Become a Member!

Vegan Variant

Post by Nicole on 8/30/2006 5:23pm

qdoba083006.jpg(Nicole is taking leave of Dane101 as she is also taking leave of Madison. We are interested in keeping the column going, but possibly as the "Veggie Variant"? In addition, we are always looking for more food writers of all stripes. If you are interested, drop us a line: editor AT Dane101 DOT com. And a big thank you to Nicole for her consistency and shining a light on an overlooked niche in Madison - Ed.)

Qdboa or Chipotle.... they both are on the same side of State Street, and only a few doors down from each other. In Chipotle's defense, they do seem to be all about using free-range meat and organic ingredients. However, they are owned by McDonald's, so that essentially kills it all on the spot. Qdoba is a chain as well, but independently owned. I've never eaten at Chipotle, so I can't compare taste, price, or atmosphere, but I can tell you why I do like Qdoba.

Post by Nicole on 8/24/2006 5:41pm

No matter how much money is put into making a cafeteria look nice, it is still always cafeteria.

The UW spent quite a bit of money getting the Lakefront Cafe into shape in Memorial Union; it's spacious and looks nice (for being a cafeteria and all), but the food and the prices do not match up to the aesthetics.

I would say the only affordable item in the cafeteria, which is also reasonably priced (sort of) is the vegetarian chili (which is also vegan). It is thick and spicy (not really "hot" spicy though, just filled with savory spices), with big and small chunks of vegetables. There was something in there resembling the texture of TVP, and I got really excited about that, but then got the chili again another time, and it was gone forever. Maybe it is a random occurance, I do not know.

Post by Nicole on 8/16/2006 2:12pm

willystreet081606.gifI have at least a handful of friends who seem to be afraid of the Willy St. Co-op... they either think it will be so obvious they are non-members, and then "all the diehard hippies" will notice them as if they had red flags sticking up all over the place, or they think all the food is weird and they wouldn't be able to find anything they would like. I have told them both thoughts are ridiculous, but I will say it again now - in writing - that it is just absurd to be wary of a co-op, and especially for those reasons.

The Co-op isn't just a grocery store, they also have a juice bar and bakery, deli, and salad bar. I have not tried anything from the juice bar or bakery, but the deli and salad bars always have a great selection (with many vegan options). Some things offered can be a little pricey, but you can usually find something tasty in a reasonable price range.

Post by Nicole on 8/9/2006 12:00pm

Authentic Indian food is found on the East and West side of Madison at the two Maharaja locations. The best time to go is between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. for the lunch buffet. It is all-you-can-eat vegan splendor (they do have meat dishes though as well).

Post by Nicole on 8/2/2006 9:36am

This cozy cafe is located upstairs at 628 State Street. There is a sandwich board listing the specials near the doorway to the stairs. The cafe fits the name well, for it is quite sunny in there, due to the large windows in the dining area. It's very nice to be able to get a good view of State and have a nice amount of natural light coming in. Sunroom also serves as a gallery, showcasing local art on the walls.

Earlier on in the day, you come in, order at the counter, and then seat yourself. Your name is called when your food is ready, and you go up to the counter to pick it up. For dinner, you are seated, and a waitress/waiter comes to you.

Post by Nicole on 7/26/2006 12:04pm

medcafe072606.jpgThe Mediterranean Cafe on State Street is one of the better dining experiences in town. There are more than a few vegan selections, the staff is friendly and down-to-earth, and the atmosphere is relaxed and unique.

I always get the falafel sandwich, with no tahini sauce. Tahini sauce is vegan; I just have an aversion to most creamy-ish things. The sauce not only adds flavor, but can also make the sandwich less dry. Even without the sauce I find it just right.

The sandwich consists of three, nicely-sized pieces of falafel in a pillow-y flatbread/pita wrap with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and I believe pickles, which are a great touch (I think of the kosher dill variety, which is by far the best kind). If you are not familiar with falafel, it is a Mediterranean fried bean cake, or garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chick peas) blended with spices, and then fried until crispy on the outside and savory, crumbly, and a little softer on the inside. The ones at the Med. Cafe are about the size of a palm-full, but shaped into patties, or slightly flat balls. They are full of flavor (cumin and coriander-tasting, mostly), and blend well with the added vegetables. The vegetables add a nice variation in texture, as does the wrap, which is soft and melts-in-your-mouth, yet is firm enough to support the fillings. The sandwich is fairly long and one fills me up for quite awhile.

Post by Nicole on 7/19/2006 11:34am

amyscafe07192006.jpgAmy's is a cafe with a "Mediterranean touch". I have mixed feelings about this place since the food is good (mostly just the veggie burgers), but the service is almost always bad. The prices are a little higher than they should be, and the atmosphere is hit or miss.

You place your order and pay at the counter and then wait for your name to be called. I have found that half the time whoever is taking our order is fairly rude, and the other half of the time, they aren't rude but get the order wrong. If I'm just undeniably in the mood for a veggie burger and fries, I'll go over there... but only if I'm too lazy to walk to Mifflin St. Co-op and get the other Amy's (frozen and pre-packaged, natural food company) veggie burgers and make my own potatoes (the "Texas Burgers" are great, but that's for another time). Anyhow, most recently, my boyfriend and I went to Amy's and ordered two marinara veggie burgers with lettuce and onion and no cheese, with regular fries. Their spicy waffle fries are not vegan OR vegetarian (beef tallow), so stick with the regular kind.

Post by Nicole on 7/12/2006 9:35am

hongkongcafe071206.jpgThere really aren't many good Chinese restaurants in Madison... the food is usually bland, incredibly greasy, and hard to find without fish sauce or beef broth.
Hong Kong Cafe is pretty good though. I have only gotten delivery, so I don't know how the restaurant itself is, but the food is enjoyable and the service via delivery has always been very fast.

Hong Kong Cafe uses little grease, as is noticeably true through tasting and just looking at the food, as well as is seen on their information page online ( Most dishes also do not have MSG in them. I have also been told after questioning when ordering that the vegetarian items are truly vegetarian and do not use fish sauce or beef or chicken broth.

Post by Nicole on 7/5/2006 9:55am

montys070506.gifWho doesn't appreciate diners? They're cozy yet stylish, either intentionally or in an accidental, vintage way, and wax nostalgia whether you have been in a diner before in your life or not.

Monty's Blue Plate Diner is all of the above and more. It has a modern yet vintage 50's theme, with old, framed photographs on the wall of celebrities and icons, as well as my favorite vintage photograph there of a bunch of hot ("greasers", I suppose) dudes working on an old car.

Omnivores and vegetarians are no longer the only ones who can lock eyes over a classic milkshake: vegans can ogle each other over an excellent soy version just as easily here. I'm not only going to point out why Monty's is good for vegan eating, but why it's also good for vegan dating.

Post by Nicole on 6/28/2006 2:02pm

noodles06302006.gifNoodles and Company

Noodles is a national chain located in at least 16 states. As their name implies their specialty is, yes, noodles. The feel of the State Street Noodles is somewhere between (not surprisingly) corporate chain and local specialty restaurant. After first ordering at the counter patrons are given a number and then take a seat. The food is brought out by a server. You don't have to worry about having enough for a tip and it is reasonably priced.