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Archive for Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Veg out: Downtown bistro offers Lawrence’s first full-service vegetarian restaurant in years

Flan with caramel sauce.

Flan with caramel sauce.

December 16, 2009

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Banana cake with watermelon and grape jelly sauce. Tenth Street Vegetarian Bistro, 125 E. 10th Street, is Lawrence’s first full-service vegetarian restaurant in a few years.

Banana cake with watermelon and grape jelly sauce. Tenth Street Vegetarian Bistro, 125 E. 10th Street, is Lawrence’s first full-service vegetarian restaurant in a few years.

Spicy vegan tuna served over veggies and rice with coconut curry sauce.

Spicy vegan tuna served over veggies and rice with coconut curry sauce.

Head chef Kevin McGee (left) and owner Nancy Nguyen.

Head chef Kevin McGee (left) and owner Nancy Nguyen.

Tenth Street Vegetarian Bistro, 125 E. 10th St., features dining area seating on two floors.

Tenth Street Vegetarian Bistro, 125 E. 10th St., features dining area seating on two floors.

Usually, Ariel Hecke stares at a menu not knowing where to begin. She squints at the type, reads all the descriptions and agonizes over whether to bother the server about the possibility of beef broth lurking in the soup of the day: Is that minestrone truly vegetarian?

But this week when she sidled into a booth at Tenth Street Vegetarian Bistro, pulled out a menu and stared at it, she was clueless where to begin for a different reason.

Choice. And lots of it.

“It’s really nice because usually you have a menu and you have to search for ... anything that you can eat, which isn’t a lot,” Hecke says.

The bistro is the first full-service, fully vegetarian restaurant in Lawrence in years. No meat is stored in the kitchen save for the faux kind — chicken, fish and steak. About 40 percent of the menu is vegan, as in devoid of any animal ingredients or byproducts.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Nancy Nguyen. Nguyen has long served vegetarian and vegan clients at her flagship restaurant, The Orient Vietnamese Restaurant, 1006 Mass. She says those customers encouraged her to open a vegetarian restaurant rather than having her hands in three “meat-heavy” establishments: The Orient, Angler’s Seafood House, 1004 Mass., and Drake’s Diner, 125 E. 10th St. She decided to close down Drake’s and give her customers “their own restaurant,” completing the transition in early November.

“I had three restaurants, and the most customers told me, ‘Nancy, why don’t we open one (vegetarian restaurant) because you have all three meat restaurants,’” Nguyen says. “I said, OK, I’ll try.”

She then asked Kevin McGee, who had been working at Angler’s, to create a varied menu using the faux meats that were popular among her Orient customers. The result is a menu that runs the gamut from falafel to vegan fish and chips to gnocchi made in-house.

“When I create menus, I like to keep it pretty varied unless I’m at a specific restaurant with a specific kind of cuisine that we need to follow,” says McGee, who, before moving to Lawrence, worked in the restaurant business in San Francisco. “I try to keep it pretty diverse — it helps people decide more easily on what they would want, I think.”

Well, unless you want pretty much everything on the menu. Eva Helsel, a vegan living in Kansas City, Mo., has driven in just to eat at the restaurant three times, and has been alternately trying all of the restaurant’s vegan offerings. She calls the restaurant’s vegan variety “awesome.”

“I don’t see a lot of the faux meats, as much. A lot of places, they have the vegan and vegetarian options, but they don’t have the fake meats,” Helsel says. “It’s really exciting and everything here is really good, everything that I’ve tried.”

Comments

Curtis Lange 4 years, 10 months ago

The main picture looks like a plate of cat food...

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gilly 4 years, 10 months ago

No, the flan looks like flan, not cat food, that or KUweatherman has been feeding his cat flan.

Is this a vegan flan? If not, then the flan is made out of eggs, which is ok by me but now by those committed to a vegan diet.

