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Food reporting from the Stephen Bloom School of Journalism
January 11, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

In a first-person tale of woe, a beleaguered New Yorker stranded in the Land of Lard related his struggle to find adequate vegetarian options [NYT link, featuring obligatory pic of sullen, obese Midwesterners]. Reactions came swiftly, albeit indirectly [also NYT] since, curiously, the article itself lacks a comment section. Best comment: the one touting the multiple and tasty options, including veggie dogs and veggie chili on coney dogs, at the dive bar just across the street from the KC Star. Despite an apparent unfamiliarity with such staples as grilled cheese sandwiches, the cub reporter's failure probably won't keep him down for long.

The Midwest may love its meats, but it has a long history of vegetarian options -- planned or unplanned. Farmers and farmers' markets encourage both creative home cooks and locally owned restaurants; one commenter from rural Nebraska notes, "Half of my parentage were cattle ranchers and half were truck (veggie) farmers, and I grew up eating veggie-only lunches and dinners regularly."

The Mennonites, many of whom settled in Indiana and Iowa, often create meatless meals in the comfort-food tradition.

The Twin Cities, with its shortened growing season for most vegetables, still manages to have a vegan raw food restaurant. Among the many veggie and veggie-friendly options, HauteDish (I see what you did there!), whose very logo features a sliced-up pig, has offered an intriguing vegetarian prix-fixe tasting menu for the affordable price of $30. Ethnic spots, including Somali/East African, add to the mix.

Even the frozen tundra of Green Bay about which I asked in a previous and completely unrelated AskMe boasts its own vegan "rawstaurant.," as well as two coffehouse/cafes, one of which also serves dinner.

Moral of the story: For every taunting Sparti's Gyros, there's an Oasis Falafel whose food speaks for itself.
posted by Madamina (99 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I live in a big coastal city where I take for granted that basically any restaurant will have a few meatless options, vegetarian-friendly or even exclusive fare is easy to find, and menus regularly point out "we can make this vegan on request." Few of my friends are vegetarian per se, but most eat very little meat and mostly fish and fowl at that. So it's good to be reminded that, outside of the kind of places (enormous and diverse mostly-coastal cities) I choose to live and spend my time in, it really is still quite weird to not eat large amounts of meat for every meal.

A former coworker of mine lived in Joplin, Missouri. He was a vegan. I asked him, once, hesitantly, just what it is that a vegan eats in Joplin, Missouri. He paused, then shrugged and said "Thai. I eat a lot of Thai food."
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


There was the meal at the Golden Ox steakhouse (baked potato), Stroud’s fried chicken (rolls) and Arthur Bryant’s barbecue

you had a hard time finding something to eat at a steakhouse, a fried chicken joint, and a barbecue spot? life is fucking hard, huh?
posted by nathancaswell at 11:06 AM on January 11, 2012 [26 favorites]


Dear Mr. Sulzberger,
This vegetarian has had no problem finding tasty fare in the Midwest. Pro tip: don't go to steakhouses.

Sincerely,
Tsuga
posted by Tsuga at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


Stuck-up New York Vegetarian complains Midwest meat restaurants don't cater to him. Film at 11.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:07 AM on January 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


The trouble is never "Can you get vegetarian options, if you look hard enough?" The trouble is, "If I go out with a group of friends/family, am I going to be that annoying person who vetoes the first three suggestions?" I considered becoming a vegetarian while I was living in suburban North Carolina, but every so often I would go out with my mother and sister to Applebee's and the vegetarian option would be ... a small side salad.

It's just plain annoying when you go out as a group and you have to make yourself That Annoying Person to be assured of getting something to eat.
posted by Jeanne at 11:08 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reporter's name is Sulzberger? I'm sure that he got his job purely on merit.
posted by octothorpe at 11:10 AM on January 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


Yeah, this is a joke.

I live in Wyoming, and granted I live in a college town, but I have plenty of vegetarian (and even vegan!) options. I've traveled throughout the state too, and never had much trouble.
posted by Fister Roboto at 11:13 AM on January 11, 2012


Oh, I hear you, Jeanne. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't like the texture of a lot of meat (thanks, Mom). I've eaten a lot of grilled cheese and fries in my day.

He just needs to develop his own system. Yeah, grilled cheese might be boring (especially if that's all you get), but everybody has it, or at least the ingredients. So grow some balls, Sulzy; force your colleagues to go to the Indian buffet (hell, you could probably force them to cook your lunch for the next year...) or politely ask the steakhouse to make you a damn grilled cheese, maybe with some tomatoes and onions.
posted by Madamina at 11:16 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the rough part is actually negotiating this in group settings, or at off hours, or when you want some beer with your food. Then everyone's like, Let's just go to Applebee's, and I have to say, Fuck no, the last time I asked them about vegetarian options the waitress looked at me like I'd asked to shit in her mouth and told me, "We're an American restaurant."

Anyway, college towns and cities generally have something easy, and it's about ten thousand times easier now than it was when I was growing up veg 25-30 years ago.
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


.... where I moved from New York to cover the Midwest ...

When he comes at it with that as his basis, you just know it's not going to go well.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:17 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, while it's harder in winters (hope you like squash and tubers), come summer, midwest farmers markets rule.

