Monday, June 25, 2012

Chipotle Mexican Grill

I had lunch at Chipotle Mexican Grill in West Sacramento with my son Zack over the weekend. While the vegan options there are somewhat limited, it's still very easy to be a vegan at Chipotle.

I had a rice and bean burrito made with black beans, Chipotle's new brown rice option, and salsa. Other items that I could have had on my burrito were the cilantro-lime white rice, sautéed vegetables (onion and bell pepper), and guacamole. It's also possible to order a burrito bowl, which would include the same ingredients but would be served over a bed of lettuce instead of wrapped in a tortilla.

Here's the information for vegans that appears on the Chipotle website: "Vegan Options. You should avoid our pinto beans (they are cooked with a small amount of bacon), meats (obviously), cheese, sour cream, and chipotle-honey vinaigrette."

In addition to the nutritional information that appears on the restaurant's website, Chipotle also has a "Food with Integrity" section that discusses their efforts to use local organic produce grown on family farms to the extent possible. For example, forty percent of the beans they use are organically grown, and they actively seek out local produce suppliers.

Chipotle Mexican Grill is a national chain with several locations in the Sacramento area. More information about their locations or their menu is available at

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ruth's Chris Steak House

It may seem counterintuitive for a steak house to be vegan-friendly. But it's been my experience that I can eat well and with a minimum of fuss when I dine at Ruth's Chris.

I assume I must not be the only vegan or vegetarian that dines there, since the restaurant actually offers a Personalized Potato and Vegetable Selection as one of its entrées. This option allows you to choose three items from among the list of potato and side dishes on their menu. Most of those items are not vegan, but many can easily be made vegan. During my most recent visit, I ordered the baked potato, sautéed mushrooms, and asparagus as my three side dishes. I asked that the mushrooms be sautéed in olive oil rather than butter, and asked that no hollandaise sauce accompany my asparagus. Before I left home, I filled a small container with Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread, and I used that on my baked potato and asparagus. When accompanied by a fabulous glass of Sonoma-Cutrer chardonnay, it was quite a feast!

Other side dish possibilities might include the broiled tomatoes, the sautéed spinach (if sautéed in oil rather than butter), or steamed broccoli. The sliced tomato and onion salad looks as though it could easily be made vegan as well by ordering it without the bleu cheese crumbles.

When it came time for dessert, the server told me that they had a wonderful raspberry sorbet, but I opted instead for the fresh seasonal berries, without the sweet cream sauce that usually accompanies them. It was the perfect way to end the meal.

Ruth's Chris has locations all over the world, but their two local restaurants are at 501 Pavilions Lane in Sacramento or at 1185 Galleria Boulevard, #P-120, in Roseville. More information is available on their website at

Monday, June 11, 2012

Matteo's Pizza and Bistro

My son Zack and I had dinner recently at Matteo's Pizza and Bistro in Carmichael. I was expecting a basic pizza parlor, so I was amazed when I saw the restaurant's incredible wine selection. I ordered the weekly wine flight, which included two ounce pours of Rombauer chardonnay and two fabulous red wines, all for $12.00. That put me in a great mood while I looked over the menu for possible vegan options.

I ordered the hummus appetizer, which comes with garlic flatbread and olive tapenade. The flatbread was baked to perfection, and the hummus and olive tapenade were delicious. One caveat, however -- you'll need to ask that the parmesan garnish be omitted from the flatbread.

For my entree, I ordered the tasty Tree Hugger BLT, which consists of house-made vegetarian portobello "bacon", arugula, and tomato, served on whole wheat walnut sourdough bread. It normally includes white truffle aioli, so you'll want to ask your server to leave off that ingredient.

Other menu items that appear to be vegan or capable of being made vegan include:

Chop-chop Salad (romaine, radicchio, cucumber, carrots, cherry tomatoes, chick peas, and Dijon sherry shallot vinaigrette), if ordered without salami

Arugula Salad (roasted beet, oranges, pistachios, and hibiscus champagne vinaigrette), if ordered without goat cheese

Asian Noodle Salad (soba noodles, Napa cabbage, slaw, cashews, spicy sesame soy vinaigrette)

Spaghetti (vegetable marinara, sun dried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives), if ordered without feta cheese

Greek Vegetarian Pizza (roasted sweet peppers, kalamata olives, pesto, mixed greens), if ordered without mozzarella or feta cheese

Zack and I were fortunate that we arrived fairly early (before 6:00) for dinner, because people were waiting for tables by the time we left. We were happy to have discovered this lively neighborhood restaurant.

Matteo's is located at 5132 Arden Way in Carmichael. Their phone number is 916-779-0727, and their website address is The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m, and on Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Matteo's is closed on Monday.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lucca Restaurant and Bar

I heard last week that Lucca Restaurant and Bar had created a new "Vegan Options" menu, so my husband and I had dinner there Saturday night to give me a chance to check it out. When I looked at the menu and realized what they had done, I thought it was such a great idea that I don't know why more restaurants don't do the same thing.

What the kitchen staff at Lucca's had apparently done was to simply look at their existing menu to see what could be made vegan by removing certain ingredients. They didn't create any new dishes -- they just adapted some of their regular dishes and made them vegan.

For example, I ordered the Patchwork Salad to start (although it was a big salad and could practically have been a meal on its own). Both the regular and the vegan versions consist of romaine, radicchio, dried cherries, apple, sweet peppers, and toasted pistachios, tossed with a golden balsamic vinaigrette. The only difference between the regular and vegan Patchwork Salads is that the regular version also includes Northern Gold cheese.

For my main course, I ordered the Spicy Penne, a penne pasta dish that includes baby artichokes, olives, capers, roasted tomato, garlic, and chili flakes. The same ingredients are in the regular version, but it also includes seasoned bread crumbs. In the past, I've ordered the regular version and just asked that the bread crumbs be omitted, but I think it's a stroke of genius that the staff at Lucca's decided to make things easy on their vegan clientele, not to mention their servers, by just creating a separate listing of vegan options to take the guesswork out of ordering.

Since their vegan menu hasn't been posted on their website, I scribbled the items into my notebook while I was waiting for the server to take our order. Here are the items on Lucca's new "Vegan Options" menu:


Frites -- parsley, sea salt, spicy harissa sauce
Lucca House Chop Salad -- romaine, radicchio, lemon oregano vinaigrette
Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad -- mizuna, watercress, toasted pistachios, coriander citronette
Patchwork Salad -- romaine, radicchio, dried cherries, apple, sweet peppers, toasted pistachios, golden balsamic vinaigrette


Sautéed Spinach with garlic and grilled lemon
Sautéed Broccolini with fresh chili and garlic
Grilled Asparagus with fresh lemon


Spicy Penne -- baby artichokes, olives, capers, roasted tomato, garlic, chili flakes
Stuffed Sweet Peppers -- brown rice, canario beans, zucchini, spinach, basil marinara
Pasta Marinara -- choice of spaghetti, linguini, fettucini, or penne pasta with sweet basil marinara

What a treat to have so many vegan options to choose from at a non-vegan restaurant! You'll need to ask for the vegan menu, though, as it is not part of the regular menu.

Lucca Restaurant and Bar is located at 1615 J Street. Their phone number is 916-669-5300, and their website address is They are open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from noon to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.