Vegan at TGI Friday

Those of you that follow me on facebook may have seen the picture I posted recently from an allergen menu. The menu was from TGI Friday, and it is cray-cray. You would think the menu is showing all the different ingredients each dish may have possibly come into contact with, and it seems like that’s the case, but it actually says…

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
These items contain the following. If that is true, it’s mind-blowing. Let’s take a look…

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
I do think it’s great they have an allergen menu to begin with, it makes it easier to order even if it’s difficult to find something that is both vegan and also somewhat satisfying.

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
So, on the first page, vegans cannot have:
Appetizers
Soups & More
Salads (unless you omit the meat and cheese and eat it with NO dressing)
Sandwiches
everything on the Taste & Share Menu

But that’s only the first page.

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
You are in for a treat because on page two there are ALL KINDS of vegan options. And by all kinds, I mean there are two things. Skip over all the main dishes,

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
and you can have a side of fresh broccoli or ginger lime slaw. But if you have a sympathetic server,

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
she might let you order a double portion from the kid’s menu, even though it’s technically only for those 12 and under. Here we have the possibility of pasta with marinara (maybe you could add a side of that fresh broccoli from the grownups menu!), a fruit cup, or mandarin oranges. My little nephews did seem to enjoy the fruit cup.

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
The prices aren’t bad, either.

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
While my family enjoyed their appetizers, I had a tiny side of ginger lime slaw. I couldn’t taste any ginger or lime, but with a little salt it wasn’t bad. I was thinking of doing the pasta and broccoli for my dinner,

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
but then I saw this and figured I could just have chips & salsa with guacamole. The chips came out warm like they were freshly fried, but they didn’t have any of the greasiness of just-fried food, so I dunno…if they were fried I’m sure it was in a shared fryer, but the server didn’t mention it.

Vegan Menu TGI Friday
Not much to get excited about here. The guacamole wasn’t bad, just needed a little salt (doesn’t everything?). The server brought me out another little side of guac with about half the amount as the first – I think she felt sorry for me.

I think it’s kind of sad they obviously are aware there are people who need to avoid all these things, but then they don’t even bother to add at least a couple suitable menu items, or at least make it clear which items “may contain traces of” which some people wouldn’t find too objectionable. What’s the deal, Fridays?

Although the service was good, I would definitely recommend vegans avoid this place if at all possible. It’s just too hard to order. When we finished hanging out with the family, my brother and I headed over to Stella’s where I happily ordered vegan onion rings with vegan ranch dressing, and vegan Poor Man’s Potato Wings along with MORE vegan ranch dressing! I hope Fridays gets with it.

UPDATE: The Fridays in downtown Grand Rapids, MI is closing. Bet they would have gotten a ton more business if they were more vegan-friendly like so many other restaurants in our lovely city :p

UPDATE #2: Vegan @ TGI Fridays UK
I didn’t know Fridays is an international chain. I just looked at their UK menu and was surprised to see at the bottom of the page they have symbols for “suitable for vegetarian” and “suitable for vegan”. Now, if they have a “suitable for vegan” symbol you’d expect to see it next to a few vegan options, right? Well, sorry to disappoint. They have a vegan symbol, but no vegan options! I couldn’t the symbol actually used anywhere on the menu. Is this a joke???

Wolfgang's

I guess I wasn’t quite finished with my week of restaurants. This is from a while ago now, when my family and I visited the infamous Wolfgang’s in Eastown.

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See? It really is Wolfgang’s.

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Ooooh, look at all the FREE CONDIMENTS. And water. Really I was just very happy to see the little bottle of Frank’s.

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I ordered the Forsyth, “A skillet of seasoned redskin potatoes, broccoli, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes topped with cheddar cheese and served with a side of hollandaise.” Except I omitted the cheese, and had mine served with a side of guacamole.
I like that it’s served right in the skillet. Although it was nothing special, the veggies tasted fresh and were cooked perfectly – not too mushy, not too crispy.
I do wish they’d add vegan pancake and waffle options because I *love* to carb up, but I would get the skillet again. I think you could also modify a burrito, or go a la carte with seasoned redskin potatoes, hashbrowns, fruit, and possibly a bagel with guac and/or salsa (not sure if the bagels are vegan).