Lotus was the last vegetarian restaurant in town as far as I know. The food there was great but inconsistent, and the service was lacksadaisical. No liquor license, which is probably what really did it in. Zen Zero is in its place, and you bet it has a liquor license. It serves some good vegetarian dishes, but the last time I was there I walked out because the service was worse than indifferent, close to nonexistant.

Good luck to Mrs. Nguyen with this venture.

So what's the address of the restaurant?

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sherbert 4 years, 10 months ago

Spicy vegan tuna over vegetables? If you don't want to eat meat, why pretend its meat?? Or is tuna vegetarian food??

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gilly 4 years, 10 months ago

Sherbert, faux meats are used to give the sense of meatiness to those who miss it but who don't want to eat meat for health or other reasons. It takes a good culinary artist to work well with faux meat, which is usually soybean based, so some dishes turn out well and others don't.

The Casbah Market had a cook who was a whiz with tofu--truly remarkable, but I think he left. What they make there now it still good, but that cook was in a class by himself.

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flux 4 years, 10 months ago

I was going to ay the same thing except I thought it looked like dog food.

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eswartz 4 years, 10 months ago

sherbert - No one is pretending it's meat. We don't close our eyes while eating it trying to pretend it is tuna. It's a protein, center of the meal thing like omnivore dishes.

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Boeing 4 years, 10 months ago

No, the flan definitely looks like cat food. Good cat food, but still cat food. Hmmm, I suddenly want to re-watch District 9.

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chewyfally 4 years, 10 months ago

This place is amazing. We've been regular customers of Nancy's for years, and I must say she's really outdone herself with this one. Everything is delicious. I love being vegetarian, but I miss things like steak and fish and chips, and now vegetarian versions are available right here in Lawrence! Also, the French Carrot Soup is divine. Everybody should give this place a try, even if you're a carnivore. :-)

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tanaumaga 4 years, 10 months ago

yes, but it's cat food with garnish...very classy...is that fancy feast?

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naturalist 4 years, 10 months ago

Gilly: Address under the photo. 125 E. 10th St.

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Sarah Henning 4 years, 10 months ago

Gilly- The address is tucked into the story: 125 E. 10th St., right next to India Palace.

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gilly 4 years, 10 months ago

thanks, shenning, I didn't read closely enough for the address.

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

I eat soy meat because of the soy protein.

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christie 4 years, 10 months ago

Vegetarian: From the Greek Vege - meaning Bad From the Greek Tarian - meaning Hunter

Vegetarian - Bad Hunter

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chewyfally 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't know why so many people think there aren't any good vegetarian eateries in Lawrence. If you're a vegetarian, have you tried eating out in other cities in Kansas? It's WAY easier in Lawrence. Almost every restaurant downtown has several vegetarian options (with tofu or soy). I love Kansas, but dining out as a vegetarian is tricky. I've lived in two other cities, and traveled through several parts of the state, and Lawrence is the place to be for vegetarians and vegans.

The nice thing about this vegetarian bistro is that EVERYTHING on the menu is safe. :-)

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pursegirl 4 years, 10 months ago

Anyone remember Hervibores from a long time ago? I think it was on 8th street down from Mass behind Sunflower where they now have expanded their store. It had the best pad thai I've ever eaten to this day and many other yummy veg. dishes.

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Phil Minkin 4 years, 10 months ago

I haven't eaten there yet, but in looking at the menu I think everything would be cheaper if it were the Vegetarian Cafe. Bistro adds 10%

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

"Anyone remember Hervibores from a long time ago?"

Yes, the original incarnation (before it moved into the Casbah) was one of the best eateries to have graced Lawrence, and not just vegetarian eateries.

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kthxbi 4 years, 10 months ago

where did you find the menu?

