Appetite for compassion

Skip the cheesy fries and chicken wings, and check out SN&R's guide to Sacramento's best vegetarian and vegan bar bites

Order a veggie-packed pie from Elixir Bar & Grill. If you’re vegan, just ask the kitchen to skip the gooey moo stuff.

Order a veggie-packed pie from Elixir Bar & Grill. If you’re vegan, just ask the kitchen to skip the gooey moo stuff.

photo by wes davis

It’s getting to be the holiday season soon—which, for many people, means lots of socializing and bar-hopping. Trouble is, most bar dining options are predictable and tired: buffalo-style chicken wings, cheese-smothered french fries with Bacon Bits, beefy burgers, etc.

What to do if you’re not a meat eater? Vegetarians and vegans will often find their season’s eatings typically mean slim pickings—how about some iceberg lettuce?

Sorry, but rabbit food will prove totally useless when it comes to absorbing all those drinks you plan on downing at the bar tonight.

But don’t despair, leaf eaters. The following is SN&R’s guide to the area’s top five spots for yummy meat-free bar fare. Too cold to leave the house? If you’ve got a frying pan and a few basic ingredients, we’ve got you covered there, too.

One potato, two potato …

Head cook Carlos “Cawzlos” Lopez was brought in to update the Round Corner Tavern’s menu a few years back because the bar didn’t offer much in the way of vegetarian or vegan-friendly fare. Since then, Lopez has implemented much in the way of animal-free dishes in the kitchen, now called Downtown’s Kitchen. Try the crispy potato tacos—snag three for $5 on Tuesdays. These half-moon shaped papas are sprinkled with cheese, topped with shredded lettuce, spicy salsa and drizzled lightly with sour cream. Other options on the bar’s daytime menu include a spinach, garlic-and-queso fresco empanada, or a potato served with garlic and parsley option.

“I’ve worked in restaurants for quite a few years, and people would come in and say vegetarian options get really boring,” says chef Anya Felix, who also works in the Round Corner kitchen with her husband Pablo. “It seemed to make sense to appeal to a lot of people.”

Round Corner Tavern’s Downtown’s Kitchen, 2333 S Street; (916) 451-4682;

Garden of eatin'

Few items go hand in hand better than a slice of pizza and an ice-cold beer. At the Elixir Bar & Grill downtown, go for the Chainbreaker White IPA from Deschutes Brewery paired with a piece of the bar’s veggie-packed pie. The bar’s calzones and pizzas are made from scratch and can be ordered with dozens of ingredients, including sliced jalapeños, olives, mushrooms and everything delightful found in any vegetable garden.

“Not all people who like to get drunk like to eat meat,” says Elixir cook Shann Marriott Jr. Word.

Elixir Bar & Grill, 1815 10th Street; (916) 442-0693.

Southern hospitality

Shady Lady Saloon executive chef Kevin Ritchie boasts 20 years experience and until recently, he says, Southern-style fried green tomatoes were noticeably absent from local bar menus—even though they pair perfectly with many cocktails.

“A lot of bar bites and menus are chicken wings and quesadillas. I wanted something Southern, I wanted something vegetarian, and I wanted to do something unique,” says Ritchie. “I wanted to go in a different direction [with] tarragon and tomatoes. I love the flavor components between [the two], with a cool rémoulade and something bright that [is] going to cut through the richness of the fried green tomatoes.”

At Shady Lady, these cornmeal-battered golden discs are thickly cut and garnished with bright yellow and red cherry tomatoes and cost $7.

Shady Lady Saloon, 1409 R Street; (916) 231-9121;

Have it all vegan

When the concept for LowBrau was still just a mere blueprint, owners Clay Nutting and Michael Hargis made sure to keep their vegetarian and vegan friends in mind. Today, the bierhall menu includes three types of vegan sausages with all the fixings. Most toppings—try the onions or sweet peppers—are cooked in an olive and canola-oil blend. The only topping that isn’t vegan-friendly is the beer-cheese sauce. Try the smoked-apple sage; it’s potato-based, and when topped with sauerkraut and the spicy house mustard, it makes

for a winning and mouthwatering combination for $6.50.

“I recommend it to meat eaters, too, looking for something different,” says Nutting.

Shady Lady Saloon’s fried-green-tomatoes appetizer is healthy because it starts with veggies—right?

Photo By wes davis

LowBrau, 1050 20th Street; (916) 706-2636;

You had me at 'beer-battered'

Just on the outskirts of Midtown, tucked away down on Franklin Boulevard, there exists a little spot that’s a bit dive and just a tad bit punk rock, too. The Hideaway Bar & Grill’s menu is known for its thick burgers piled high with toppings.

Luckily, the joint doesn’t forget about its vegetarian customers, either.

The Hoods Burger, offered whenever the kitchen is open, is a filling, meat-free option that all local vegetarians must try to finish at least once. This $11 unusual offering comprises an Olympia Beer-battered zucchini patty dressed with cheddar cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, red onion and homemade ranch dressing.

Bar owner Mariah York-Carr says she tries to take care of all her clients.

“We have a few vegetarian options, partially because that is a need that is not met in Sacramento. We also have vegan options, too,” York-Carr says.

On that note, try the Vegan Drop Dead, as well. It includes avocado, cremini mushrooms, olive spread and mixed greens on a sourdough baguette. It’s also $11 and served with fries or a salad.

The Hideaway Bar & Grill, 2565 Franklin Boulevard; (916) 455-1331;

Comfort food at home

Gooey grilled-cheese sandwiches evoke images of Mom in the kitchen. A bowl of hot tomato soup plus fall’s chilly temperatures equals a classic combination—and the perfect excuse for staying in.

Of course, you probably already know how to make a grilled-cheese sandwich, but why not give it a gourmet twist? Try sinking your teeth into grilled Brie paired with honey-sautéed red onions and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples. Want a vegan option? Try substituting a dairy-free “cheese,” such as Daiya’s Havarti Style Wedge for a similar effect. The following recipe makes two sandwiches and goes well with a glass of wine (or frosty brew)—and a game of Scrabble.


Half of a red onion

Half of a Granny Smith apple

Four slices of bread, any style

Olive oil

One wedge of Brie or vegan cheese substitute

1 tablespoon of honey

Cayenne pepper


Add just enough olive oil to coat to a pan, and then add the onion and apple. Cook them on medium-high heat until they begin to soften—it should take about five minutes. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of honey onto the softened ingredients, and add a dash of cayenne for spice. For the bread option, any choice will do, however buttered (vegan or otherwise) sourdough is tastiest. Fill the sandwich with all the candied ingredients and grill until golden brown. Enjoy!