Kat Barry: Many eateries offer great vegan dishes

Published 8:55 am Thursday, June 13, 2013

Last week, I received emails from two separate friends saying they were legitimately trying to go vegan and wondered what to do if they wanted to dine out. I figured I should just formally publish my vegan friendly restaurant guide to Southwest Michigan.  Here are some of my favorites as well as some tips on what to order.
Caffe Tosi, St. Joseph: I worked there for years as a student so I know and love the menu. Try the barley salad, the minestrone soup, many of the deli salads and the veggie muffaletta sans cheese.
Silver Beach Pizza, St. Joseph: Vegan pizza!!  The establishment adds cheese to its regular pizza sauce so I usually get a BBQ sauce pizza with mushrooms, red onion, spinach and Daiya vegan cheese on gluten-free crust.
Baugette de France, Berrien Springs: True, all Baugette locations have a variety of vegetarian subs, but only the one in Berrien has vegan sauces. Totally worth the trip if you have a hankering for a hearty sandwich. Otherwise, order the Reuben sans sauce; it’s still great.
Tim’s Too, St. Joseph: Build your own stir fry with tofu, mushrooms, bean sprouts or even seitan “duck” meat and the sauce guide.
Caitlyn’s Cafe, Berrien Springs: This all-vegetarian cafe sits on the hill across from Andrews University’s campus. Open for lunch throughout the week, it has many vegan choices, and the lunch buffet is fantastic.
Cafe Gulistan, Harbert: A long-time favorite, Gulistan offers many scrumptious choices and is a great place for dinner, especially in the summer. The café is very understanding of vegan needs and will sub rice for its out-of-this world red cabbage slaw. The café does  use butter in the rice so just order your falafel platter vegan.
La Pita, St. Joseph:  Speaking of falafel, if you haven’t been to La Pita, you’re missing out. The food is great but the atmosphere is lacking so I usually order takeout. I love, love, love the selection of fresh juices so be sure to try the carrot or build your own. Again, the establishment uses butter in its rice so specify vegan.
El Sol Azteca, St. Joseph: Mexican is one of the easiest types of food to veganize. Unfortunately, a lot of traditional restaurants use lard in the beans and more. Thankfully, El Sol does not. It even has entire vegetarian menu, most of which can be made vegan.
Louisa’s Cafe, Harbert: This charming restaurant, open for breakfast and lunch, is the only place I know in Southwest Michigan, where you can get tofu scramble for brunch. It also often has vegan soups.
Ban Thai, St. Joseph: Thai cuisine is traditionally dairy free, but beware of fish oil and sauce. There are a variety of delicious options here so specify no fishies.

Upscale/fine dining
I’ve had excellent, specially prepared meals at the following restaurants. The chefs are very accommodating, particularly if you call ahead.
Bistro on the Boulevard, St. Joseph: Inventive and happy to please even when chef Ryan isn’t there. Quinoa dishes are served happily.
Tosi’s, Stevensville: Try the amitriciana sans chicken stock and butter. While chicken stock is used in the pasta, it can easily be made without. I’ve had many, many great meals here over the years.
Soe Cafe, Sawyer: Seasonal, local and creative. Chef Chad is incredible and totally gets it.
Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor: I had an amazing risotto there last summer and the chef even came out to discuss with me. Quite lovely.
I hope you find this helpful.  Enjoy!