Monday, January 30, 2012

Road Trip! Sweet Tomatoes in Pleasant Hill

I had lunch last week at one of the Sweet Tomatoes restaurants, a national chain that also includes Souplantation restaurants. Sweet Tomatoes is similar to Fresh Choice in that it's an all-you-can-eat buffet with a salad bar, soups, pastas, pizzas, breads, and desserts. It offers several vegan selections, but unlike Fresh Choice, it doesn't tell you what they are, at least not through the use of any signage at the restaurant. So if you are planning a trip to Sweet Tomatoes and want to know what you can eat, you'll have to either read the nutritional information on their website ahead of time, ask the restaurant staff when you get there, or take this article with you, since I list below all of the items on the Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation menu that they have identified as vegan.

Salads

Field of Greens: Citrus Vinaigrette
Mandarin Spinach with Carmelized Walnuts
Strawberry Fields with Carmelized Walnuts
Thai Peanut & Red Pepper
Thai Udon & Peanut
100% Whole Wheat Arugula Citrus
100% Whole Wheat Spicy Asian Peanut Salad
Aunt Doris' Red Pepper Slaw
Baja Bean & Cilantro
Dijon Potato with Garlic Dill Vinaigrette
Italian White Bean
Lemon Rice with Cashews
Mandarin Noodles with Broccoli
Mandarin Shells with Almonds
Provencal Green Bean & Potato
Roasted Potato with Chipotle Chile Vinaigrette
Spicy Southwestern Pasta
Summer Barley with Black Beans
Sweet & Sour Broccoli Slaw
Sweet Marinated Vegetables
Tabouli
Thai Citrus & Brown Rice
Three Bean Marinade
Tomato Cucumber Marinade

Soups

Classical Minestrone
Indian Lentil
Ratatouille Provencal
Santa Fe Black Bean Chili
Sweet Tomato Onion
Vegetarian Harvest

Hot Pastas and Kitchen Favorites

Salsa de Lupe
Sauteed Balsamic Vegetables

Not all items are served every day. For example, the only vegan soup they were serving when I was there was the Sweet Tomato Onion soup, which I decided to skip since I don't care for onions. Several of the vegetarian soups seemed like they ought to be vegan, but when I asked the staff, I was told that they were not. In addition, none of the breads or desserts at Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation are listed as vegan in the nutritional information on their website, although sourdough bread is usually a safe bet for vegans. They do have a limited selection of fresh fruit at their dessert station.

I sent an e-mail to the Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation corporate office asking for clarification about why certain items that appear to be vegan are not listed as such. I received a response that didn't really answer the question. However, the response did indicate that each restaurant has a complete ingredient list called the Product Information Binder. So if you're visiting one of their restaurants and see something that you'd really like to try, but which isn't listed as specifically vegan, you may want to ask to see the Product Information Binder in order to find out if the menu item includes any ingredients that you prefer not to eat.

There are no Sweet Tomatoes or Souplantation restaurants in the Sacramento area, although there are several in other parts of California and in numerous other states. More information about restaurant locations, hours of operation, and menu items is available at http://www.sweettomatoes.com/.



Sweet Tomatoes on Urbanspoon

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