Awesome odyssey

I’ve only been a vegetarian for two months, and I’ve already discovered three very important things about vegetarianism in Reno.

First, it is very hard to be a vegetarian if you’re a fast-food junkie. If it weren’t for bean and cheese burritos and sub sandwiches, I’d be dead now. Second, eating a vegetarian diet does not necessarily mean eating healthy. Restaurant selections usually involve a lot of carbohydrates, eggs and dairy products. And third, the number of vegetarian restaurants in Reno is extremely small.

All of these factors add up to one conclusion: I will be spending a lot of money at Organic Odyssey from now on.

Coincidentally (or perhaps it was karma), Organic Odyssey opened for business about the same time I stopped eating meat. Organic Odyssey offers a juice bar and sandwiches, wraps, salads and Mexican food, in addition to eight entrées and plenty of side orders.

On my first visit, I chose the portabella fajitas ($10), with bell peppers, onions and red sauce. It comes with rice, beans, salsa and guacamole, and chapati instead of corn or flour tortillas. My dining partner, Gabe, chose the mushroom medley ($10), a baked potato smothered in sautéed mushrooms and surrounded by bean sprouts, tomatoes and avocado with a lemon tahini sauce.

I also got a salad with lemon tahini dressing ($3), and Gabe got split-pea soup with mushrooms with a huge side of homemade wheat bread ($3). We both ordered a glass of homemade hibiscus peppermint tea ($2), which I highly recommend.

While I’m a newbie vegetarian, Gabe grew up on a Hindu ashram in Northern California and has been eating this way since, well, birth. He said that the homemade bread was just like the bread he had as a kid, and he probably would have eaten mine if I hadn’t devoured it so quickly. His split-pea soup with mushrooms was also very tasty, and my salad was simple but good.

The entrées arrived very quickly, and this is where Organic Odyssey really captured my heart: Living on a lowly journalist’s salary, I was a bit concerned about the prices, but you really get your money’s worth. My plate overflowed.

The salsa was just spicy enough to make my nose run a little, but not so spicy that my taste buds numbed. The beans and rice, while less spectacular, were definitely up to par. By the way, smaller portions of all menu items but the sides can be requested for $2 less.

Gabe’s meal was similarly huge, with a very hefty baked potato and plenty of mushrooms and veggies. The potato was cooked perfectly—not too mushy, but not undercooked. It was so good, in fact, that I ordered it on our next visit just a week later, and found that the lemon tahini sauce made this great entrée even better. I’d love to tell you what the desserts were like, but I stuffed myself on both visits and didn’t have room to taste them.

On both visits, the servers were friendly and efficient. Gabe remarked that the décor at Organic Odyssey is pleasant but not “funky.” This was a relief, he said, from the countless vegetarian restaurants that try to appear too hip. I thought the décor could have used a little more funk, but I must admit that the smooth jazz in the background and the simple, elegant table settings were very calming.

But when the relative funkiness of the décor is the only complaint I can muster, you know you’ve got a top-notch establishment. In just two short months, owner Hans Frieschen has created not only a fabulous vegetarian restaurant, but one of the best restaurants in Reno. Here’s hoping it just gets better and better.