Especially sweet corn. No one on the coasts seems to know what good sweet corn should taste like — out here in LA, they always try to get by with some mealy-ass ears, and it makes me so sad that when friends come to visit, I ask 'em to bring corn on the plane with them (can't take beer, my other deep longing).
posted by klangklangston at 11:19 AM on January 11, 2012


It's true that there are vegetarian-friendly places in the smaller cities and towns of the Midwest but it's also true, as Jeanne says, that you can't just assume that almost any given restaurant will have some vegetarian options—which is a completely reasonable assumption to make here in Chicago and even more so, I assume, in New York.
posted by enn at 11:19 AM on January 11, 2012


What's next NYT? An Op-Ed from Saif al-Islam Gaddafi complaining that you can't even find decent bow in Zintan?
posted by R. Schlock at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2012


BLOW.

FFS.
posted by R. Schlock at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger is Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.'s son. I wonder if that's why there's no comment section?

I actually typed "Arthur Grosse Sulzberger" because the name J. P. Grosse was in my head after checking this out.
posted by darksasami at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Really? He had problem finding vegetarian food in Kansas City?
What a lazy slob.
posted by wellvis at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's next NYT?

Op-Ed from NYT Reporter complaining of lack of ...

...mixed drinks at Mormon Convention.
...lack of Kosher Delis in rural Alaska.
...beaches in North Dakota.
...steakhouses in New Delhi.
...people ever taking him seriously.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


You ain't even trying to make this hard. Visit an Inuit community in the Arctic for a few weeks and see how you like fermented whale meat, caribou eyeballs, and seal intestines, all eaten raw.

If you're wondering, yes.
posted by spitbull at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


There are some great vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Kansas City. Apparently this man does not know how to use google.

I'm from the midwest but live in North Carolina now. I'm vegetarian and have never had a problem finding food to eat in either of those places. However, one time I did go to a local bar & grill chain here in Raleigh and asked if they had a veggie burger, to which the waitress said, "You mean like a turkey burger?" Er, no. As far as I know turkeys are not vegetables.
posted by something something at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a stupid article. I could name you a dozen vegetarian-specific restaurants here in Akron, and I've never had a problem finding vegetarian dishes, even at steak places. We do know what salad is here in the rust belt. Arthur Gregg obviously had a thesis in mind and cherry-picked the people and places to fit it.

Seriously, New York City, stop treating the rest of the country like an alien planet. You're trying to turn me against the "East Coast Elite" bogeyman and someday it's actually going to work.
posted by Nahum Tate at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


Now decent weed is regional.
posted by spitbull at 11:29 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


THIS ARTICLE IS NOT NEW YORK CITY.
posted by spitbull at 11:30 AM on January 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Anyone remember cooking? Man, good times.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


We do know what salad is here in the rust belt.

It's the nothing-but-salad view of vegetarianism that he complains about specifically in the article.
posted by enn at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2012


The Sulzbergers are not New York City, either, at least not 98% of it.
posted by superfluousm at 11:33 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mother lives in a rural Minnesota town pop. ~ 800 and she is a vegetarian. Good lord.
posted by editrixx at 11:36 AM on January 11, 2012


It's the nothing-but-salad view of vegetarianism that he complains about specifically in the article.

No, really it's a gawk-at-the-Midwest dressed up in vegetarian clothing. He's having a laugh with his cosmopolitan big city friends about his time with the natives. There's no one on earth that thinks that vegetarianism means three salads a day. He only invents that trope to deflect one Midwestern waitresses earnest attempts to help him find something he'd enjoy eating. If the waitress had offered hummus, then the misconception would be that all vegetarians eat is chickpeas.
posted by Nahum Tate at 11:38 AM on January 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


And what about going for Italian food when you go out with friends? Then you could get pasta with various tomato sauces, pesto, etc.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 11:39 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Weird. I've never had trouble when traveling as a vegetarian - sometimes it's meant that lunch is onion rings and a salad, sometimes it's meant grilled cheese - more often, it's meant "stop at the grocery store and pick up the ingredients for a nice little cheese and cracker plate plus a spinach salad".

If you're complaining that the food outside major metropolitan areas can be icky if you don't take enough time to figure out where to go and what to order, yeah, that's true enough. And if you're complaining that there's not much snob vegetarian food in the midwest, that's true too - most of my vegan (formerly vegetarian) dining is pretty much of the pho, student neighborhood and punk rock cafe variety.
posted by Frowner at 11:41 AM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, sure, small town restaurants may not be likely to have vegetarian options on the menu automatically. But small town restaurants are probably more likely to do something vegetarian for you if you ask nicely. (Exhibit A - my best friend in junior high went vegetarian, and the next time we all went to this burger joint my friend stared wistfully out our cheeseburgers, then called the waitress over and asked if there was any way she could get a copule pieces of just the fried cheese for a snack? The waitress snapped it up right for her, and I think they later decided to add that fried cheese as a side to the menu.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2012


"The owner of what was billed as the lone vegetarian restaurant in Omaha said it had several pounds of ground beef thrown at its doors shortly after opening"

C'mon. That's funny.
posted by oneironaut at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


He should have hired Max Gogarty to help him find some vegetables.
posted by w0mbat at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2012


What's next NYT?