The service was pretty good, too. Somehow there was a mix up and our waitress forgot about us, but the manager was very apologetic, took our order, and everything went smoothly from there. Definitely a place I’d recommend if you’re looking for breakfast in Eastown.

Derby Station Does Meatless Mondays and More

So, one of the cool things about Derby Station is their Meatless Monday special.

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When I saw Meatless Monday items on the menu, I thought they were only available on Mondays – but NO. They’re available all week long, but on Monday they are half off! Awesome. There’s a main menu that stays the same, and another menu with specials.

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Here’s a really terrible picture of the specials menu. Not every vegan/vegetarian item is half on Mondays, so be sure to look for the items that actually say Meatless Monday.

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Crabless Cakes.

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The Crabless Cakes are made with chickpeas. As you can see, the presentation is lovely.

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They also had a pleasant texture – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. But they don’t taste like crab at all. They taste like just what they are – chickpeas! That would have been really disappointing, except the taste is wonderful. Just don’t expect a seafood flavor.

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An abomination to hummus purists everywhere, the hummus trio consisting of roasted garlic, roasted red pepper, and a rotating flavor is the perfect shared snack for [cough cough] people of non-Middle Eastern descent, or just enough for one of my people ๐Ÿ™‚ What you have to realize is we make huge bowls of hummus and eat it in one sitting (with lots and lots of pita bread only), so this really is just a little snack. Definitely save it for Meatless Monday when you can get it for $3.75.

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The fries. They are not marked as vegan on the menu because they’re served with an aioli, but just ask for a vegan version.

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Veggie Boneless Wings, made in-house, and as far as I can tell they are soy-free and lentil-based. These don’t have the texture or taste of real wings, they have a clean taste and the BBQ sauce makes them wing-ish. Definitely recommend! And they’re great with the vegan aioli and pickled veggies seen here making the plate look fabulous.

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I don’t see this on the menu anymore, but it was a tempeh jerk with vegan cornbread,

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and some sort of vegan slaw.

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“Green Lentil Vegetarian Burger with Caramelized Onions, Red Cabbage Slaw & Chipotle Vegannaise on a Brioche Roll”. This was Mumra’s so I only got to try one bite, but it was AMAZING.

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“House-made Veggie Meat Loaf, Garlicky Smashed Potatoes, Roasted Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, Spinach, Peppered Mushroom Gravy”. Again, this was Mumra’s, but the bite I had was wonderful. And again, it doesn’t taste like meat, but is made with very clean ingredients, with earthy flavors, and has a great taste all its own.

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Beet Sliders. I’m not a huge fan of beets, but since I’ve never had anything bad at Derby Station I decided to give them a try. They’re super messy to eat, but worth the embarrassment ๐Ÿ™‚ Not sure what they marinated the beets in, but they no longer tasted like dirt by the time they made it on these buns. The vegan aioli made an appearance again – I think it can only make everything taste better. No matter what it is. I would like to see the chef put it in a dessert.

Sooooooooo, in case you haven’t figured it out, Derby Station is definitely a great spot to try a wide variety of vegan options (even more than what’s shown here!), and you can get a great deal stopping in on Monday. Have you tried Derby Station yet? What’s your favorite veggie item???

Global Infusion

If you’ve been to Marie Catrib’s, you may have noticed Global Infusion in the cute little strip mall across the street on Diamond. In all these years, I’d never been inside!

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Until just the other day. It was a very cold day and Mumra and I were out running errands. We stopped in at Global Infusion to warm up with a hot beverage.

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There are plenty of options on the drink menu, including organic fair trade coffee, and Grand Rapids-made kombucha by Bloom Ferments & Hop Soda by Proper Soda.

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There’s also a wall of shelves filled with jars of various flavors of tea – more than I can list here, this is only about half!

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Since Mumra is a huge fan of quickly ordering before I even have a chance to read the menu, I just ordered whatever she did: the Red Blush Chai with almond milk. It was actually kind of spicy and not too sweet, great for the cold weather.

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I tried this fermented tea on my second visit, it has a nice smoky flavor.

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They have baked goods from Marie’s available, as well as lots and lots of chocolates (some of which are vegan). And that’s not all…

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They also have TONS of fair trade merchandise, so it’s a great place for gift-buying or just treating yourself! Check out the “A Featured Supplier” section of their website to see how your purchase can help people around the world.

