Others might assume the only people who would forgo meat in lieu of an all-veggie diet are hippies.
The truth is, being a vegetarian outgrew all stereotypes long ago.
Ex-heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson gave up meat (ears included), telling Details magazine
that he realized “meat’s become a poison” for him. Oklahoma-born music superstar Carrie Underwood pledged to go meat-free after she saw livestock being castrated.
Closer to the metro, Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid is an herbivore, as is local artist Romy Owens.
“The decision to become a vegetarian probably would have been a passing fad, except my parents mocked me and said it would never last,” said Owens, who made the change 25 years ago. “[Now] I’m quite knowledgeable about the health, ethical and environmental issues surrounding vegetarianism. I’ve been vegetarian longer than I haven’t.”
For her, dining in OKC is a breeze.
She lists Cheever’s Cafe, 2409 N. Hudson; Queen of Sheba, 2308 N. MacArthur; and Coolgreens, with several metro locations, as favorites.
“I have noticed there are more vegetarian-friendly restaurants than there were 25 years ago. Even in the past five years, there are many more choices,” Owens said. “OKC is absolutely on par in vegetarian-friendly places to eat. And not only vegetarian-friendly, but health-friendly and sustainability-friendly restaurants.”
With the move toward a healthier lifestyle, piggybacked by Mayor Mick Cornett’s campaign for a citywide weight-loss program, OKC seems to be edging toward a more health-conscious food mindset.
Picasso Cafe, 3009 Paseo, offers a vegetarian and wine-pairing dinner every third Tuesday of the month, each with a specific theme. The special dinners are also a nice boost to business, packing in more than 100 people for each event. Kim Dansereau, co-owner of Picasso and The Other Room, said the dinners have been selling out in advance.
“I want [vegetarians] to look and have their own menu,” she said. “There was a huge market no one was addressing.”Dansereau emphasized that a vegetarian menu doesn’t mean salad only, noting that Picasso offers “vegetarian comfort food” on its regular menu by way of “chicken fried” portobello with vegetable gravy.
Couscous Cafe, 6165 N. May, an authentic taste of Morocco, also happens to offer substantial vegetarian options. Traditionally, Moroccan cuisine is richly influenced by saffron and meals are frequently structured around beef, lamb and chicken dishes.
Because of the culture’s wide use of fruits and vegetables, however, there is plenty for vegetarians. The eatery has a lengthy list of vegetarian combos that range from hummus to zaalook (fresh eggplant grilled and mashed with tomatoes, cilantro and Moroccan spices) to falafel (ground chickpeas cooked to perfection).
Alhough not all eateries offer vegetarians their own menu section, some are making strides to accommodate. Saii Asian Bistro, 6900 N. May, has a brand-new vegetarian roll. S&B’s Burger Joint, with several metro locations, included veggie-patty substitutions (The Skinny) about two years ago, after customers asked for healthier options.
“The vegetarian and vegan thing is happening. It just felt right to offer [the substitution] as well,” said Aly Branstetter, general manager at S&B’s 20 N.W. Ninth location. “We want everyone to be able to enjoy all the flavors we have, whether you like beef or not.”
It’s not just a simple, frozen patty, either.
“There’s a lot of ingredients. It’s a blend of black beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans, oatmeal,” said Bransetter. “We dash a little cayenne in that, too.”
She said there’s been a steady increase of skinny patties sold. On Sundays, veggie patties make up more of the total sales than do beef patties.
Vegetarianism in OKC is proving to be more than a passing fad. It’s a choice to live a little bit more mindfully.