Op-Ed from NYT Reporter complaining of lack of ...

...mixed drinks at Mormon Convention.
...lack of Kosher Delis in rural Alaska.
...beaches in North Dakota.
...steakhouses in New Delhi.
...people ever taking him seriously.


...meritocracy in newspaper industry?
posted by Tsuga at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here in Toronto, where vegetarians can generally get along pretty well, I am constantly surprised by restaurants that seem to have a fuck-you attitude to non-meat eaters. It really cramps my style -- I like trying new restaurants, but my friends are vegetarian. If there's nothing reasonable for them on the menu, we're not going.

That said, on a cultural level 'gluten-free' seems to be the new vegetarianism here, in terms of dining preferences that confound the majority. The comments section of any blog reviewing a new restaurant will be filled with questions about gluten or complaints that spelt-flour options are not available.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2012


Any article that kicks off with sad stories about not being able to find vegetarian food at a barbecue joint, a fried chicken place, or a steakhouse seriously loses me. (And yes, "cover the Midwest" is a very bad sign.)

Furthermore, if your own cooking consists of a pot of beans and rice, you're not trying very hard to make yourself happy, and if you can't be bothered to learn to cook for yourself, you can't be TOO indignant that restaurants don't cook for you. Further-furthermore, if you ask the waitress whether the beans contain meat and she says they do not contain meat but do contain lard, she has answered your question absolutely correctly and does not deserve your citified tut-tutting. Lard is a pork product, but it is not meat, there, pal, considering that you yourself say elsewhere that (GASP) meat is a euphemism for "muscle," not "melted down fat."

Also great: "I asked this guy who's a Brooklyn writer what it was like being a vegetarian in Omaha years ago as a teenager." Yeah, I'll bet.

And finally: this piece contains many unsupported uses of the word "many."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:48 AM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


As a former vegetarian in the midwest, I agree it can be tough to find vegetarian plates at most restaurants especially if you'd like something other than a fried cheese dish or "steamed vegetables" which were usually microwaved with no attempt at flavor. Sure, you could survive on those foods but you can only eat motzerella sticks so many times...

I did love the occasional trip to Chicago and how each restaurant not only had multiple meat free options but they put some effort into theme.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:54 AM on January 11, 2012


Anyone who's been a vegetarian longer than a week knows not to go to Applebees. But if your town has an Applebees, it might also have a Ruby Tuesday's, which has an amazing salad bar and a half-dozen meat-free menu options including zucchini burgers and cauliflower mashed potatoes. Pretty much all of the chain sit-downs besides Applebees have decent veggie options, and carry-out fast food places have options too. The meat subs at Subway are strictly portion-controlled but the veggie subs can be pretty substantial when you get everything on them.

This guy had that article half-written before his plane even landed.
posted by headnsouth at 11:56 AM on January 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


Sometimes I swear that the Times forgets that the rest of the country can read their newspaper too. They write these grossly insulting articles about life out here in the hinterlands as if only people in the five boroughs will ever see them.
posted by octothorpe at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


As a non-vegetarian who has lived in the Midwest, I wouldn't eat the meat in a lot of the restaurants there. That's because many of them (outside of major cities) are your Applebees/Chili's/Olive Garden kind of places, where the food all comes off the back of the same truck, is uniformly awful, and usually pretty bad for you. Hell, this is as much of a problem just outside of NYC as it is outside of Omaha. If you want to eat good food, you have to be selective, regardless of your dietary preferences. And learn to cook.

Also, I'll bet you anything his ma po tofu was made with chicken stock.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


FFS, NYT. Newspapers all over the country are dying, and you foist this nepotastic nitwit on us. If you're a vegetarian and in an unfamiliar city, look for the largest nearby college and go into the student union or an independent coffeeshop and ask around.

This kid is supposed to be a reporter, right?
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:21 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, really it's a gawk-at-the-Midwest dressed up in vegetarian clothing. He's having a laugh with his cosmopolitan big city friends about his time with the natives.

That's bullshit. I'm amazed at the chip on the shoulder of some of the folks in this thread. This has nothing to do with New York City, or the New York Times, at both of which I am sure you'll find a large majority of people heartily enjoying meats with their meals, and Manhattan is a treasure trove of amazing carnivore-oriented cuisine. (It's just a huge enough place that there are some veg niches that are easily accessible, too.)

As an on-again-off-again vegetarian (who aspires to be full time) I can say from first hand experience that when I've traveled around the country (outside my cozy little lefty college town in upstate NY state) I have had serious trouble finding real vegetarian meals. When you want to avoid meat, going to restaurants becomes a real mine field: places regularly disregard their use of pork, beef, and chicken stocks and flavorings in otherwise vegetable dishes and soups, many restaurants will pile the bacon and egg into salads even if you ask them not to (I am looking at you, freakin' Applebees), and yet other places don't think that seafood products count as meat.