Mandarin Chinese Restaurant Buffet

So, I normally only post about restaurants I would recommend. And oddly, most of the restaurants I would not recommend have poor lighting, so I end up not having any pictures even if I wanted to do a post! Unfortunately for Mandarin Buffet, they have a very well lit restaurant.

Mumra and I stopped in one afternoon after a day of running errands. We had both skipped breakfast and were quite hungry.

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I mean really hungry. As you can see, Mumra filled two large plates with any and everything that appeared to be at least almost vegan, plus a little plate of veggie sushi, and a bowl of miso soup.

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I tried to be a little more discerning. I went with green beans in garlic sauce, a couple vegetarian spring rolls, some sort of tofu, bean sprouts, and the vegetable delight. I also had my own little plate of veggie sushi.

They only had one kind of veggie sushi, just the stuff with carrots and cucumber. My favorite, avocado, was MIA ๐Ÿ™ But it was okay for buffet sushi. The wasabi appeared to be the kind mixed with mayo, so I skipped it.

The vegetables were actually pretty good, especially the green beans. The spring rolls were kind of like the ones I bought from the dollar store – not a bad taste, but not great, and with hardly any filling inside. That did not stop me from eating five of them (three of my own, plus two Mumra refused to eat). But the fact I *could* eat five of them tells you how skimpy they are.

And then there was the tofu…it was silken tofu, and it basically tasted like nothing, but a little worse, and had an awful, mushy texture. The sprouts were not much better. They were way overcooked and limp, and just kind of clumped together. The sauce on them was okay, so I think both dishes could’ve tasted alright if they were properly cooked. I wish they had used a firm (NON-silken) tofu, frozen & thawed it, and marinated it in the sauce before cooking.

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This is the stuff Mumra couldn’t choke down. I admit she’s pickier than I am when it comes to restaurant food, but… This was pretty bad. I didn’t try the soup, but she said it basically tasted like water.

By the way, the food shown on the Mandarin Chinese Restaurant website looks absolutely nothing like anything we saw. Maybe the stuff made fresh off the menu is better, or maybe they’re better at non-veg stuff. I dunno. But I would definitely recommend Ming 10 over Mandarin when you’re in the mood for a Chinese buffet.

Loaded Potato Pizza at Brick Road Pizza

Brick Road Pizza is nothing new to this blog, but recently they added new menu items. Mumra and I could not resist trying them out.

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This is what I was interested in: The Loaded Potato Pizza. Carbs on delicious carbs. It ain’t cheap, but it’s worth it on some special occasion when you have a few extra bucks. Or when your mumra just wants to get out of the house.

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We started with the vegan goat cheese, served with yummy garlic toast. It’s basically just a soft cream cheese with pesto in marinara sauce, but the flavors combined are wonderful.

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And then there is the loaded potato pizza (with characteristic burnt crust, my one pet peeve when it comes to Brick Road!).

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Potato, bacon bits, cheddar, sour cream & green onions. I don’t know why it’s so much fun to put actual food on pizza instead of regular toppings. Maybe because you get to eat it with your hands. Whatever the case, this pizza was wonderful.

Looking forward to trying the other new items. Anyone else checked out the new menu yet?

Part of my Restaurant Week 2014

Thai Express

My first visit to Thai Express was so long ago, I didn’t even have the blog yet. That is far too long if you ask me. Luckily, I made a return visit recently.

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I realize this is not the best picture. I was parked out back, it was snowy and cold, and I didn’t feel like going around to the front to get a picture! But aren’t you more interested in the food?

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The meals come with one fried spring roll, and they have both vegetarian and non-veg. Our waitress remembered what each of us ordered and brought out one of each kind accordingly.

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I had the stir fried vegetables “in special house sauce” with tofu. Each dish is made to order, you can customize it any way you want! I only ordered a 4, but it still had the kind of heat that kind of burns in the back of your throat. And made me choke a little. I felt like a huge wimp when I heard the ladies at the table behind ours order all 9s and 10s. Anyway, a little choking didn’t take away from the wonderful taste of the food – veggies were nice and fresh, and still a little crisp. The tofu had a great texture and flavor.

Service was also great. Besides remembering I ordered a vegan meal, the waitress was friendly and the food came pretty quickly. The decor is nothing special, but the restaurant was clean and had a cozy hole-in-the-wall feel.

