Veggie Boy: Three Roots Coffee House and Cafe

By Benjamin Leatherman

The three-course meal personified.

Lady Luck’s been smiling at me lately.

No, I didn’t win the Powerball jackpot, or experience some other windfall. It’s just that things have seemingly been going my way lately.

Like yesterday, for instance, when I was doing a full-tilt boogie around the east Valley to complete a dozen different errands (including getting my passport for a November trip to Mexico) while also enduring my typically-hectic Monday crunch at Phoenix New Times. I worried I’d missed the window to obtain the vital travel document in time for my upcoming vacay, but a beyond-helpful clerk at the post office helped me get in by the deadline.

Then my luck got even better. I stopped by Three Roots Coffee House and Cafe (1020 South Mill Avenue in Tempe, 480-966-4949) to recharge with some iced tea, only to discover the java joint near ASU was offering a vegetable lasagna as their daily special. I’m a hardcore gourmand of this particular Italian staple, and have been on the lookout for a vegetarian version since I started writing this column.

My search was over. A few Italian restaurants and other ethnic eateries around town offer meat-free lasagna, but I can honestly say that Three Roots puts ‘em all to shame.

If Garfield went vegetarian, he'd totally dig this.

My palate was quite pleased by the ginormous five-inch-by-four-inch chunk I was served, which had layer upon layer of whole-wheat noodles, cooked tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, and huge crumbles of vegan ricotta cheese made from tofu. The barista behind the counter at Three Roots told me it was the first time they’d ever offered the dish, and Jebus help me, I certainly hope it becomes a regular special.

Now THIS is what a salad should look like.

The lasagna alone was quite a steal at $6.95, but it was accompanied by a nicely-sized dinner salad made with an organic spring mix, shredded carrots, cucumbers, sprouts, and other tasty greens. I slathered on the café’s “Green Goddess” dressing (an emerald-colored creamy vegan substance made with exotic-tasting herbs and spices), which complemented the crunchy veggies nicely.

I'm probably gonna swear off Kraft Dinner after eating this kind of macaroni and cheese.

I was also intrigued by the vegan mac 'n' cheese and indulged in a cup. It was quite the concoction, with a mix of thick elbow macaroni and a peppy tofu-based cheese that hit the spot in a comfort food kinda way.

Three Roots has long been a popular dining destination for Tempe veg-heads, regardless of whether or not they attend ASU across the street. The place is stocked with a ample menu filled with vegetarian/vegan delights, including animal product-free baked goods, not dogs, and veggie wraps. Take a look at some of their other offerings I passed up in lieu of the lasagna:

Grilled Cheese Deluxe: Sautéed garlic, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and Muenster cheese on multi-grain bread ($6.95).

Veggie Burger: Grilled veggie patty with tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, dill pickles, and “Vegenaise” (a.k.a. vegan mayonnaise) on a whole-wheat bun ($6.95).

Yari's Tamari Tofu: Tamari-seared tofu, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, avocado, and “Vegenaise” on multi-grain bread. ($6.95)

Tempting, no? That’s why even if the baristas at Three Roots are surly (which they’re occaisonally known to be) it’s worth paying a visit to the place.