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

Good one Christie, and so true. I remember Hervibores. I was thinking the same thing when I read Bistro, and saw the fancy way that the flan was served up. Here is a recipe for vegan flan and it is good. Caramel Flan For the Caramel: 1/2 cup sugar Place the sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir and melt until golden. Pour into the bottom of ramekins. For the Custard: 2 cups plain soy milk 1 Tbsp.agar flakes 1/2 cup extra-firm silken tofu 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract Pinch of salt Place the soy milk in a medium saucepan and sprinkle with the agar flakes. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the agar has dissolved. Put the tofu, sugar, vanilla, salt, and soy milk mixture in a blender and blend until very smooth. Pour into the ramekins over the syrup, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours. To remove from the ramekins, dip the bottom in hot water for about 15 seconds, then turn over onto a plate.

Makes 3 large or 6 small flan

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classclown 4 years, 10 months ago

I am awarding christie the Post Of The Day award.

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KansasPerson 4 years, 10 months ago

I really like Nancy Nguyen -- a Lawrence original!

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jimmyjms 4 years, 10 months ago

Hey fat people - you don't like vegetarian food, why in the hell are you posting on this thread?

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zydorex75 4 years, 10 months ago

I've known Nancy for years; and I know she has a great passion for food. She was one of the first in town to serve vegetarian dishes (at the Orient) years back. This bistro offers great tasting veggie food; and I am not even vegetarian! I enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere. It's a great addition to downtown Lawrence!

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Jaylee 4 years, 10 months ago

LarryNative (Anonymous) says…

"There are no veg. restaurants because they have all failed. Best of luck but your demographic is small and usually broke. "

if anything, you could classify vegetarians as having less money because they spend more of their money eating well, cooking from raw/whole foods, rather than not knowing how exactly their food came to be, for convenience sake.

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Jaylee 4 years, 10 months ago

pursegirl -- have you had the pad thai at thai siam on 6th and kasold?!

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KansasPerson 4 years, 10 months ago

I tried to go to the new vegetarian place, but India Palace sucked me in..... I was helpless!!

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puddleglum 4 years, 10 months ago

totally cat food. fancy feast for REELS. all that is missing is the fork hitting the wine glass.

ICK!

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OzChicklet 4 years, 10 months ago

Jaylee and Pursegirl - Herbivores Pad Thai rocked! So did their veggie lasagna! Thai Saim is the REAL thing...right down to the perceived grumpiness of the owners...it's a cultural thing. FYI the owner of Herbivores has a nice corporate job these days and is doing well!

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

"FYI the owner of Herbivores "

Which owner are you referring to?

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Christine Anderson 4 years, 10 months ago

Fancy Feast, definetly! Or perhaps Sheba? In any case, "Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty"....

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eotw33 4 years, 10 months ago

crap, i need to set my steaks out to thaw!

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somedude20 4 years, 10 months ago

jimmyjms (Anonymous) says… "Hey fat people - you don't like vegetarian food, why in the hell are you posting on this thread"

funny that most of the people who I know that are veggies are fat!! French fries and doughtnuts are not meat nor is soda and ice cream. Come to think of it, there is a woman who works at one of the head shops downtown who is huge, I mean huge and she don't eat the meat kid!! Best of luck with your BS theory

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jimmyjms 4 years, 10 months ago

So, let me get this straight, somedude:

You've just copped to hanging out at head shops with the fat chicks?

We have a winner.

Awesome post. More, please.

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

Well, jimmy dude, I am fat and I am a vegan. I have now sworn off ice cream and butter because of the harm it does to cows. I seldom drink soda but I do eat tator tots. I passed up the Krispy Kreames at the store the other day and you will never know the effort that cost me. I have gone down a couple of pant sizes and seem to be stuck at this size. I do eat a lot of pb and j sandwiches. But I make them half as big as I used to. Because nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. My knee is confirming this.

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hwarangdo 4 years, 10 months ago

Wow! Will have to check this out. Recently ate at a totally vegan Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia and it was so good, best food i've had in a long time. Hopefully this new bistro will be just as good.

