By no means do I consider myself a vegan, or some level of vegetarian, but it does not preclude me from a dining adventure on the “other side.” The side I’m referring to is a growing culinary public who chooses well-developed flavors without the use of animal products. Whether for mind, body and/or spirit, vegetarian menus are making a tasteful appearance on mainstream restaurant menus throughout our communities.
A spotlight must be shined on the Garden Grille Cafe in Pawtucket. Until today, this well established Eastside vegetarian restaurant was completely off my “fork-poking” radar, which is too bad for me because I’ve missed out on years of something very special. It is most likely due to personal prejudice and misconception about vegetarian menus that may keep most of us carnivores from infiltrating.
At the Garden Grille, their vegetarian menu is not an alternative to the “regular” one. It is a celebration in diverse tastes and textures using ultra-fresh ingredients! Their dishes make no apologies for being meatless, and in fact score a home run in the “damn-fine-eating” category.
As a neophyte to vegetarian cooking, I felt fortunate to have a waiter who was patient, personable and perfectly happy to explain the new menu vocabulary. There is little value in defining meat substitutes such as Tofu, Tempeh, or wheat gluten such as Seitan because the definitions will not encourage non-vegetarians to rush out seeking them. It will just be understood that the way they are prepared by the Garden Grille’s is superb – and I mean superb.
The Korean Tacos (Sweet Chili Sauce, Tempeh, Cabbage, Sriracha Mayo, Guacamole, Salsa and Flour Tortillas – $8) as our starter was an absolute stand-out in flavor. The balance of the sweet chili sauce, with the back note of heat from the Siracha mayo was perfect. The texture of the Tempeh, and crunch from the fresh purple cabbage made this one of the most delicious appetizers I have had this year. I was hoping my wife wouldn’t finish her taco, but sadly for me she polished it off without looking up again!
We shared two lunch large-plate items. The first was the Seitan Mushroom Burger (Sweet Potatoes, Caramelized Onions, Arugula and Tarragon Aioli on an Organic Spelt Roll – $9). Did it taste like a hamburger? Of course not, does is need too? How about a better question; did it taste good? The answer was it tasted delicious! The sandwich was full flavored with caramelized onion and grilled sweet potatoes that were smoky and not overcooked. The tarragon aioli provided rich moisture that smoothed out every bite.
The second dish was a Smoked Tofu BLT with Avocado (Arugula, Tomato, Chipotle Aioli on a Multigrain Bun $10). For the Tofu to give the texture and flavor of a smoked pork product, much of the moisture had been removed in order to eliminate the spongy texture. The light smoke gave it a terrific flavor. This was an artfully prepared sandwich served with purple cabbage slaw and a half-sour pickle.
The Garden Grille offers several Gluten free and vegan menu options too. Additionally, their creative pizza specials include an Apple & Smoked Gouda Pizza (Caramelized Onion, Mozzarella, Pine nuts and Wine Syrup – $ 14) that sounds phenomenal, and their craft beer selections and smoothie beverages help round off a great meal.
The Garden Grille Cafe on East Ave is just over the town line from Providence, and for the Eastside folks nervous about crossing town lines for a meal, don’t fret because you can still see Blackstone Boulevard from the restaurant’s front window!
Garden Grille Café 727 East Ave Pawtucket RI 02860
Monday-Saturday: 11-10pm Sunday Brunch 9 am-3pm Sunday Dinner 5-10pm