Many folks try for the Chinese or Thai tofu dish option, only to discover later to their dismay that pork or beef stock was the first scoop into the wok when preparing their dish. (I once had a waitress in a Chinese restaurant look at me with annoyance when I asked if there was meat stock in my tofu stir fry. Her reply: "Why do you care, you a monk or something? Pork is good for you.") And of course many/most Thai restaurants use fish sauce in almost everything.

I imagine this is particularly a problem when someone like the author of the linked article needs to have business lunches on a regular basis. I mean, even in my little lefty oasis I sometimes have trouble eating out when I am on a vegetarian stretch.
posted by aught at 12:21 PM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Eden Alley is my favorite restaurant in Kansas City. I lived there for two months three years ago and, to a person, every local I encountered knew about it, most highly recommended it, and none acted as if it was some kind of "new-fangled" approach to food. It's also within shouting distance of The Plaza, which basically puts it smack dab in the middle of one of the major commercial centers in the city.

The Times article is poorly reported and a textbook case of confirmation bias.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:22 PM on January 11, 2012


Major cities are no stranger to the injection molded places (Faux ambiance stuck to the walls with drywall screws in front, faux food being microwaved in the back) you describe. It's just that in big cities there are enough people who are adventurous enough to find the good independent restaurants that actually give a damn, so they have a better chance of surviving long enough for word to get around. I can't see this guy finding anything that doesn't have a big visible from the interstate sign without a native guide.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:31 PM on January 11, 2012


Anyone with a dietary issue is always going to have to work with the server and the cook to get a plate of food that they would like to eat.

I'm doing low carb right now and you can imagine the conversations (such as they are) with the disembodied voices behind menu boards at drive ins. Yes. I said no bun.

Traveling ANYWHERE provides all food lovers with issues until they go exploring and experimenting in the various restaurants. I dispaired of finding good Chinese food in Atlanta, until I started chatting with our servers at our local Chinese place. Now I not only order off of the "Chinese" menu, I helped the owner translate it into English. Pocket Tofu y'all!

It doesn't hurt to find a local who will show you his or her haunts. I can only eat at chain restaurants so often before I start losing it. So no, the places to look for Vegetarian foods aren't steak houses and barbecue joints, although I'll b3t that after laughing a bit, they would have been more than happy to rustle something up, even if it was just a plate of cheese fries.


By the way, Pizza is a great vegetarian meal, that never occured? It ain't a salad.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:31 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everything else notwithstanding, the sheer cattiness of the New York media market leaves me with really no desire to work there. As far as I can tell, the blogosphere there is horrible to everyone all the time. Am I wrong?

DISCLOSURE: WRITER IS A SORT-OF-BIG CITY SORT-OF-JOURNALIST WHO CANNOT STAND VEGETABLES
posted by bicyclefish at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2012


Sometimes I swear that the Times forgets that the rest of the country can read their newspaper too.

What?! How?! Has the Internet spread inland from the coasts already?

Seriously, I'm so shocked I just spat out a mouthful of my tofu, goji berry and alfalfa sprouts smoothie.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:32 PM on January 11, 2012


Aught, go back and look at the article - specifically the title. If you're having trouble there, then the problem is widespread. An article that made that point would be enlightening to many. That was so not what he was going for.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has the Internet spread inland from the coasts already?

Yeah, but on most days our cyclotrons interfere with it so we usually can't see what you guys are talking about. Just carry on without us and we'll suffer through.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:42 PM on January 11, 2012


I think it's really really sad that this article is framed as a coast vs. midwest Food Battle. I live in a big city in Texas and to outsiders it probably looks like it's really hard to find vegetarian food here, but I imagine I would feel the same way if I were visiting Chicago or New York and didn't know all the ins and outs of the various restaurants.
posted by muddgirl at 12:46 PM on January 11, 2012


It's pretty easy to find good vegetarian food in the Midwestern college town in which I live. I suspect it's harder in more rural places or less-sophisticated cities. And that's probably the same as anywhere, really. The Midwest is really not that different from the rest of the country. It's just that a lot of big city East-Coasters don't spend much time in parts of the East Coast that aren't big cities.
posted by craichead at 1:45 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


They write these grossly insulting articles about life out here in the hinterlands as if only people in the five boroughs will ever see them.

Sometimes I forget that Staten Island exists and assume that Jersey is the 5th borough. I can't decide to whom that is more insulting.
posted by elizardbits at 1:49 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Welp, we at Food not Bombs Des Moines are learning to make raw vegan dishes tonight to supplement the vegetarian food we serve every week. Let us know the next time you slum it in flyover country, Sulzberger!
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 1:59 PM on January 11, 2012


<Begin New York Rant>

Seriously, New York City, stop treating the rest of the country like an alien planet.
Seriously Metafilter, stop treating any random person from New York (City) who might be a jerk as *New York City*. That is a little like treating Bernard Madoff as *the Jews.* This is the third thread in two days where someone might have said a pompous remark or has a tangential relationship to uptight upper class Manhattanites and there will be a couple of FU New York comments posted in, um, a New York minute!!!

Sorry, but you know, I'm proud of my city, it isn't perfect, there are other places just as nice, but it seems like the NY haters have such a chip on their shoulders that *any* slightly arrogant behavior by *any one* of New York City's 8 million odd inhabitants sets them off. Jeez. Let's chill out people.

