April 2008 Issue
April's Featured Restaurant
As a longtime vegetarian, I can truthfully say that I have never missed meat, nor do I know what it’s like to crave a big, juicy steak or burger. But I have long dreamed of a magical place — a restaurant where I could go and order anything off the menu, with no questions, no limitations and no meat. Most important, it would be a place so hip, innovative and tasty that my friends and family— meat eaters and vegetarians alike — would actually want to come with me.
That dream came true for me, and many other Ohio vegetarians, in November 2007, when Ohio-bred rock star/animal rights activist/vegetarian Chrissie Hynde and executive chef J. Scot Jones (formerly of Canton’s Fedeli) opened the doors to their upscale vegan restaurant, VegiTerranean.
Don’t get me wrong: Ohio has no shortage of excellent vegan and vegetarian-friendly eateries. But VegiTerranean, located on the ground floor of Akron’s swanky new Northside Lofts building, takes meatless cuisine to trendy and flavorful new heights.
First, there’s the décor — sleek, industrial, big-city-loft chic, with cement floors, exposed pipes, simple curves and lines, dramatic blue and green lighting around the bar area, and a color scheme of black, white and stainless steel. When it comes to selection, presentation and taste, the food also offers sophistication and variety. Using no animal products whatsoever, VegiTerranean offers an adventurous and pleasingly large menu of Italian-inspired cuisine. How to choose? My date, a meat eater, was impressed by, if a bit wary of, all the meat-like “chicken” and “steak” entrees (made from Gardein, or textured garden-grown protein, made primarily from wheat and soy).
We decided to start with a grilled artichoke appetizer — whole, tender artichokes, grilled to perfection, and served with Rawmesan (vegan Parmesan) cheese, a lemon herb dipping sauce, roasted red pepper dip, and a heaping pile of crisp baby greens, tossed in balsamic dressing. We then moved on to the classic Caesar salad. My pulse quickened as I bit into that salad — anchovy-free, it was my first Caesar since elementary school, and it was well worth the wait.
For the main course (and on the recommendation of our friendly and informative server), I ordered one of the evening’s specials — a pizza with pesto sauce, soy mozzarella cheese and fresh tomato. My date chose the penne chicken pesto with Gardein chicken and mushrooms. He praised the flavor and intensity of the sauce and swore that the “chicken”— in both taste and texture — was as good as the real thing.
Later, when presented with a host of vegan dessert options (some made in-house, others imported from the nearby West Side Bakery), it was hard to pass up the cheesecake, which was drizzled with a generous helping of tangy raspberry and citrus sauce. And if you still aren’t ready to leave after that, the restaurant’s stylish bar and coffee bar make great hangout spots.
VegiTerranean 21 Furnace St., Akron 44308, 330/374-5550. www.thevegiterranean.com. Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner Mon.–Sat. 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Reservations recommended. Entrees $12–$22. CR