indian restaurants, but instead in fully recyclable, reusable containers. The juicy veggie momo are a must, the tandoor vegetable sakuwa is full of rich, dusky flavors, and their regularly-changing daal is always a good idea.
Fresh clean flavors, goat and sheep's milk cheeses, lots of whole grain salads, and dishes made with nutrient-packed beans and leafy greens abound at Emily's Lebanese in Northeast Minneapolis. The stuffed zucchini with rice, tomatoes, and heady spices, can be made with or without lamb, the baba ghannuj is fabulous, and their hunk of spinach pie - while not exactly low in calories - is a glorious way to spend $5.00 and an afternoon.