The audience of this article is a very narrow, slice of New York, many - if not the majority - of whom are from elsewhere but moved to New York - meaning wealthier parts of Manhattan or the 'burbs. I mean he quotes a man who says finding a vegetarian in the midwest is like finding a Republican in Brooklyn? and the person quoted is a writer who moved to Brooklyn? What that person really meant is finding a vegetarian in the midwest is like finding a Republican in my narrow hipster slice of Park Slope/Williamsburg/etc. which is the the only Brooklyn neighborhoods I've ever been in, or ever will.

</end New York rant>

As for the substance of the article, or lack there of, the author is an idiot and a prime example of the downside of nepotism. Haven't been to Kansas City but have been to many places in "the heartland" and was a vegetarian for 15 years while doing it. Had great vegetarian meals in rural Arkansas, upstate NY, Ohio, have a friend whose father owned a pecan orchard and I got a bag full of delicious pecans for harvest until the old guy sold the orchard.

A whiny crybaby like him won't last a month on the Midwest beat, and actually wouldn't last a month in Queens where *real* New Yorkers would have kicked the crap out if him by now.
posted by xetere at 2:00 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who goes to a restaurant known for its Bar-B-Q and expects to find vegetarian options?

What's more, if you go to Kansas City and can't use Google to somehow find:

the Blue Nile Cafe (Ethiopian restaurant),
Jerusalem Cafe (Middle Eastern),
Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop, Thai Place, Tasty Thai,
Lidia's (Italian, undoubtedly with salads if nothing else),
Swagat Indian Restaurant,

or the plethora of other restaurants I could name, well...then, you're a bit of a ninny, aren't you?

Meh. People who already have a point to prove shouldn't be reviewers of anything, food or otherwise.
posted by DisreputableDog at 2:04 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I swear that the Times forgets that the rest of the country can read their newspaper too. They write these grossly insulting articles about life out here in the hinterlands as if only people in the five boroughs will ever see them.

You should see the articles they write about Queens and non-brownstone Brooklyn. Women in Harlem and Bushwick watch TV and identify with the characters! OMG
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:05 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


By the way, all of those restaurants are awesome. Don't be a little bitch either. Order the spicy Thai, if you know what's good for you.
posted by DisreputableDog at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2012


Sometimes I swear that the Times forgets that the rest of the country can read their newspaper too.

Remember this is the paper that in their "lifestyles" column wrote about the man-date. Something I've been engaging in for like 20 years and never knew it was unusual or edgy since all straight men must be filled with hysteria of appearing homosexual.
posted by xetere at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously Metafilter, stop treating any random person from New York (City) who might be a jerk as *New York City*. That is a little like treating Bernard Madoff as *the Jews.*
Wait, what?
posted by craichead at 2:16 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in KY, and spend a lot of time exploring rural roads and small towns... and admittedly I don't get TOO far into eastern KY, but I do get around most of the state.

I have absolutely no problem finding vegetarian meals, and that's avoiding broths and lard, as well. And this means much more than pizza, salad, grilled cheeses, and subway as my only options.

You will find that if you are polite about it, that most places are extremely accommodating about ordering "variations" of what's on the menu, or even off of the menu entirely. It takes a bit of politeness and civility.

If you are already sneering about not being able to find vegetarian food, then you are likely not going to find any. If you are visibly disgusted at the idea of being somewhere that meat is served, same thing. If you have ANY attitude of being ENTITLED to vegetarian food, you likely will not be treated well.

However, if you approach with an open mind, and POLITELY ask if they can accommodate you, perhaps suggesting some combinations that may be a bit unorthodox, then you can almost always come out with something good. Hell, some of the best meals I've had have been off of the menu at many of these country cafes and the like. There's much to be found at steam tables, also, although yes, you do have to be conscious of broths and the like.

Vegetarianism isn't THAT hard, I've been doing it for years traveling all over the world. Just remember that you are a voluntary guest at an establishment that doesn't traditionally cater to your specific needs, and avoid the obvious places, like barbecue joints (and there are even exceptions here) and places that are overtly heavily meat themed. And, yes, Applebees. That would be the kryptonite for all vegetarians.

If it isn't a chain, you will find they can be incredibly flexible, to the point of preparing things specially without broths, lard, etc. - you just have to ask, be personable, and be polite.
posted by MysticMCJ at 2:53 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


And, yes, Applebees. That would be the kryptonite for all vegetarians.

I think I can speak for all people with even semi-functioning taste buds: Applebees is kryptonite to the soul.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 2:56 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seriously Metafilter, stop treating any random person from New York (City) who might be a jerk as *New York City*.

Fair enough, I was out of line tarring an entire city for one article, no matter how lazy and hackful. It's just when I read a line reassuring the NYT's readers that "living in the middle of the country is very different from living in the middle of nowhere," there's a part of my brain that shorts out and I wonder what in the hell people think the Midwest looks like--teepees and log cabins?

