To all you Catholics out there, welcome back to Lent! Now that Mardi Gras is over it’s officially time for us to slow down the slaughter of cows, pigs, and chickens and increase the killing of sea creatures. Welcome to the season of fish frys, fish sandwiches, and eggs… lots of eggs.
Without getting too deep into religion, a few years back I decided to do a little more than just give up something easy (like candy or sweets) for Lent and actually make a sacrifice. I had never really done anything that was much of a challenge (other than giving up cracking my knuckles when I was in elementary school… still don’t know how I was able to pull that off. Talk about will power!). I thought this defeated the whole purpose of the season so I decided to do what a lot of my relatives do and give up meat all together. From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday there would be no consumption of animals (Except seafood of course. And we’re definitely not here to debate whether or not this makes sense). But if you know me you know I’m a total carnivore. I rarely feel like a meal is satisfying unless red meat is involved. It used to be hard enough going meatless on Fridays so what was I supposed to do now?
But you might be surprised at how much good meatless food is available (alright you vegetarians, stop laughing at me… for some of us this isn’t that easy). If I have a menu in front of me I’ll choose a meat dish over any sort of veggie dish 99.99% of the time. Not that the veggie dishes aren’t good, it’s just hard for me to choose them over carne. So in a way, going meatless is a blessing in disguise. It kind of forces me to order these tasty meat-alternative dishes.
Breakfast is easy. How much meat do you really eat for breakfast? Sausage, bacon, or ham with your occasional egg sandwich maybe? An egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel/roll/croissant without the greasy meats is still quite delicious (and probably much healthier). And I’ve never seen a pancake or waffle that isn’t vegetarian-friendly (I’m sure you can find one with bacon… don’t bother sending this to me… don’t get me started on the subject of random food with bacon). Home fries, donuts, bagels, muffins, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt? No problem. Alright… breakfast shouldn’t be difficult to most of us. If it is, then I certainly can’t help you.
Personally I’m a huge fan of eggs for breakfast. Fried, scrambled, omelets, hard boiled, soft-boiled, poached… you name it and I love it. A little bread and some cheese or yogurt on the side and I’m all set! Slice up some tomatoes & cucumbers on the side, sprinkle on a little salt, and we’re definitely in business. No meat envy here.
Lunch/Dinner/Everything Else is where it starts getting tricky. Besides the boring egg salad and tuna fish sandwiches (don’t worry egg salad and tuna fish… I still love you!) and the cheese or veggie pizzas (seafood pizza is good), there’s a ton of options. Lets do a run down of what I like to have and where I like to eat for lunch/dinner this time of year.
Fish Frys – the staple Lent dish. Any restaurant, bar & grill, or pizzeria will have a fish fry during Lent… at the very least on Fridays. My favorites come from Wegmans, the Amherst Pizza & Ale House (try the Crown Royal BBQ Wings sometime… after Lent of course), and Ricotas (the one in the city, not the one in OP). The pieces of fish are of good quality, large, and beer-battered. But most local eateries have a decent fish fry and it’s probably harder to find a bad one than a good one. Note: If you’re avoiding fried food, some places also offer a broiled fish option.
My one problem with these is that usually the cole slaw sucks. You can keep the mayo-drenched cole slaw that comes from an oversized milk carton. Call me when you make your own cole slaw or at least use less mayo! (Lebanese trick: a cabbage salad with salt, pepper, vinegar and oil is amazing! Order it if you can, make it if you can’t).
Filet of Fish Sandwiches – Oh man I love these things! This time of year McDonalds, Wendys, and Burger King run promotions and push them hardcore (I’ve already had two from Mickey D’s and one from BK this week). Are they healthy or do they come from hip local spots? No. But they’re tasty, cheap, and come with fries. What’s not to love?
Bean & Cheese Burritos – Either frozen or from Mighty Taco they’re awesome. If you go to a Moe’s/Salsarita’s, you can get a bigger one with rice and more fillings. Warning: contains beans and may require a lot to fill you (get where I’m going with this? Sorry. Couldn’t resist that one).
The following are great, but not much to discuss here:
·PB&J – blah
·Grilled Cheese –blah
·Veggie Sub/Wrap – blah (actually I’ve been loving these lately! I’m a big fan of salads and this is like a salad with bread to make it more filling. Refreshing too.)
Hey want to know where to find good meals that don’t involve meat? How about looking at countries that don’t too eat much of it to begin with! The obvious being cuisines of Asia, India, and to a lesser extent Lebanon and Italy (Easy Italians! Before you freak out on me. I know you eat plenty of meat but pasta can stand on its own… or with seafood). All of these have some great veggie dishes. Ethiopian restaurants would be great too… if only we had one in Buffalo.
Japanese – Hello Sushi! Easy enough right? Don’t forget some Miso soup and Edamame. Not in the mood for fish? Go with some Udon or Soba noodles. My favorite Japanese places in the area are Wasabi, Kuni’s (are you open or closed??), and Seabar. Wegmans also has a popular sushi bar.
Chinese – Our Chinese restaurant scene in Buffalo is rather… um… limited. But typical Chinese takeout dishes like stir fry with shrimp or veggies will do just fine.
Thai/Vietnamese – For some reason these countries are always seem to be grouped together for restaurant purposes. I guess it’s because they’re food is similar enough? Anyway, you can’t go wrong with that Thai staple, Pad Thai. See Don’s review of Saigon Cafe or check out Saigon-Bangkok or the King And I. Pretty much anything can be ordered vegetarian.
Indian – You know there’s gonna be a lot of good stuff coming from a country that’s predominantly vegetarian. However, I’m actually not too familiar with the Indian restaurant scene in our area, other than a lunch buffet or two. Just look around. You’ll figure it out.
Lebanese – Being Lebanese I have some inside knowledge of all the goodness that is Lebanese food. Are they going to be as good as my Mom’s/Grandmother’s? Of course not. But let me offer some suggestions for you anyways.
·Baba Ghanouj (a spread made from roasted egg plant)
·Labneh (a yogurt cheese… one of my favs)
·Stuffed Grape Leaves
These are all items that you can actually find at places like Sahara Grill, Falafal Bar, Amy’s Place, Byblos, The Greek Isles (trust me… there’s Lebanese food there) or Sara’s Deli. Or even more convenient, if you happen to be in a mall (Boulevard, Niagara Outlet, McKinley, or Eastern Hills… basically any local mall except for Galleria) visit the Greek/Lebanese places in the food courts for some killer Lebanese food.
So that’s what I like to eat while going meatless. What about you? Have a favorite place for a Fish Fry?