The time I spent as a strict vegetarian was years ago before restaurants started offering meatless options beyond side salads and noodles with butter. So I can appreciate the fact that I can now stroll into just about any restaurant and have at least one or two good options to choose from that don’t have any meat in them. 

I’m not a vegetarian anymore, but my nearly twenty years as a vegetarian taught me that food doesn’t have to have meat in to be tasty and filling. That’s why I try to keep tabs on the best restaurants in the area serving meals that cater to the meatless crowd. Check these places out if you’re ready to eat some really good food that just so happens to be vegetarian.

Modern Love

I recently found myself in a conversation with a very intense man who seemed to have many strong opinions. When I found out that he was also a vegetarian who happened to be married to a vegan, I asked him what he thought of Modern Love. He looked me straight in the eye and flatly said, “If anyone tells me they don’t like Modern Love I will punch them in the face.”

Luckily I didn’t get punched in the face that night because I share a fondness for Modern Love (although I don’t think I’ll be causing physical harm to someone who doesn’t agree with me on this one). Though Modern Love is known for its vegan fare, the food is so artfully crafted that vegetarians won’t miss the few animal byproducts they allow themselves, like dairy milk and cheese.

Don’t be scared

Here’s the thing about Modern Love: though non-vegans might be scared by some of the menu items, once they actually go in and try it, they soon find that the food is really, really good. Consider the Mac & Shews, which is Modern Love’s version of macaroni & cheese. It’s made creamy cashew cheese, pecan-crusted tofu, BBQ cauliflower and braised kale. If you’re like me, these ingredients pique your interest and make you want to head on over to Modern Love and try this dish immediately. But since most people aren’t like me, there’s a good chance that your interest waned when “creamy cashew cheese” was mentioned. If I didn’t lose you there, it’s likely I lost you when tofu was mentioned.

But the truth is that the Mac & Shews is delicious. While it’s true that you probably can’t pass it off to your kids as macaroni & cheese, you will indeed enjoy this delicious dish if you allow yourself to. Don’t go into thinking, “Oh, there’s no way this is going to replace my beloved blue-box crapolla that I call mac & cheese.” Instead, go into it ready to try a flavor profile that you may not expect.

Worth the cost

I hear criticism that Modern Love is too expensive, but my guess is that mainly comes from people who are of the mindset that if they’re going to shell out more than a few bucks for a meal, there darn well better be some meat on their plate. The things that Modern Love does with food, though, are totally worth the cost. Sure, it’s not a hunk of meat, but it’s spectacular. Where else are you going to eat a beet burger while sipping on a ginger vanilla soda?

Plus there’s that whole bonus of the food being sans animal products, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Modern Love

1319 South 50th Street

Block 16

You may have heard me mention Block 16 a few times before, but it’s for good reason; this place is one of the best places to eat in Omaha, in my not-so-humble opinion. I know it’s not a vegetarian restaurant, but the great thing about Block 16 is that you can take your non-vegetarian friends there and everyone’s happy.

Take the Philly Sandwich, for example. If you’re looking for a meatless meal, you can order the vegan style of this sandwich while your cohorts order the steak or chicken version. You all get tasty food, and you don’t have to feel as though you had to special-order something and eat it while your friends all point and laugh at you, chanting, “Look at the vegetarian! Look at the vegetarian!”

By the way, if these are the kind of people you hang out with, you may want to rethink your cohorts.

Group satisfaction

Block 16 offers plenty of other meatless options on their menu. Their Reuben is available in a vegan version, as is their gyro. And while it may sound horribly cliché to suggest a salad to a vegetarian, Block 16’s hearty House Salad is a really great option for a meatless meal.

So if you’re the lone person seeking a meatless meal among a group of folks, Block 16 is the place to go. Everyone will be happy, and you should escape the meal with very little mocking.

Block 16

1611 Farnam Street

Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob

Here’s what I like about this place: I don’t have to scour the menu if I’m looking for something meatless to eat. I can just stride into Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob, plunk some money down on the counter and yell, “Hot damn, give me a falafel!” and not have to answer any questions about whether I want meat or not.

I may be embellishing a bit on my typical entrance into this place, but if you’re a fan of meatless entrees and have not yet tried falafel, your world is about to change. These chickpea patties are ridiculously good, and are so substantial that you don’t miss meat. I love their crispy texture, and Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob does an excellent job of seasoning everything just right.

Falafel for you, falafel for me

Choose from a Falafel Sandwich or a Falafel Salad, and be sure to get a hummus plate to accompany your meal. Your meat-eating friends will be happy to accompany you if they eat lamb, but if they’re looking for a burger or steak or whatever this isn’t the place for them. It’s their loss, though – all the more falafel for you and me.

Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob

620 North 50th Street

Meatless merriment

Long gone are the days when vegetarians elected to stay home instead of going out to eat because they figured there was no point in venturing out because all they’d find was bland salads. You can now enjoy a masterful culinary experience that doesn’t include meat and still walk away satisfied.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate meatless food. If your standard fare is meat, meat, meat, maybe it’s time to broaden your horizons a little and see what else the fine eateries in Omaha have to offer.

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