Anyway, mea culpa. (ohmygod someone's taught them Latin!!!!)
posted by Nahum Tate at 2:56 PM on January 11, 2012


the remark in the article about Omaha's "lone" vegetarian restaurant closing down had me worried for a minute, but nope, it looks like McFoster's is still up and running. i heart McFoster's.
posted by moss free at 3:13 PM on January 11, 2012


I'm pretty sure that Isa Chandra Moskowitz of the PostPunk Kitchen has moved to Omaha and recently announced she's starting a vegan restaurant there. Am I making that up?
posted by craichead at 3:17 PM on January 11, 2012


Wait, David Brooks said Applebee's had a salad bar!
posted by spitbull at 3:33 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The food writers from the Lawrence/KC area I follow on Twitter were trying to figure out what Omaha restaurant he referred to -- none of the ones they knew of really fit. Consensus was it must have been Daily Grub.
posted by rewil at 4:07 PM on January 11, 2012


Even if I ate meat, I wouldn't want to eat at Applebee's.
posted by freakazoid at 4:26 PM on January 11, 2012


OK, hey, snooty, foodie, judgmental NYer here, although not a vegetarian. Five years ago I worked for 7 weeks in KC, and I am telling you, the vegetable offerings at the supermarketS were DISMAL. In fact, once when I asked where "produce" was (I know, I'm such a NYC elitist) I got deliberate, forced blank looks and directed to frozen foods, to punk me, I think. Not kidding.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:42 PM on January 11, 2012


Well, young'uns, when I was a vegetarian in the 70's in Richmond, Indiana, it was purty slim pickin's. Though that girl at the diner always fixed me up with a nice tomato cheese onion sammich at lunchtime.

BTW, if you consider Denver the Midwest (I don't, really), there was a mouthwatering article about our veggie burgers in today's paper.
posted by kozad at 4:46 PM on January 11, 2012


In fact, once when I asked where "produce" was (I know, I'm such a NYC elitist) I got deliberate, forced blank looks and directed to frozen foods, to punk me, I think.
Yeah, I'm thinking they were messing with you.

I checked out the weekly ad for one of the Hy-Vee supermarkets in Kansas City, and they've got bok choy and napa cabbage on sale for 99 cents a pound and organic apples for $1.48 a pound, so it looks like they've got some produce.
posted by craichead at 4:57 PM on January 11, 2012


thinkpiece: "OK, hey, snooty, foodie, judgmental NYer here, although not a vegetarian. Five years ago I worked for 7 weeks in KC, and I am telling you, the vegetable offerings at the supermarketS were DISMAL. In fact, once when I asked where "produce" was (I know, I'm such a NYC elitist) I got deliberate, forced blank looks and directed to frozen foods, to punk me, I think. Not kidding."

OH MY GOD we know what produce is here. Where do you think your frigging vegetables come from in the first place?

/New Nebraskan
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh, yes, of course, I know they knew what produc is, but the check-out women did not like the word, I don't think! And I actually do happen to know where my veggies come from, being a pretty serious home cook, former restaurateur and locavore whenever possible.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:37 PM on January 11, 2012


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by bardic at 7:10 PM on January 11, 2012


Did you find the Portabello mushrooms though?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:10 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I, for one, am a bit disappointed by Minneapolis's vegetarian options. (Hard Times can only count for so much.) Before moving here, the only time I worried about vegetarian options was on road trips with my dad, who insists on only stopping at McDonalds. (It was super-exciting when I finally realized they add the chicken to the salads when they're ordered.) But find yourself stuck in Terminal 2 at MSP by a very delayed flight? Trail mix for dinner it is. I will concede that I think that's the only occurrence of no real options I've had here, but, when I go out to lunch with certain people, we eat pizza a disproportionate amount of the time. Once you cross off places with no decent vegetarian option and the ones that frighteningly parochial Midwesterners consider too foreign, you're left with pizza. (Dislcaimer: it's really one frighteningly parochial Midwesterner.)

Also, Minneapolis, what in hell is so wrong with tofu that mock duck has to be the default option all the time?
posted by hoyland at 7:31 PM on January 11, 2012


Oh, the other part of that comment was to point out that the Bay Area (and, to a lesser extent Chicago) programmed me to assume there was always a vegetarian option. Well, except for Chez Panisse, which I get asked about far too often. Guess what? Never been. I'm a vegetarian! And I'm cheap.
posted by hoyland at 7:35 PM on January 11, 2012


Any article that kicks off with sad stories about not being able to find vegetarian food at a barbecue joint, a fried chicken place, or a steakhouse seriously loses me. (And yes, "cover the Midwest" is a very bad sign.)

I am hoping "the Midwest beat" is where they send the most annoying cub reporter for a while. But I kinda don't think so. I'm guessing it's sort of like the NYT's version of "A Prairie Home Companion".
posted by gjc at 8:11 PM on January 11, 2012


The guy ordered meatless mabu-tofu. What a maroon.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:17 PM on January 11, 2012


All you flyover-staters with your poor, put-upon, oppressed-by-the-noo-yawkers can go screw yourselves. I'm a vegetarian of years who has travelled extensively in the midwest, and for weeks at a time. I spent two weeks in Johnston, IA (outside of Des Moines). Weeks in Wichita. Weeks in Omaha. Weeks in Traverse City. Weeks in the middle of goddamned nowhere where the local coffeeshop (a coffeeshop!) puts "Fancy-Schmancy Coffee Stuff" on their goddamned menu.

