Finding vegetarian-friendly dining options in NH

Local restaurants are offering delicious meat-free dishes for the entire family



Eating less meat is better for the environment and better for our health, experts say. But cheeseburgers and steak are really, really tasty. Thankfully, chefs around New Hampshire are making meatless dishes more delicious than ever, so that – at least one or two days a week – adults and kids alike can easily pass on the meat.   

Fortunately chefs are making sure that going meatless doesn’t mean your only option is a mediocre salad. Vegetarian dishes can include everything from vegetable-filled pasta dishes to vegetarian burgers to pizzas piled high with non-meat toppings – and yes, even salads that are more interesting than boring.

“We have a Wood-Fired Vegetable Salad that makes a great meal,” said Katie O’Brien, human resource and guest relation manager of Lui Lui in Nashua and West Lebanon. “It has balsamic-glazed vegetables, [including] zucchini, squash, carrots, peppers, broccoli and mushrooms.”

At Lui Lui, the vegetarian-friendly options also go well beyond the salad offerings. Kids and adults will also both love light yet satiating dishes such as the Mediterranean Flatbread, topped with marinated plum tomatoes, Greek olives, feta, mozzarella and scallions, as well as the eggplant parmesan.

“Our eggplant parmesan is very popular,” O’Brien said. “We slice the eggplant thinly so it is nice and crispy from the breading.”

Having a meatless meal can be tricky for the pickier, younger eaters in your brood, but when all else fails: comfort food is a good go-to.

“I believe that a lot of vegetarians come to us because they can be bored with the normal vegetarian options, and Mr. Mac’s provides something that is different and satisfying,” said Mark Murphy, vice president of operations at Mr. Mac’s in Manchester and Portsmouth.

Most kids would not be too bummed to dine at a restaurant that specializes in macaroni and cheese, which is why Mr. Mac’s is a safe bet for all the palates in your family. While Murphy points out that their most popular entrée is the Classic All-American mac and cheese, guests can also add a variety of vegetables to their pasta for a nutritional boost.

“[One of our] most popular vegetarian options is our Jalapeño Popper Mac,” Murphy said. “This mac has chopped jalapeños mixed with Cabot’s mild cheddar, American and Muenster cheeses, and then topped with more cheese and breadcrumbs.”

For adults looking for a lighter bite while the kids dig into their cheese-laden pasta creations, Mr. Mac’s also offers customized salads to help balance out the meal. Anything from pickles to onions to broccoli can be added to a salad to increase the satiety factor.

“What most parents will do is get a large salad and share with the family before the meal or as a side,” Murphy said. “Popular combinations tend to be a salad loaded up with other veggies.”

In Hanover, Molly’s Restaurant also makes a macaroni and cheese dish that’s popular with kids, and their kids’ menu highlights meat-free, healthful options such as apples with peanut butter.

“In addition, Molly's Super Food Salad is also a great vegetarian seller on our menu,” said Justin Hoyt, chef at Molly’s Restaurant. The Super Food Salad consists of kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radicchio, avocado, and Napa cabbage, topped with fresh tomato and almonds and served with green goddess yogurt dressing on the side.

While Molly’s house-made black bean burger isn’t the most popular menu item with the little diners, it’s a big hit for adult patrons looking for a meat-free option.

“We made the decision to stay with our own in-house black bean burger to make sure we use all fresh ingredients and have no additives that are [often] found in the pre-made burger patties you find in the stores,” Hoyt said.

Bean burgers and vegetable-loaded pasta not your thing? Other easy-to-find meatless alternatives – that are ideal for any palate and age – include classics like falafel, vegetarian chili, vegetable quesadillas, and caprese sandwiches, made with mozzarella, basil, and tomato, to name a few.

Whether you’re looking to become a full-time vegetarian or just want to cut back on the meat a few times a week, meatless dishes have become a lot more exciting over the last few years. From inventive salads to gourmet mac and cheese loaded with vegetables, there are plenty of meat-free options across the state that the whole family can enjoy.   

Michelle Lahey is a food writer who was born and raised in New Hampshire. She also blogs about food at www.ahoppymedium.blogspot.com.

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