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Avoid the Vegetarian Veto

Avoid the Vegetarian Veto

Photo Above: Seafood Tower at Mastro’s

It’s a rare steakhouse that doesn’t offer menu variety for the vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian diner.

Plant-based eating is getting real. Three-fifths of consumers eat at least one meatless meal a week, according to Technomic, and apps like HappyCow and VeganXpress help diners easily find those meals at restaurants. Forward-looking steakhouses know the key to surviving the potential “veto vote” from a non-carnivorous member of a dining party, the menu needs other colors besides red.

Today’s top steakhouses boast a supporting cast of meatless offerings, such as Charlie Palmer Steak’s (Washington, D.C.) lobster corn dogs, Kevin Rathburn Steak’s (Atlanta) eggplant fries and charred jalapeño creamed corn, and Pappas Bros. Steakhouse’s (Dallas) lump crabmeat macaroni and cheese.

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Gene & Georgetti’s Garbage Salad

Others take an unexpected spin on a salad or sandwich to carve out a following. Known for filet so tender it can be cut with a fork, Chicago’s legendary steakhouse Gene & Georgetti ensures its steak-averse customers have memorable choices as well. Rich in Italian heritage, the restaurant presents a variety of creative pasta entrees and proudly serves its signature “garbage” salad as a hearty entrée-sized dish.

“The garbage salad was created decades ago when a customer requested a Hoagie sandwich in salad form,” explains Michelle Molise, a Gene & Georgetti spokesperson. “The original version features 11 different ingredients, including crisp, chopped vegetables, black olives and thinly sliced mozzarella cheese, tossed in our house-made Italian vinaigrette and garnished with fresh, chilled jumbo shrimp.”

The Mastro’s Steakhouse chain, which serves a high-quality selection of 16 different cuts of USDA prime steaks, has forged an equally impressive pescatarian imprint with a fresh seafood and raw bar, lobster mashed potatoes and king crab gnocchi.

A customizable two-foot-tall seafood tower lets customers build a meal that can include a dozen oysters, colossal steamed shrimp, lobster cocktails, stone crab claws and imperial Osetra caviar.

It’s not surprising that almost one out of five Mastro’s diners orders from the non-beef side of the menu. That’s according to Wade Wiestling, vice president of culinary development for Mastro’s.

“Many guests regularly make a meal out of our sushi, especially our signature clear lobster roll,” says Wiestling. “Our seafood entrees, including Ora King salmon, Alaska halibut and certified Chilean seabass, are served in large, steakhouse-sized portions.”

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Shula’s Fish of the Day

At Shula’s restaurants, approximately 20 percent of diners are drawn to the strong seafood component on the menu, according to Peter Farrand, Shula’s vice president of operations. Sea scallops, ahi tuna, shrimp, jumbo lump crab and lobster provide a bounty of choices, and the daily market fish features generously-sized portions of Mahi Mahi, swordfish or snapper.

“We mirror our center of the plate steak offerings, using premium, thick cuts of seasonal fish to eliminate ‘plate envy’ and give non-beef diners a satisfying presentation,” says Farrand.

Shula’s also goes well beyond the traditional dish of pasta primavera offered to vegetarians. A wildly popular appetizer of ravioli made with forest mushrooms and wilted garlic spinach can be pumped up to entrée size, and there’s always enough mise en place to make an “an awesome vegan plate of grilled asparagus, roasted corn, charred tomato and artichoke ragout,” adds Farrand.


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