Vegetarianism is an anathema to midwest culture.

Yes, I can eat a salad. Yes, I can eat a pizza. And yeah, there's one restaurant that caters to the weirdos. But when I'm onsite for 12, 13, 14 days at a stretch? I have more than once bought hummos and a cucumber to eat in my hotel room, having exhausted all the options for a real, actual, has-protein-and-isn't-pasta-in-cheese vegetarian meal. Variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to skipping the meat, midwesterners lack a variety clue.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:32 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


OH MY GOD we know what produce is here. Where do you think your frigging vegetables come from in the first place?

/New Nebraskan
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:32 PM on January 11
My vegetables come from the central valley. And I'm talking about more than corn, wheat, and soy.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:33 PM on January 11, 2012


This article was so wildly embarrassing that I almost have to think it was purposeful sabotage by the editors, to get back at the Sulzbergers somehow by letting this dreck appear in the paper. I mean, jesus.
posted by chinston at 8:36 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


All you flyover-staters... middle of goddamned nowhere

dude just stop
posted by nathancaswell at 8:37 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


the NYT's version of "A Prairie Home Companion"

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh#$%#!$^gunshot
posted by nathancaswell at 8:40 PM on January 11, 2012


Okay, look, I live in PEORIA, the ABSOLUTE SOURCE AND CENTER OF MIDWESTERNNESS and I can't think of a single restaurant that doesn't offer vegetarian dishes -- dishes, plural. Real entrees, not just grilled cheese, unless you eat at some chain place. You could try here (complete with obnoxious flash restaurant website) if you needed something locavore AND vegetarian.

"Dinner party? Best to eat first, knowing that side dishes might be the only options."
I have not hosted a dinner-involving party without a vegetarian option SINCE I WAS SIX YEARS OLD. I don't know what the hell is wrong with this guy, midwesterners cater to guests' food preferences because we are nice people with diverse neighbors with diverse food needs. I mean, Christ on a Whole-Wheat Cracker, if you're a 12-year-old ordering exactly one pizza, you make sure half of it is cheese only!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:41 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows, with all due respect, the only veg meal at June with protein is... carbs and cheese.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:46 PM on January 11, 2012


The menu at June changes every 8 weeks or so. We always check first to be sure there's something appealing. Once I went in the mood for meat and it was ... not a good month for meat. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:56 PM on January 11, 2012


damn June is kinda expensive
posted by nathancaswell at 9:02 PM on January 11, 2012


Eyebrows, that's kind of my point, though. I'm a fairly well-seasoned US road warrior, I know how to work Google and HappyCow and Yelp and even AskMe. I can find somewhere to eat something delicious in any town at least once. I know how to tweak a menu and ask the right questions. I get it. But twice? Two meals a day for two weeks? I don't ever have to even question whether I'll be able to find a good meal in metropolitan areas, and I don't have to call ahead or check the website for a restaurant proposed by coworkers. I just go, and barring someone suggesting a steakhouse, I'll be fine. And if I have serious reservations, I can just suggest Indian, Thai or Chinese and there will undoubtedly be something. But man, it sucks to get told I'm being difficult if I'm not charmed by the one place in town that sometimes has tempeh, when I've already eaten there three times.

I actually found the article to be a completely fair treatment of a vegetarian's experience in cities where beef is a way of life.

(and nathancaswell, yeah. that's the other side of it. blowing your entire per diem on a single meal because the veg-friendly place is the "nice" place, and charges accordingly.)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:08 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


A little bit, especially for around here. :) We go for anniversaries and "OMG WE'RE HAVING A BABY!" moments. One thing that's fun about it is that we actually know a lot of the farmers and farms June buys from either the farmers' market, our CSA, or being involved in local green issues. The chef and the owner come around to tables and we're like, "We just got one of Joe's chickens at the farmer's market this week, aren't they so good?"

You could try here instead, my toddler particularly adores the spinach melt!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:11 PM on January 11, 2012


yeah I just found it kind of funny and unexpected with the whole NY vs the midwest slant of the article... June's menu looks EXACTLY like a trendy Brooklyn restaurant menu (right down to the beets, dope pork loin, "edgy" shit like bone marrow or sweetbreads, pate... and PS I'm not disparaging, I eat at these restaurants all the time)... but it seems to be about 15% more expensive.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:18 PM on January 11, 2012


I actually found the article to be a completely fair treatment of a vegetarian's experience in cities where beef is a way of life.

Exactly. Reading this thread I find it hard to believe that more than one or two people actually read the article. Almost everything been thrown in his face in this thread he actually mentions in the article. He never says there's no vegetarian or vegan restaurants in Kansas City. He lists several. He just says that it's harder to find good vegetarian options there and, especially, out on the road, than it is in NY. He's right. He's describing a real difference of cultural practice and doing it entirely unsnottily (except, I guess, for the one sentence about iceberg lettuce). This thread is a ludicrous overreaction.
posted by yoink at 9:37 PM on January 11, 2012


I'm a vegetarian of years who has travelled extensively in the midwest, and for weeks at a time. I spent two weeks in Johnston, IA (outside of Des Moines). Weeks in Wichita. Weeks in Omaha. Weeks in Traverse City. Weeks in the middle of goddamned nowhere where the local coffeeshop (a coffeeshop!) puts "Fancy-Schmancy Coffee Stuff" on their goddamned menu.
You hear that, folks? He's spent weeks in various parts of the Midwest. Weeks, goddamnit. His expertise knows no bounds, and he has a lot to teach those of us who actually live here. I mean, what could we possibly know that could compete with his weeks of experience?