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hwarangdo 4 years, 10 months ago

This page is about the bistro, but a short comment about being vegan ... i know a vegan in his late 30's who regularly does ultra-running. He completed one race thru the Sierra Nevada mountains in 23:26 hours - 100 miles in less than 23 hours. Go vegans! :D

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BMI 4 years, 10 months ago

Irish, 2 day plan to get over that plateau. 2 days only, then get back to your regular diet for a few days. Repeat again if you need to. 1 lb round steak. 1 lb cottage cheese. Up to six eggs. Steak first, the other as you like, but be sure to eat some of each. Only eat until satisfied, don't try to hold back calories these days. Don't stuff yourself but don't go hungry at all.

Water to drink, at least 8 8 oz glasses. You'll drop a few pounds in a couple of days, get over that hump and your regular reducing diet will kick back in if you stick to it.

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hwarangdo 4 years, 10 months ago

Geez, some people just love living in a history lesson ... boring ... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz and as in school --- who gives a rat bugger.

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lctchr1 4 years, 10 months ago

I miss "Glass Onion". Great veggie dishes.

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Eride 4 years, 10 months ago

Not only do you open a restaurant that caters to a tiny fraction of the market... that tiny fraction is composed of people who on average don't eat out as much, don't spend as much when they eat out, and are universally known for being the most troublesome customer base in the restaurant industry.

Wow, good luck with that one.

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rorik23 4 years, 10 months ago

I heart flan. Even if it does look like cat food.

I think it's demonstration there makes it look like cat food. You all know what flan is, right? It's not vegetarian any more than cake is vegetarian. It's just...flan. Mmmm...flan.

OH yes...I almost forgot. Marion, you're an idiot.

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Mari Aubuchon 4 years, 10 months ago

I still remember Herbivore's root vegetable stew and Cornucopia's stir fried veggies (gingery with brown rice). If I only had the recipes...

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Graczyk 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm surprised Lawrence didn't already have a veggie restaurant. I'm from Orlando (one of the most soulless communities in existence) and it had several excellent vegetarian restaurants. My favorite was a vegan Chinese place - well, except for the egg drop soup. I'm not a vegetarian, so you know that place had to be good to get me in the door.

I hope this place does well. I will need to check it out.

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ivalueamerica 4 years, 10 months ago

wow, marion.

Anti Jewish and now anti- vegitarian too.

Is there anyone or anything you do not hate. You are the most hate-filled person I have ever seen.

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Betty Bartholomew 4 years, 10 months ago

Oh, no!!

I don't mean that as a slam to a vegetarian restaurant going in, but Drake's had the best fried chicken that I've had in Lawrence (if you didn't mind the wait, it was worth it!)

I still need to try The Orient.

Have been to Angler and ... was disappointed, truth be told. I think it was an expectations vs reality vs price issue on my end, though - the food was ok, just not what I was expecting given the prices.

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somedude20 4 years, 10 months ago

jimmyjms (Anonymous) says… So, let me get this straight, somedude: You've just copped to hanging out at head shops with the fat chicks? We have a winner. Awesome post. More, please

I say: are you retarded or just 2yrs old?

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jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

I hope Nancy makes a go of it with this place.

In general, a vegetarian diet will be healthier than a meat-eating diet (assuming basic common sense - not living on donuts and ice cream).

There are a few things vegetarians need to consider - complete protein (mixing grains/legumes, for example), vitamin b12, iron, and omega series fatty acids (all are available as supplements).

In return for this mindfulness, vegetarians are much less likely to get a large number of diet-related diseases/illnesses, and should feel lighter and healthier, with clearer minds.

I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and have been/felt healthier during that time then when I ate meat (for about 20-25 years).

There are certainly ways to eat healthfully and still eat meat - eating lean meat/fish, fruits and vegetables, for example - but a vegetarian diet is a great alternative.

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Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

My goal is to be a pure vegan though I sometimes succumb to ice cream. Those time are fewer and fewer though. I know they have soy ice cream, but it is not quite the same. I really like some of the soy meats and you can use silken tofu to make rich deserts. The Silk nog is good also. My decision to turn vegan was based on the ways that animals are treated. I don't want to be part of that cycle.

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