Wednesday, July 02, 2008

st. louis: vegan in the heartland pt. 1

the Shangri-La Diner, an all-veg. restaurant

As most of you know, Daiku was born and raised in St. Louis and most of his family still lives there. For this reason, we visit there at least once or twice a year. I've actually lucked out- my mother lives in Northern Virginia, my father lives in Los Angeles, and Daiku's parents live in St. Louis, which gives me a chance to visit 3 exciting foodie destinations on a regular basis. However, a lot of people are surprised that I can find good food to eat here in the midwest. I hope to help dispel the idea that good vegan eats and the middle of our country don't mix by this post, and my next post about Kansas City.

Even though this was my 8th year of visiting St. Louis, I'd never been up the arch! Well, we had to rectify that, so Daiku, his brother, our neice, and I decided to take the trip to the top on a hot and muggy day.

From the top, we had a clear view of downtown St. Louis

and the Mississippi River, which even at this point in early June had risen to unusual levels.

Speaking of the Mississippi (I know, I know, horrible transition!), we went to the Mississippi Mud House cafe on Cherokee Street. We had heard really positive reviews of this place, and we all enjoyed it.

Here's a shot of the inside of the cafe- enlarge the image to read the funny sign on the wall.

In addition to the refreshing coffee drinks that we all enjoyed, I ordered this avocado, bean, and veggie wrap. The wrap was listed as having cheese. When I asked to have the cheese left off, the cashier said, "are you vegan?" When I said yes, she replied "me too. The dressing on that wrap has dairy in it- do you want me to replace it with a sweet sesame dressing instead?" Of course I did- and I thanked her for watching out for me. The wrap was really delicious and cooling on a hot day.

Just down the street from Mississippi Mud is the Shangri-La Diner, an all-veg diner that serves up a menu of comfort and even, dare I say, junk food- just the kind of stuff you crave from a diner.

The inside is colored in bright shades and filled with kitschy decorations and Beatles memorabilia.

Since I was full from lunch, all I had room to order was a milkshake. (As you know, I can never pass up a vegan milkshake!) I got a blueberry milkshake to go- and it was so good! It was really creamy, but also nice and icy.

Another restaurant we visited in St. Louis was Joanie's pizzeria. While they specialize in pizza, they also have a full sandwich menu including not one but two vegan sandwiches. One was a grilled veggie sandwich, but the one that caught my eye was the cold veggie sandwich. Since this whole trip was about beating the heat and humidity, I ordered the cold veggie sandwich and I am so glad that I did. On a multi-grain baguette, they piled a huge amount of fresh and marinated veggies- red pepper, onion, tomato, cucumbers, lettuce, and perhaps most refreshing of all, tons of fresh basil. This sandwich, served with fresh-made chips and bottomless iced tea really hit the spot.

Here is a shot of some wild strawberries that we found growing one day in a park. They were really cute, but not really edible.

One night, Daiku and I went out to eat with 2 of our more adventurous relatives, who said they wanted to try Vietnamese food. We ended up going to Lemongrass, a wonderful restaurant with an extensive (and veg-friendly) menu. For appetizer, we all shared an order of deep-fried tofu, which came with a wonderful and sweet-tangy dipping sauce. The texture of the tofu was perfect, and I'm glad, since it left our relatives with a positive impression of our favorite bean-curd-y cake of goodness!

For my entrée, I decided to order something I'd never had before- a rice hot pot. Oh my gosh, am I glad I did, because this was one of the best things I'd eaten in a long time! The rice came sizzling in a very hot dish, which meant that the bottom was nice and cruncy, and was topped with an amazing assortment of veggies (broccoli, baby corn, carrots, onions, snap peas, and more) and tofu. All of this was in a super-spicy sauce- all in all, a very unique and satisfying dish. We all left Lemongrass very satisfied- I think we have two new fans of Vietnamese food on our hands! Good thing St. Louis has so many good options to choose from if that is what you're craving.

Finally, I want to pay homage to my favorite fruit, the cherry. My love for this stuff knows no bounds. My in-laws watched, horrified amused, as I worked my way through almost 5 pounds of cherries that we brought home from the market. This healthy snack kept me going for much of my week in St. Louis- not only were the cherries delicious, but they kept me hydrated, and helped me avoid cravings as I hung out with people eating all manner of not-quite-vegan food!

Soon, it was time for me to head to Kansas City on the train- stay tuned for my report from that city, which I visited for the very first time. Well, not counting the airport. And trust me, the city is way cooler than the airport!

Restaurant Information:

Mississippi Mud House
2101 Cherokee Street
St Louis, Missouri 63118

The Shangri-La Diner
2201 Cherokee Street
St. Louis, MO 63118
314 772 8308

Joanie's Pizzeria
2101 Menard (at Russell)
In Historic Soulard
St. Louis, MO 63104
Tel: (314) 865-1994

3161 S. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63118
(314) 664-6702



Animal-Friendly said...

Those wild strawberries are gorgeous and absolutely adorable! And how kind of that vegan waitress to look out for you!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Sounds like a nice trip! Those berries *look* amazing & I've been eating pounds of cherries as well!

VeggieGirl said...

So nice that you got to visit Daiku's hometown - I had no idea that St. Louis was so vegan-friendly!

I'm going to echo what animal-friendly and Melisser said about those wild strawberries - they're stunning!!

Neva said...

