The Dollar-Wise Gourmet: Vegging Out

Posted on November 18, 2009

Cheese enchiladas suizas from Ernesto’s Mexican Food
Cheese enchiladas suizas from Ernesto’s Mexican Food Photography by Gabriel Teague

What? Nutburgers instead of hamburgers? You got that right. This month, The Dollar-Wise Gourmet saves dollars by going vegetarian—lacto-ovo, that is, meaning dairy and eggs are in; meat, fish and poultry are out. After staking out—oops, no pun intended—some local restaurants that are both budget- and vegetarian-friendly, I invited some pals out to lunch. Here were the best dishes we tried at each stop—all under $8.

The place: Addis Ababa Ethiopian Restaurant, 2598 Alta Arden Expressway, Sacramento
The lowdown: Veggie options are big at this small, homespun spot located directly across the street from Target. (Exotic cuisine deserves an exotic location, right?)
The dish: Ye-Atakilt Wot: a stew of potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions, mildly seasoned with garlic and ginger and served with traditional Ethiopian injera, a spongy, pancakelike bread.
The price: $7.99, and portions are generous. (Tip: Addis Ababa often runs twofer specials; check citycoups.com.)
The verdict: Fresh, flavorful fare, and fun to eat with your hands. (Injera is used like a utensil to scoop up the food.) Spicy-food freak? Try the lentil stew.

The place: Ernesto’s Mexican Food, 1901 16th St., Sacramento
The lowdown: Ernesto’s uses no chicken broth or lard in its vegetarian dishes.
The dish: Cheese Enchiladas Suizas: two enchiladas with a zippy green sauce of tomatillo, cilantro, garlic, onion and peppers, laced with Mexican cream and served with rice, beans and a green salad garnish.
The price: $7.99 for a big, hearty plate.
The verdict: Pretty to look at and even better to eat, especially when washed down with a raspberry margarita.

The place: Fox & Goose Pub and Restaurant, 1001 R St., Sacramento
The lowdown: A British pub famous for bangers also serves vegetarian pasties? Go figure.
The dish: Nutburger, a slightly crumbly patty made with ground nuts, carrots and intriguing spices (cumin, maybe?) served on your choice of bun with red onions, tomatoes, a little romaine and a ton of sprouts.
The price: $7.95 for a midsize burger and a pile o’ fries.
The verdict: Enjoyed the playful spices in the nutburger, and the wide-wedge fries were fab.

The place: Opa! Opa!, 5644 J St., Sacramento
The lowdown: You’ll find a whole slew of veggie items at this casual Greek eatery—even vegetarian moussaka.
The dish: Eggplant sandwich with roasted eggplant, red bell pepper, red onion, tomatoes and butter leaf lettuce on grilled ciabatta bread.
The price: $6.49 for a plump sandwich.
The verdict: Warm, filling and mushy-in-your-mouth good. The Boyfriend preferred the falafel, but what does he know? Just kidding. They’re both worthy.

The place: Thai Mango Restaurant, 10821 Olson Drive, Rancho Cordova
The lowdown: This hip, tofu-friendly eatery offers a long list of $6.95 lunch specials, plus they’ll switch to soy-based (instead of fish-based) sauce for the asking. What’s not to like?
The dish: Drunken Noodles: wide, flat noodles with a colorful mélange of veggies (green beans, red and green bell pepper, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, cabbage) swimming in chili-garlic sauce.
The price: $6.95 for oodles of noodles, plus a green side salad.
The verdict: OK, so the lettuce was iceberg. But it was fresh, and the noodles were so yummy I couldn’t stop eyeballing my buddy’s plate. A find.

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