America’s fast food culture may have a tendency of trapping college students in a “burger-rut.” However, Chris and Mike Behrend, co-owners of Green Vegetarian Cuisine, are working hard to provide fresh and flavorful options for those interested in healthful dining.
“We’re serving 100 percent vegetarian comfort food to assist people in pursuing healthy vegetarian lifestyles,” Mike says. He explained that he and his brother are both vegetarians. They noticed a glaring lack of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in San Antonio, so in 2006, they opened the city’s first completely vegetarian restaurant.
“We promote vegetarian dining for environmental and ethical reasons,” Mike says. “Following a vegetarian-based lifestyle is better for the animals, the environment, and the people themselves.”
Green Cuisine’s original downtown location enjoyed so much success that the brothers were able to open a new location at the Alon shopping center on N.W. Military Drive in 2011.
“Our new restaurant has been a great success,” Mike says. “We’ve at least doubled our business.” Green Cuisine’s new location serves the same high-quality food as their restaurant downtown and is more accessible to UTSA students living near the main campus.
Green Cuisine serves vegetarian renditions of several classic American comfort foods, substituting meat with textured vegetable protein (TVP). Their signature “Neatloaf” is a novel recreation of the classic meatloaf and is composed of TVP, breadcrumbs, onions and bell peppers and topped with a tangy tomato sauce. The texture of the veggie-loaf is surprisingly similar to that of an actual meatloaf; it is dense and filling, and served next to a mound of mashed potatoes. It is a great dish to accompany a cool fall evening.
Be advised that meat substitutes are not for everyone. Green Cuisine succeeds in building complex flavor profiles with their vegetable products, but one simply cannot recreate the flavor and texture of real meat.
The Neatloaf, however, is savory in its own right: the entrÃ©e is rich and nutty, and the mixture of different vegetables lends a powerful savory flavor to the dish. The dish’s only real downfall is an excessive use of tomato sauce, which has the tendency to mask the loaf’s subtler flavors.
For those who are wary of meat substitutes, Green Cuisine offers a variety of other meatless alternatives, including grain salads, fruit salads, quesadillas and several entrees featuring eggplant and mushrooms. These foods are packed with essential vitamins, proteins and, most importantly, flavor.
In the eggplant parmesan (a delectable fried eggplant served over spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and parmesan cheese), one would not miss the meat; it is the perfect dish for any first timer at Green Cuisine. The huge slices of hearty eggplant are seasoned and pan-fried to perfection, and they work with a deep and zesty tomato sauce to create a perfect harmony of flavor.
The falafel plate, unfortunately, is an uninspiring dish to say the least. It’s a shame that Green Cuisine offers a rather bland and disappointing rendition of the classic fried chickpea patty-a staple of vegetarian cuisine. The falafel was seemingly unseasoned and had no flavor, except for the fried breading.
Try ordering their raw pecan hummus along with the falafel, which can restore some flavor into the chickpea patties. The hummus is complex and delicious, though a bit under-seasoned. Raw pecans give it a distinctive taste and texture.
Green Vegetarian Cuisine offers a welcome change from monotonous, meat-based menus at affordable prices. Next time you feel like eating something fresh and flavorful, make your way out to one of their restaurants.
The original Green Cuisine is located downtown, at 1017 N. Flores. The new location is in the Alon shopping center, at 10003 N.W. Military. For menus or additional information, visit .