The Dollar-Wise Gourmet: Vegging Out

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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.