Now, unfortunately, the fortune cookies are made with eggs. However, I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside.

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I’m still waiting on this mysterious “blonde from afar.” Meanwhile, I’m happy to recommend Thai Express for anyone near the Kentwood/Grand Rapids border. Thai Express is located in the Town & Country plaza, in the same lot as Mediterranean Island and Gursha.

Vegan Sofritas at Chipotle

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Not too long ago, Chipotle restaurants in Michigan finally started selling Sofritas. Hooray!! And I recently had a chance to try it.

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Sofritas comes from sofrito, a Spanish word meaning, โ€œgently fried.โ€ In Spanish and Latin American cooking, sofrito is an aromatic combination of sautรฉed garlic, peppers, onions, and tomatoes often used as a base for stews, rice and beans, and meat dishes.

(Thanks, google!)

As you can see, the Chipotle sofritas is made of tofu braised with chipotle chilis and roasted poblano peppers. Ordering tofu always seems a little scary to me because it was just recently tofu went mainstream, and people figured out how to prepare it in a way that actually tastes good. Still, every time I order tofu I try not to get my hopes up. I expect it to taste, well, kind of like Nothing.

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I always enjoy watching the burrito artist try to wrap my burrito. I had black beans, rice, salsa, veggies, guacamole, and the star of the show…a big ol’ spoonful of Sofritas. I have no idea how anyone eats these things without making a huge mess.

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Anyway, I’m giving the Sofritas an A+. There was no weird tofu texture, I’m not even sure I would’ve guessed it was tofu if I hadn’t known. And by braising it, the tofu really absorbed all the flavors. It had a mild taste that reminded more of tomatoes than peppers, but in a very good way. The veggie burritos are pretty filling anyway, but with the addition of Sofritas and a side of chips & salsa, I didn’t need to eat dinner after having this for lunch.

In case you’re wondering about the other ingredients, here’s the Special Diet Information from Chipotle’s website.

Have you tried the Sofritas yet? What did you think?

Part of my Restaurant Week 2014

Restaurant Week!!!! 2014


Well, I’ve been saving up all kinds of posts about restaurant visits, mostly because I’ve been too lazy to write anything. Now that I’ve got enough for at least one a day for a week, I’m just going to take it easy in the kitchen and get all these restaurant reviews posted! If you’re looking for vegan food in Grand Rapids, this is your lucky week ๐Ÿ™‚ And be sure to also check out my Vegan in Grand Rapids page.

Lindo Mexico Restaurant

Last week, Mumra and I were driving around 28th street when we passed this little Mexican restaurant and decided to check it out.

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Lindo Mexico Restaurant. It was at an odd hour on Monday, so not many people around…

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There’s just the one entrance on the side of the building, you go up the ramp to get in.

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Cute place. I’m not sure why we hadn’t been here before!

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As usual, we were starving (in a first world way). Luckily the menu is very vegan-friendly!

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Chips and salsa (mild & hot) were free! We ordered a small bowl of guac, and bean dip – refried beans with onions and cilantro on top. The beans are cooked with vegetable oil, but you’ll have to ask for no cheese to keep it vegan. If you’re a salt person, you may have to add salt to both the beans and guacamole. I did…I love salt.

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You could almost have a meal with just the appetizers, but we decided to try the vegetarian burritos.

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The one in the foreground is mine, with a mild red sauce. Mumra’s in the background has the spicy green sauce, and is topped with onions and jalapenos. Once again, to keep it vegan ask for no cheese and no sour cream.

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The burritos were really filling because of the rice. We added avocado to kind of replace the dairy, but it wasn’t necessary at all. The veggies inside were more traditional: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini. They were nice and tender, the cauliflower was my favorite. The mild red sauce really was very mild, I ended up adding a little hot sauce. Adding a bit of the red salsa was good, too.

We liked everything about the place. Our waitress was very friendly and happy to answer questions about the menu, and make whatever changes we wanted. The prices were reasonable, the portions big enough for Mumra to bring leftovers home. I shamefully ate all my food even though I should’ve stopped halfway through the burrito.

Hopefully we’ll be back sometime for Happy Hour, or the Tuesday night drink special featuring a bucket of Coronas ๐Ÿ™‚