Jesus fucking Christ. It's getting to the point where I'm embarrassed to admit that before I moved here, I'd spent my entire adult life in New York and Chicago.
posted by craichead at 9:38 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


[TheNewWazoo, prefacing your comments with "flyover-staters... go screw yourselves" may not actually lead to healthy, respectful discussion. Could you not do that, please? Everyone else, let's try to move on.]
posted by taz at 11:59 PM on January 11, 2012


Did anyone here actually read the article? I don't think it was particularly damming of the area. I thought it was pretty balanced portrayal of Vegetarian eating anywhere.

Even in London the vegetarians get a pretty shitty deal. i.e. the 1 obligatory 'vegetarian option' which is usually pretty average and either 1. mushroom risotto or 2. vegetable gratin.

I eat meat and I"m always looking for new restaurants but unfortunately most of my freinds seem to be vegetarian, and they never really have a lot of options.
posted by mary8nne at 3:39 AM on January 12, 2012


Did anyone here actually read the article?
Yup. I also understand a lot of context that might not be clear if you're from London.

The author of this piece, Aurthur Gregg Sulzberger, is the New York Times Midwestern correspondent. He's also the son of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr, the current publisher of the New York Times. He's the grandson of former NYTimes publisher Aurthur Ochs Sulzberger, Sr. He's the great-grandson of New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger and the great-great-grandson of New York Times owner and publisher Adolph Ochs, who purchased the New York Times in 1896. He is, in short, being groomed to be publisher of the New York Times, and he has been given this assignment because it would give him credibility to have journalistic experience, and the Midwest beat isn't very important, so it doesn't merit someone who has been hired for having actual journalistic skills. We're just the scum in flyover-land. We don't merit a real reporter. It's ok to give that job to little Arthur so he can play journalist for a few years before settling into his real position.

So Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, heir to a newspaper fortune, shows up for his little training gig in flyover-ville and finds that living in the Midwest is not at all like being a mega-rich dude in one of the richest cities of the world. In New York, you can get literally anything you want delivered to your door in an hour, if you can afford it. In Ulysses, Kansas nobody can afford it, so such amenities aren't available. But if you went to an East Coast town of similar size (6000 people) similar ethnic makeup (65% white and 35% Latino) and similar income level (average household income $42,000 a year) to Ulysses, Kansas, you'd probably have a tough time finding vegetarian food, too. It's just that there's no reason for Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, heir to a newspaper fortune, to spend a lot of time in blue-collar towns or neighborhoods in the East Coast. It's possible to be a vegetarian in middle-class places on the East Coast, too, but it takes some strategies that wouldn't necessarily be readily apparent to someone who's spent his whole life in wealthy enclaves.

The Midwest isn't monolithic, and neither is the East Coast. And the fact that this dude can't see that doesn't say much for him and doesn't bode very well for the future of the newspaper empire that he's being groomed to take over.
posted by craichead at 5:42 AM on January 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


And if I have serious reservations, I can just suggest Indian, Thai or Chinese and there will undoubtedly be something.

But in my experience, this is true nearly everywhere. Either a town is big enough or has enough of a tourist draw to have an ethnic population and diverse dietary requirements, or it isn't.

This has nothing to do with East Coast vs. Midwest. It is as true in rural NY as it is in Nowhere, Kansas. It is as true in NYC as it is in Chicago (which is in the Midwest).
posted by muddgirl at 6:51 AM on January 12, 2012


I spent two weeks in Johnston, IA (outside of Des Moines). Weeks in Wichita. Weeks in Omaha. Weeks in Traverse City. Weeks in the middle of goddamned nowhere where the local coffeeshop (a coffeeshop!) puts "Fancy-Schmancy Coffee Stuff" on their goddamned menu.
Vegetarianism is an anathema to midwest culture.


Funny, I've traveled extensively with a vegetarian and we never really had any problems at all finding good food to suit her. Maybe the problem isn't with midwesterners?
posted by coolguymichael at 9:55 AM on January 12, 2012


Hey, cool, a guy who's a vegetarian for the same reason I am. Too bad the internet hates him so much
posted by tehloki at 10:43 AM on January 12, 2012


Recurring problems in this thread:

1) Confusing "vegetarianism" with "veganism".

2) Confusing "midwestern" with "non-metropolitan".

Come on, people.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:47 PM on January 12, 2012


Funny, I've traveled extensively with a vegetarian and we never really had any problems at all finding good food to suit her. Maybe the problem isn't with midwesterners?

Maybe it's just easy for you to say there's not a problem when you are not the vegetarian?
posted by aught at 2:53 PM on January 12, 2012


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