ST. LOUIS — Black bean burgers. Brussel sprouts. And the dreaded salad bar.

Eating a vegetarian meal doesn’t have to be a bland burden, especially in St. Louis. Some of the country’s most creative, inventive chefs are working veggie magic in their kitchens right here in the Lou.

They’re getting us pulled pork-loving, pork steak-eating, what’s-brunch-without-a-pile-of-bacon fans to pull up a seat at the table and scarf down a zucchini version of a chicken parmesan and tacos that use turnips as shells.

So, make a reservation and head to these restaurants that’ll have meat lovers forgetting they’re eating vegetarian.

Check out the podcast version of this story on Abby Eats St. Louis, episode titled ‘Eat your veggies!’ Listen below or subscribe and download for free wherever you get your podcasts.

Vicia

Tara and Michael Galina have done a good job of convincing a lot of us adults to eat our veggies.

The zucchini parmesan is an example of when we first put it on the menu, we called it fried zucchini because it has a chicken fried batter on the outside. But, the flavors, it has ricotta and romesco sauce and pickle green tomatoes and basil. I ate it and I was like, this tastes like chicken parmesan. And then we’re like, wow, let’s call it that. And then, everybody’s ordering it, like mad,” explained Tara Galina.

Vicia sits in the middle of the tech hub known as the Cortex Innovation District, but they’ve earned quite the recognition for their own innovation.

Michael and Vicia have received two nominations from the James Beard Foundation, plus they were honored with being the Best New Restaurant in America by Eater, Esquire & Bon Appetit.

“I’ll humblebrag for him. I think the coolest thing was being recognized as a Food and Wine Best New Chef last year in 2018,” Tara said.

Their menu focuses on what’s local and readily available. They have a team of farmers they work with and talk to every day.

“It’s like a celebration of what comes in each day,” Michael said. “I let them guide me with what they want us to use.”

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Vicia isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, but the Gallinas want customers to think of their menu as balancing the plate.

“So, I guess look at the vegetable as more of a star on the plate and being garnished with meat,” Michael explained.

Vicia’s menu includes items like grilled fairy tale eggplant (with eggplant puree, oyster mushrooms, green harissa, spigarello and cheddar) and purple top turnip shell tacos (with black beans, yogurt, marinated kale, pickled red onions, jajita peppers, salsa verde, hot sauce and pork or mushrooms).

Check out Vicia’s full menu online here.

Small Batch

If you need a little more convincing to add more veggies to your plate, maybe a little whiskey will sweeten the deal.

“The first question everyone asks is, ‘Why pair vegetarian with whiskey?’ You know, whiskey goes well with steak or things like that. It's like, well, actually, whiskey and whiskey cocktails can go with any type of cuisine,” explained Dave Bailey, the guy behind the Bailey group of restaurants in St. Louis.

His restaurant Small Batch punches through the whiskey-and-steak stereotype to elevate his vegetarian cuisine to a new level.

Small Batch is located in Midtown’s historic ‘Auto Row.’ But you won’t see any signage that points to it being a vegetarian joint.

“I always wanted to have a vegetarian restaurant. I wanted to have a full service, really just like cozy, romantic, sexy, fun place to be that just happened to be vegetarian, where the food is elevated cuisine. It's all very recognizable stuff, but it's just, it's pretty, it's delicious and seasonal. It's satisfying,” he explained.

Small Bite’s menu includes dishes lke zucchini lasagna (with sun dried tomato, tofu ricotta, pesto and asparagus) and gochujang mac (gochujang with shell noodles, vegan cream sauce, panko and goon sauce).

Check out Small Batch’s full menu online here.

More from Abby Eats St. Louis:

About Abby Eats St. Louis

Abby Llorico tells the story of St. Louis based on what’s on the table. From the hunger for local ingredients, to the booming brunch scene and the craving for creative cocktails, Abby dives into the nitty-gritty of how St. Louis grew to become the foodie town that it is.

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