Monday, June 9, 2014

California Pizza Kitchen

I usually prefer to blog about independent, locally-owned restaurants. But there are times when I find myself dining at a chain restaurant, especially when I'm traveling, and I think it's useful to know ahead of time whether the menu will be vegan-friendly or not.

California Pizza Kitchen recently renovated their Market Square at Arden Fair location and invited food bloggers to sample items from their new menu. I wasn't able to attend, but I checked their website to see if they had any vegan options. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they have created a whole page devoted to accommodating the needs of vegetarians and vegans.

I stopped by last week to check it out. To facilitate the ordering process, I printed out the vegan information to take with me to the restaurant. The first item I ordered was the Shaved Mushroom + Spinach Flatbread without the cheese, which was very good. You'll want to ask your server to remind the chef that no cheese means no Parmesan garnish either.

I also ordered a Roasted Veggie Salad. The only modification that was needed was to request a different dressing, since the Dijon balsamic vinaigrette normally served with it is not vegan. I chose the fat-free balsamic, which was perfect. This was a wonderful salad, consisting of Romaine, artichoke hearts, avocado, corn, eggplant, asparagus, peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes. Since I was having the flatbread too, I ordered the half-sized salad, which turned out to be a fairly large portion. I would never have been able to finish a full salad.

Here are a few basics you may want to remember if you decide to give California Pizza Kitchen a try.

* All of their pizza crusts are vegan, but the only vegan sauces are the pizza marinara, vegetarian black bean, and spicy marinara.

* The pasta noodles are vegan except for the multigrain penne, which contains egg. None of the pasta sauces listed on the menu are vegan, but you can order the off-menu tomato basil sauce.

* Many of the salads can be made vegan by omitting the meats and cheeses, but only three of the dressings are vegan: fat-free balsamic, lemon herb vinaigrette, and hoisin ginger vinaigrette.

* The only vegan soup is the Dakota Smashed Pea + Barley Soup. There are no vegan sandwiches or desserts.

* Some items, such as the White Corn Guacamole + Chips or the Tuscan Hummus are vegan without needing any modifications. Other items, such as the Lettuce Wraps, can easily be made vegan by leaving out non-vegan ingredients.

I appreciate the steps that California Pizza Kitchen has taken to make it so easy for vegans to order from their menu. It seems like it would be easy enough for other restaurants to do the same thing, and I hope that this is the start of a trend.

California Pizza Kitchen has both national and international locations. More information is available on their website at