A Vegetarian Voyage Around Town

Susan Sunderland
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Wednesday - November 30, 2005
| Del.icio.us

If you invited Richard Gere, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz to lunch, where would you bring them? They’re all vegetarians.

There are tasty and meatless dishes on most menus these days, thanks to a healthier eating trend. But it’s likely that veggie dishes are the exception, rather than the rule.

Natural, all-vegetarian establishments are rare. They are still considered off-beat places that cater to hippies or strange cults.

Frankly, that’s a silly, outmoded notion. Vegan meals are delicious, creative, and really quite stylish these days. There are even vegan plate lunches to satisfy the local soul. For the newly initiated, think of it as spa cuisine - lean and clean.


According to the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii, vegans are healthy, ecological and compassionate. They have the lowest rate of atherosclerotic heart disease of any group in the U.S. Supposedly if acreage now being used for grazing cattle were growing trees or fiber plants to burn for energy, we would have no need to import foreign oil. (Are you listening, President Bush?) Vegans do not eat animal products and therefore, according to the Society, do not contribute to the suffering of animals raised for food.

Here are some venues for vegetarian meals:

Tandis Bishop, Down to Earth nutritionist, marketing/community outreach assistant, serves up a plate in the Moiliili deli
Tandis Bishop, Down to Earth nutritionist,
marketing/community outreach assistant, serves
up a plate in the Moiliili deli

Down to Earth Natural Foods and Deli

Kailua at 201 Hamakua Drive, Pearlridge Center, Moiliili at 2525 S. King St. Daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The only all-vegetarian natural foods grocer in the country was started 28 years ago in Wailuku, Maui, by friends. They believed in “simple living and high thinking.” With three locations on Oahu, the store focuses on vegetarianism, healthy living, respect

for the environment and sustainable organic farming.

The array of fresh produce, natural foods and deli selections is amazing. Salad and hot food buffets are especially popular at $6.99 a pound. On the self-serve counters are 20 fresh vegetable items including avocado, tofu, beans, sprouts and choice of dressings such as papaya seed, tofu tahini and green goddess. Hot entrees might include meatless stroganoff, steamed choi sum, Hawaiian sweet potatoes and black bean chili.


The deli offers South of the Border specialties, sandwiches and natural wraps ($3.99-$5.99). Fresh Mex Burrito has black beans, brown rice, cheese, olives, green onions, and lettuce and enchilada sauce on whole wheat tortilla. The Reuben has vegetarian salami, Swiss cheese, sesame seeds, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, stone-ground mustard and vegenaise on rye. Or try an Indonesian wrap of marinated tofu, mung sprouts, peanut sauce, carrots, and cilantro on whole wheat tortilla.

Yu Lee offers dim sum at Legends Vegetarian Buddhist Restaurant
Yu Lee offers dim sum at Legends
Vegetarian Buddhist Restaurant

Legends Vegetarian Restaurant

Chinese Cultural Center, 100 N. Beretania St. Lunch 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.

Tucked into Chinatown, this is one of the few completely meatless and vegan restaurants in Honolulu. An extensive menu of 70 dishes and a dozen different dim sum daily make this a haven for the hungry lunch crowd. Supposedly, the owner of Legend Seafood Restaurant next door built this restaurant for his mother, who is a Buddhist and vegetarian.

Mock meat dishes ($8-$10) include deep-fried gluten shrimp in mashed taro, braised vegetarian butterfish, and stir-fried eggplant with oyster mushrooms. Great textures and fresh ingredients are keys to Legend’s delicious dishes. Dim sum choices (from $2.50) are vegetarian bao, vegetarian pork hash, stuffed look funn noodle, stuffed bean curd and stuffed mochi rice wrapped in lotus leaves.

Ono Pono caters to UH vegetarians on campus
Ono Pono caters to UH vegetarians on campus

Ono Pono

UH-Manoa, Kuykendall Courtyard. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Ono Pono’s lunchwagon is part of UH’s Sustainability Courtyard, dedicated to earth-friendly principles and practices. Delicious vegetarian meals are made with organic, locally grown produce.

Menu changes daily, but favorites are coconut curry tofu, wild rice and walnut loaf, and red miso hummus with eggplant sumac ($4-$6.50). Maui taro burger, Mediterranean and Mexican whole wheat wraps, and potato-broccoli chowder also get high marks. Smoothies are a special treat, including soy, chocolate, peanut. Organic drinks - soda, juices, coffee - also are available.

There’s always a line for Govinda’s Vegetarian Cuisine on the UH campus
There’s always a line for Govinda’s Vegetarian
Cuisine on the UH campus

Govinda’s

UH-Manoa, Kuykendall Courtyard. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Also located at UH’s Sustainability Courtyard is Govinda’s, serving two different entrees daily, such as sweet-sour mixed veggie medley and broccoli-carrot-tomato in lightly spiced cream sauce ($4-$6.75). Servings include entrée, brown rice, salad and dessert.

Popular a la carte items are Samosas ($2) a vegan turnover that’s baked or fried, and avocado-cheese sandwich ($3.75). Samosas is a common Indian street food that is enjoyed plain or with chutney. A Govinda cookie (75 cents) is a crispy, delightful treat to go with your meal.

Todd Brown prepares a zen macrobiotic plate at Well Bento
Todd Brown prepares a zen macrobiotic plate
at Well Bento

The Well Bento

2570 S. Beretania St. #204. Daily, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Husband-wife team Todd and Kristine Brown operate Well Bento, a “macro-biotic fusion” eatery. Three vegetarian plates are offered. Best-seller is Zen Macrobiotic ($6.95), their healthiest offering with boiled root vegetables including kabocha, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, daikon, beans and hijiki (seaweed).

Tempeh Scallopini ($7.95) is sautéed with mushrooms in a white wine and lemon sauce. Tempeh is fermented cooked soybeans that has been a favorite food and staple source of protein in Indonesia for several hundred years. Grilled tofu, seitan or tempeh ($7.50) can be prepared Louisiana style in homemade cajun seasonings, western barbecue with maple barbecue sauce, or with temari teriyaki sauce.

Aunty Debbie McGuire serves Mohammed Ralph with a smile at Andy’s
Aunty Debbie McGuire serves Mohammed Ralph
with a smile at Andy’s

Andy’s

2904 East Manoa Road, Daily, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Closed Saturday.

This is a favorite of MidWeek senior photographer Nathalie Walker. We can see why she drives over the Pali to Manoa for a meal here. Andy Rodrigues’ sandwiches, smoothies and Sunday breakfasts are terrific.

A popular choice is the Manoa Delite ($5.85) sandwich that layers avocado with mushroom, tomato, melted cheese and papaya seeding dressing on homemade whole-wheat bread. The Eggplant Melt ($5.85) offers slices of baked eggplant, mushrooms, tomato and cheese. Green Chili Melt ($4.25) combines a soy patty with green chili, tomato and cheese. Top it off with one of 20 freshly made smoothies, like guava-banana-strawberry-papaya ($3.95).

Next time I’m there for Sunday breakfast (very popular), I’m ordering blueberry wheat pancakes ($3.99). I saw several orders of these fluffy pancakes come out of Andy’s kitchen, and they looked outstanding. The empty plates going back to the kitchen confirmed they are. Andy makes great veggie omelets, too.

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