Thursday, July 3, 2008

Veggies: The New Steak!

I will never be mistaken for a vegan but I have to say Chrissie Hynde has a way with food that doesn't come from a blood pumping organism.

You may remember last fall's grand opening of the Akron rocker's eatery in the Rubber City, The VegiTerranean. Having covered this event and interviewing Chrissie (lead singer for The Pretenders) was quite humorous as her chip-on-shoulder attitude and straightforward demeanor shined. I'm not complaining, that's just Chrissie.

Anyway, for something different my girlfriend and I stopped by The VegiTerranean last Saturday. Its located at 21 Furnace Street, inside the Northside Lofts just north of downtown. I really did not know what to expect and didn't have some preconceived notion about what the food would be like. Christine (how ironic is that?!) and I were generally curious.

The decor was modern and the atmosphere comfortable. You even get a view of the North Hill area, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Depot and the All-American Bridge in the distance as you dine. Look hard enough and you can almost see Cuyahoga Falls and Mayor Don Robart waving back at you. If you are calling for reservations, be sure to request the table near the back window for the best view.

A typical restaurant goer may feel a bit overwhelmed with what's offered on the menu, but if you know what you like it isn't hard to navigate. On this night I had the: Mediterranean Stuffed Tomatoes with Grilled Veggies: Roasted Garlic Orzo over a Fresh Pan Tomato Sauce & Braised Arugula. That's a mouthful, but believe me when I say WOW!

I didn't expect it to taste like feet or have the texture of packaging peanuts, but I was definitely impressed. The pan sauce was the best. Flavorful with a savory roasted taste. The orzo wasn't overpowering, it had just enough of a garlic hint. The arugula wasn't over done and still had the distinct leafy green texture & tang. Once the bulk of my entree had disappeared I continued to scrape the plate and spoon away at the pan sauce. Yes, it was that good.

As for Christine, she had the Italian Fritto Chicken: Herbed battered & fried Gardien Chicken served with a side of Chrissie fries. This was also more than up to par. And you'd have to think the fries were at least half way decent since they're named after her, right? She even claims on the menu that they will be, "The best you've ever had." Well being a connoisseur of fries Christine gave them the thumbs up. This was followed by her signature eyebrow raise which means they are worth ordering a second time. I, too, was more than happy with them. Are they best I've ever had? I honestly would have to say no, but they aren't far off. They come with a tofu ricotta and balsamic ketchup.

Our meal began with an appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes. First of all, in my book, anything fried is worth ordering and they did not disappoint: crispy, hot, juicy and robust. I would have liked to have had more than the three or four that were offered, but again it was an appetizer. More than what he had would have been too many for the purpose they served. These may have been a special on this particular night, but if they are a regular menu item...have at it.
We had selections from the Great Lakes Brewing Company to quench our thirst, but if you are a wine person...prepare to meet your match. The wine list will make your head spin. You name the winery and the country, they have it.

It was an overall excellent experience for both the eyes and the pallet. It is an eatery worth a second and third trip.

You know I will never be a vegan. I enjoy steak, chicken & milk too much to cut them out of my life. But Chrissie Hynde definitely knows a thing or two about animal byproduct-free food that's worth your while. What I had showed no signs of tasting like it was a vegan meal.

And Chrissie has be doing something right. A second Vegiterranean is expected to open in Columbus' Short North neighborhood soon.

For those of you who are still unnerved and skeptical about it, so be it. No one is judging you. Though if you are dragged to The VegiTerranean and still have a hankering for meat, don't worry. Luigi's Pizza and Pasta is just across the street. It has been there for about 60 years and is the best pizza & pasta this side of Italy. The photos and autographs of celebrities who have stopped there dot the walls and stand as a testament to the level of goodness they serve.

Chryssie Hynde may rub some people the wrong way and say things that would make you want chuck her cd's into the nearest river, but I have to hand it to her. She has proved that Vegan is not culinary suicide...or at doesn't have to be.
On the web:

Previous coverage: Hynde Is A Vegetarian And That's YOUR Problem

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