Vegetables almost always get a bad rap. Unlike a slice of savory bacon, which is relatively delicious no matter how you prepare it, vegetables can be boring and bland or completely revelatory based on the care they’re given in the kitchen.
Maybe it’s our growing consciousness about eating less meat, our commitment to our New Year’s resolutions, or perhaps just the trendy thing to do, but more restaurants than ever are showing off the bounty of the garden in dishes on par with—and sometimes even better than—their meaty counterparts. Below, a few of our favorite non-vegetarian restaurants giving equal opportunity to produce and protein:
With a menu designed for family-style sharing, it makes sense that Lark breaks down their dishes into categories like cheese, charcuterie, meat, fish, and vegetables/grains. You’ll be surprised, though, to find just as many seasonal offerings in that last category as the prior ones: roasted sunchokes, sugar pumpkin soup, semolina gnocchi, and, lest you think this is actually health food, pommes de terre "Robuchon," which involves more butter than is fit to print.
Chef Jason Wilson’s new nose-to-tail eatery is built around a nine-foot Infierno grill—this is not necessarily the place to bring animal-loving vegetarians. But the dinner menu has a thoughtful assortment of veggie-heavy sides and starters that prove everything—including radicchio, root veggies, and cauliflower—tastes best when cooked over an open flame.
When Linda Derschang first spoke about her newest restaurant, she said she wanted a menu that was veggie-focused more than vegetarian. As such, you’ll see that more than half the page’s real estate is given to vegetables topping flatbreads, plunging into flavorful dips, and holding their own as menu staples, rather than colorful sides.
The Whale Wins
Though Renee Erickson’s pickled veggies may be the standout in her local empire, her emphasis on fresh, local ingredients means that produce plays an important role in her culinary repertoire. The sardines on toast are a personal favorite, but the dish I best remember from my last visit was a plate of earthy, whole roasted carrots spiced with harissa and topped with yogurt—at once flavorful, filling, and completely guilt-free.
For a full-on vegetarian feast, you can’t go wrong at Ethan Stowell’s Staple and Fancy, where the $48 chef’s choice menu can be made meatless (though you have to do it for the whole table) with no less attention to detail. But Stowell’s newest restaurant has a dedicated section of the menu for vegetables: grilled, slow-roasted, smoked, marinated, fried, and tucked into ravioli.
Chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi know their way around a pork belly or octopus, but they’re equally adept at creating remarkable, boldly flavored dishes where vegetables can shine. Revel’s current brunch menu features a five-spice delicata squash congee with leeks, brussels sprouts, and pumpkin seeds that achieves a perfect balance of sweet, salty, acidic, soft, and crunchy. Joule does a bang-up job with vegetables as well.