PETA caused some hullabaloo (shocker) a couple months back with a billboard posted in Jacksonville, Fla. that said "Save the Whales, Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian." The billboard had a picture of a heavy-set lady on the beach in a not-so-itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie pink polka-dot bikini.
Understandably, issues were raised questioning PETA's sensitivity and compassion for the folks the billboard makes a jab at. However, our immediate reaction to the billboard was this: Since when is vegetarian food healthy?
Donuts, French fries, and greasy quesadillas are all fine for non-carnivorous types, but we wouldn't suggest them to a dieter -- unless, like us, they are naughty vegetarians. So, to prove PETA's insanity once more, we gladly present our top ten favorite Valley vegetarian dishes that will give you your very own blubber -- with repeated consumption, of course.
The first dish we offer to the grease gods is the pesto pizza from Slices. Simply put, this is crust, cheese, pesto, and tomatoes. We see the more calorie-conscious diners blotting grease off with a napkin, but after a long Friday of carb-infested beer and liquor, we say dig in and indulge. Greasy pizza lovers can grab a slice or four at Slices locations in Tempe and NoSco.
Drive-thru maniacs can get their vegetarian fix with and secret menu item at In-N-Out. The grilled cheese is basically a cheeseburger minus the burger. It's melted cheese, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce between two buns. We like ours animal-style, which means it has the special sauce and the caramelized onions. To complete this fatty delight, add fries and a chocolate shake.
It's been a while since us crazy vegetarians have had a good hot dog, so we would like to thank Mill Avenue's Thirsty Dog 2 Go for the Double Devil Dog. Though it is not always a vegetarian option, it can be ordered with veggie dogs. The spicy dog is a delightful combination of bun, two hot dogs, onions, and jalapenos -- we like to add spicy mustard for an extra kick. The two-in-one-bun hot dog is certainly filling, especially if you add a huge, yummy pickle on the side.
The word buffet generally evokes a feeling of soggy vegetables and mashed potatoes made from flakes to vegetarians. Udupi Café, located near McKellips and Scottsdale Road, changes all of that with an astounding all-vegetarian lunch buffet. For only $8.99, diners can have their pick of all the paneer, uthappam, and dosai they can eat. Udupi even offers vegan-friendly dishes. Old Country Buffet can keep their chicken-fried steak.
Scottsdale Waterfront's Sauce Pizza & Wine didn't make our list for the pizza or the wine because, in our humble opinion, the mac 'n cheese trumps their namesake. Instead of macaroni, Sauce uses shells, which hold a boatload of the creamy white cheese sauce. To finish it off, parmesan is grated over the dish, almost satisfying our insatiable cheese lust. A side of this classic comfort food is $4, but since the entrée is only three dollars more, we say forget Sauce's pizza and have the pasta.
What vegetarian dining list would be complete without Green New American Vegetarian? Now we've had almost everything Green's menu has to offer, from the buffalo wings to the Thai peanut bowl to specials like the Big Wac, a vegan Big Mac. One menu item keeps us coming back to South Scottsdale for more time and time again though: the No Harm Chicken Parm. This meat-and-dairy-free sandwich is a breaded mock-chicken patty smothered in marinara and faux mozzarella. Green's thyme fries are a crispy compliment to the meal, but don't forget the Tsoynami!
Holy hunks of crispy fried tofu, Batman! What started as our favorite dinner option at Fate quickly became our favorite lunch item from Sens Asian Tapas, at First Street and Pierce. The sweet and spicy House Dynamite is chock full of yummy veggies and pineapple, but what's most impressive is the tofu itself. Most places that offer tofu give little attention to how its prepared, normally just tossing it into the mix and leaving it like a squishy block of flavorless bean curd. This is a shame because after having chef Johnny Chu's firm and perfectly fried tofu, all other contenders seem to fall short. We hope other purveyors of the squishy stuff will take some cues from Chu.
Finally, we submit downtown Phoenix favorite La Tolteca's Taco de Papa. This Mexican delight is part mashed potatoes, part cabbage salad, part crema all wrapped up in a handmade crunchy corn tortilla. We suggest you eat the tacos first, then scoop up all the salsa-covered cabbage and fresco cheese to make sure you soak up all the high-calorie goodness. Feel free to repeat as each taco is under $3, though ordering more than one will lead to a mandatory siesta.
And voila! That was just a small bit of proof from our top ten gorge-worthy list that going veg isn't necessarily the same as getting thin... Now we're going to go lie down.