The Year in Food

The 2014 tastes we just couldn't stop thinking about

Red Star Southern
Red Star Southern (Photo by John Anderson)

Top 10 Vegetarian Dishes

1) SMOKY HEN OF THE WOODS, OLAMAIE I sampled this dish at an early pop-up, and it's what got me excited about the restaurant. Once Olamaie opened its doors, this hearty, flavor-bomb of a dish didn't disappoint.

2) WUNDERSHOWZEN SMOOTHIE, JUICELAND Sometimes you want a smoothie with some heft, one that feels like a treat without sacrificing nutrition. Enter this satisfying concoction with an almond milk base, whizzed with peanut butter, spinach, banana, and hemp protein.

3) BEAN AND CHEESE EMPANADAS, CHAVEZ Sure, there are more substantive things on the menu at Shawn Cirkiel's lakeside restaurant. But sometimes you need a light snack to get you through the afternoon, and these mini puffy tacos hit the spot.

4) MIGAS TACO, VERACRUZ ALL NATURAL In a town lousy with breakfast tacos, how does a taco joint make its migas stand out? By stuffing a tortilla full to bursting with eggs, tortilla chips, cheese, pico, avocado, and magic.

5) ROASTED BEETS, ODD DUCK This seasonal treat features a puff of airy borscht topped with roasted beets, house-made crème fraîche and potato chips, and a few snippets of fresh dill. A triumph of ingredient-driven cookery, this dish may damage friendships as spoons tussle over the last bite.

6) GRILLED PIMENTO CHEESE SANDWICH, RED STAR SOUTHERN The spicy pimento cheese spread melts elegantly into the grilled white bread, providing the perfectly fattening chaser to the cocktails you just imbibed at the Grackle.

7) AVOCADO BUN, EAST SIDE KING Finally, a version of Poor Qui's Buns for the herbivore! Pillowy steamed buns snuggle up with fried avocado topped with spicy mayo and aromatics. A revelation.

8) CRISPY CAULIFLOWER TACO, FORK & TACO At first, I was skeptical about a cauliflower taco, but the marriage of nutty cauliflower, tangy queso fresco, and velvety avocado made me a true believer. The house-made corn tortilla clinched the deal.

9) GARDEN PLATE, NANCY'S SKY GARDEN Don't come here in a hurry, but do come here for a light-yet-filling rainbow array of sliced vegetables and purple rice. Add tofu and peanut soy dressing to round out the meal.

10) TIE: VEGGIE BASKET, PLAYERS; LUCKY SEVEN, VEGGIE HEAVEN The fates have not been kind to UT-area diners at the close of 2014. Both of these beloved, iconic joints were stuffed to the gills in their final hours of operation as patrons said goodbye over their favorite dishes.

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Top 10, Olamaie, JuiceLand, chavez, Veracruz All Natural, Odd Duck, Red Star Southern, East Side King, Fork & Taco, Nancy's Sky Garden, Players, Veggie Heaven

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