I'm worried your wild strawberries were not strawberries at all! Here we have genuine wild strawberries that have small, flatter light colored seeds, and then we have a weed that produces strawberry-looking berries with red seeds that aren't strawberries. Real strawberries peak in early June, the false ones, more like now. Strawberries have white flowers with yellow centers, the false ones have all yellow flowers. Wild strawberries taste really good--the false ones not so much. But it's confusing becuause the leaves are very similar.

Other than that it looks like you had a nice trip and the food looks delish.

Neva said...

Well it seems that if it is the plant I'm thinking of, it is edible (that is not toxic), just not tasty.

springsandwells said...

I love that picture of the cherry. Just yesterday, I was driving home from the farmers' market, just reveling at the beauty of my Bing Cherries. They are so gorgeous, so red, and so tasty. And I hear you... Five Pounds? No problem!


Peace by Pastries said...

Good luck in KC! I am from there and there are toooooons of veg-friendly places to check out! And I just got back from a trip to St. Louis where I visited the Shangri La Diner and it is soooooo good! I'm glad you got a chance to enjoy it! See, the Midwest isn't so bad! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you had a good trip!

Your Mississippi Mud House Cafe visit reminds me of the 1st time I went to a place in Tempe called Choptick Express. I ordered a tofu dish and she asked if I was vegan. Then she replaced the non-vegan rice with white rice. It's so awesome when stuff like that happens :)

Jes said...

My friend from St. Louis swears it's impossible to eat vegan there. So exciting--thanks for proving him wrong! :) Your meals look like they were delish!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the cherries. I really miss them when they go out of season.

Sarah C. said...

Thanks for the great write-up about my hometown! I looooove Lemongrass and also Pho Grand down the street - so keep that in mind next time you're there. I think STL is a great city and even though I don't live there anymore, I love to see people discover that - gasp - you can actually have a great time filled with culture, sights, and food in the midwest. So thanks for helping people discover that through your blog post!

Kati said...

Oh man, five pounds of cherries sounds like heaven - they are my favorite fruit, too. :-) Looks like you had an amazing eating adventure - your veggie sandwich looks particularly awesome. And vegan milkshakes! Ah the wonders!

pixiepine said...

The Shangri-La looks so cute!!!

Theresa said...

Looks like you had lots of fun and good eats!

Vaala said...

Wow, sounds like you ate real well. The inside if the Shangri-La Diner looks beautiful with the decorations hanging from the ceiling.

The views from the tops of those tall buildings and structures are always spectacular.

heather said...

blueberry milkshake! I think I'm going to have to make one of those...

anna/village vegan said...

That sounds like such a fun trip!

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

I love reading about other people's vegan travels! I had no idea that St. Louis had so many geat veg places to eat. Great post!

I saw that you're going to St. John and St. Thomas. You'll love it! When I was in St. Thomas we ate once at Havana Blue (expensive and mostly sea food), but we mostly cooked. St. John has the Starfish Market, a cute little grocery store that had soy milk and tofu. We also liked The China Shack, a chinese food restaurant located in the same complex as the Starfish Market. Have fun! Can't wait to read about it!

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

Thanks for the nice post on St. Louis (where I live). I support Shangri-La quite often because it may be the veg-friendliest restaurant in town, along with Terrene. And we just ate at Lemongrass this week! I had no idea about the vegan sandwiches at Joanie's; thanks for the tip.

Melody Polakow said...

Everything looks great... what fun places.. and that rice pot! It's screaming my name right now.

I am SOOO grateful for cherries too.. they have really helped me stay on track with the raw thing.

Rural Vegan said...

St. Louie is only a 4 hour drive from me, yet I did not know it was so veg-friendly. I might be a little more inclined to head down that way now! Have a wonderful trip!

The Voracious Vegan said...

Wow, what an awesome post! This is so cool, it sounds like you had a great time. All of that food looks amazing.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the friendly vegan who was looking out for you. You just never know where animal products might be lurking and it is near impossible to grill every waiter/waitress on every ingredient unless you want them to hate you and spit in your food.

I have a friend who lives in Kansas City and we've been thinking about meeting up in St. Louis because it's equi-distant for both of us. I'm glad to know there are some terrific veg options there.

Urban Vegan said...

Last time I was in St L., I was vegetarian and I enjoyed everything. Looks like I'll have to go back as a vegan and retrace your culinary footseps.

Café Cyan said...

Ah - the arch! I've been to St. Louis several times and finally did the Arch during my last visit. The view is great!

Have you had a chance to visit the wine country around St. Louis? I need to do another trip there next year.


Erin said...

Awesome vegan finds in the midwest! The one time I visited St. Louis was when I was transitioning to veganism, so I didn't do any research. I remember eating lots of ethnic food and veggie burgers. If I go again now I know there are great places to seek out.

dreamy said...

Wow! Looks like you had a real wonderful time :) The cashier was really thoughtful, that's nice, and your blueberry drink is making me thirsty :9

Vegan_Noodle said...

What a fun trip! Isn't it cool when another vegan looks out for you like that?

KitKat411 said...

Thank you for this descriptive entry!! I travel a ton for work and it is so difficult to find healthy vegetarian, let alone vegan options on the road! I will be in St.Louis starting tomorrow for the next 6 days working at The Auto Show and now I am very excited about my food options!!! YAY!!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pyxie said...

in case you ever go back (was searching for vegan & gluten free breakfast - shangrila is closed) there are a few other options.

the one i went to last night:

sample menu:

the one i would like to check out (about 30 min away)

vega deli

hope all be wonderful