In a city once nicknamed “Porkopolis,” and where chili, ribs and goetta are staples, where can a Cincinnati vegetarian find a decent place to eat?
No worries. Some of the city’s longtime vegetarians say Cincinnati increasingly has welcomed their plant-based lifestyles, and it’s easier than ever to find good eats at local restaurants and grocery stores.
“I don’t have any trouble eating out,” John Mooter, of Hyde Park says. “In fact, I probably eat out too much.”
Mooter, a longtime vegetarian turned vegan (who shuns all animal food products), echoed the sentiments of other Cincinnati vegetarians who say they don’t have problems finding places to dine.
And today’s meet-free eating goes way beyond the veggie burger. Among the most popular vegetarian restaurants is northside’s Melt Eclectic Deli, which offers a host of meat- and dairy-free favorites including a veggie cheesesteak, veggie pasta salad and vegan chili. Melt also has a Sunday brunch that caters to the vegetarian crowd. A recent brunch offering was a sweet potato leek frittata, with roasted corn and leaks in an organic egg frittata, topped with Fontana Cheese and marinated cherry tomatoes. Yum.
Others top spots include Amma’s Kitchen in Roselawn, an Indian eatery that specializes in vegetarian, rice-bases dishes, curries and breads. And every Wednesday at Amma’s is “Vegan Wednesday,” which features a Vegan Hot Buffet.
Then there’s Emanu, formerly the East African Restaurant, in Pleasant Ridge. The Ethiopian Restaurant, though not primarily vegetarian, features several veggie dishes like the Vegetarian Sambussa, a vegetable, green chili, onion and herb combo. There’s also the simple Emanu salad with cheese, tomato and, lettuce and olives, topped with the house dressing.
And though specialty vendors – like those at Findlay Market –cater to vegetarians, veggie friendly foods are plentiful at chain groceries, which often have separate health food sections.
“The taste and the texture (of store bought vegetarian meals) have improved and it’s gotten so much better over the years,” says Susan Huesken, of College Hill. “My brother- in-law was eating the (veggie) riblets and some of the burger crumbles and he didn’t know that it wasn’t meat.”
Huesken sends out the monthly “Flying Carrot” snail mail newsletter to about 150 Cincinnati vegetarians each month. She’s been a vegetarian since the mid-80s.
Kroger, Bigg’s, Walmart, Meijer and Trader Joe’s are among the chain stores where foods once found only in independent specialty markets now line the aisles. Veggie nuggets, “chicken” patties, “bacon,” tofurkey and ethnic foods are among the dozens of meet free foods offered at these groceries.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati chef’s increasingly are accommodating to vegetarians, and will usually alter recipes to fit a particular culinary choice.
“I can go into Dewey’s and they’ll do what I want,” Mooter said of the area pizza place.
Mooter is chairman of EarthSave Cincinnati, an affiliate of EarthSave International, which focuses on plant-based eating, environmental stewardship, compassion for animal welfare and good health.
EarthSave has a monthly potluck around the city and in Northern Kentucky, most often at the Clifton United Methodist Church. Fifty to 140 people show up for the vegan meals, and it’s a working potluck too. Speakers often attend to talk on health and food topics.
“We bring in food and show people how to make things like macaroni and cheeses with cashew milk,” Mooter said.
For many vegetarians their concern for the environment and animal welfare goes beyond what they eat.
Nowhere is the holistic vegetarian lifestyle on display more than at the Park + Vine green general store in Over-The-Rhine. Owner Dan Korman, a vegan, says many of his customers are vegetarians. They come to his store looking for environmentally friendly products from paint and soap to shoes, shirts and sunscreen.
Korman opened his store a little over a year ago. Recently he started offering sandwiches, noodles and other foods from Melt and Donna’s Delights. They’re housed in a small refrigerator near the checkout. He also sells vegan marshmallows (made without gelatin), and organic whole-wheat scone mix.
Park + Vine also hosts food related workshops and events including an upcoming workshop on incorporating raw foods into your diet set for Aug. 16.
“One of the big things for vegans is finding accessories or shoes that aren’t made from animals,” Korman said. “It essentially completes the lifestyle.”
Soapbox's pick of Cincinnati Vegetarian-friendly Restaurants and Resources:
Melt Eclectic Deli
Cumin Indian Fusion Cuisine
Emanu East African Restaurant
Five Star Foodies
Vegetarian Urban Spoon
Park + Vine
Feoshia is a former Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky daily news reporter. She now runs her own freelance writing business and blogs about the Cincinnati suburbs at www.cincyburb.blogspot.com.
Photography by Scott Beseler
Melt in Northside
Vegan Buffet at Amma's Roselawn
Park + Vine Foodie Fridge