It might be Brooklyn vegetarian week, but for Heights herbivores it’s just another week of slim pickings.
A flyer for “Brooklyn Goes Veg!” week says the goal is to “dispel rumors that vegetarian food is not palatable.”
Sounds good, but in our neighborhood it’s not easy to find such tasty treats. Indeed, there are simply no vegetarian restaurants.
And as a recent convert back to the dark omnivore side, I can still remember how mouth-watering a serving of tofurkey and mashed sweet potatoes can be. Especially in comparison to yet another plate of spaghetti and tomato sauce — a common defacto restaurant meal.
The most-recent blow to the neighborhood’s vegetarian community was when Greens Restaurant on Montague and Henry Streets — known for its unique mishmash of Chinese, kosher and vegetarian fare — closed this summer.
The restaurant dished up the perfect fix for “meat”-craving vegetarians, with creative choices like spicy shredded Szechuan soy protein and red “snapper.”
“It was a family restaurant and the father did a lot of cooking,” said Allison Nichols, general manager of Perelandra, a health food market on Remsen Street between Clinton and Court streets. “He got too sick, so the family had to hand it over.”
Nichols said its replacement, the Singapore Grill, is intending to serve a hearty proportion of vegetables. But it won’t recreate the faux meat treats of the Greens.
Without a sole vegetarian option, people are forced to turn to the next best thing.
Siggy’s Good Food, on Henry Street near Cranberry Street, is geared towards organic, healthy options, but also serves turkey and one hell of a steak sandwich. Not a bad thing, per se, just not as appealing to devout grass grazers.
“I go to Siggy’s when I want to eat out,” said LeAnn Wong, a vegan who dreams of more upscale options. “That’s pretty sad.”
What’s sadder is the vegetarian options at most restaurants.
“It’s just ridiculous that everyone assumes vegetarians should be fine eating nuts, hard beans and salad all the time,” said Laurin Ginsberg, a vegetarian of 14 years. “Well-prepared vegetarian food is actually flavorful. But most people aren’t interested.”
The lack of dining options has forced Ginsberg to buy the majority of her meals at Perelandra.
“For people who eat soy and meat alternatives, we have so much stuff, like deli slices, roasts, un-chicken wraps and kabob skewers,” said Nichols, adding that Perelandra serves several hundred people — not all of them vegetarians, of course — every day from their deli.
“Everything is made from scratch. They eat it simply because it’s good,” she said.
And isn’t food being “good” the whole point?
But what about the poor vegetarian who has already eaten the red quinoa tabouli from Siggy’s 5,000 times? “I’m going into Manhattan more and more to go out to eat,” said Nichols. “And I wish I didn’t have to.”
Juliana Bunim is a writer living in Brooklyn Heights.
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