Wednesday, December 29, 2010

St. Dames

I recently went to St. Dames, the new vegetarian restaurant in Columbia city, to celebrate my birthday. This means I was poised to order everything from drinks to dessert and I had my expectations set high. Upon entering the restaurant, I was excited to see that the owners had done a pleasing job of creating a cozy, stylish, hip ambiance with plenty of booths, art, and careful lightening, none of which was a given considering the location in the somewhat characterless new mixed-use buildings just north of the Columbia City Light Rail station.

We started with drinks, and I ordered the St. Cinnamon, one of many tasty sounding specialty cocktails offered in addition to a full bar. It was made with muddled pear, bourbon, and cinnamon infused simple syrup, and was just the sort of slightly spicy, slightly fruity cocktail that I love. And for a fancy bar drink, it was reasonably priced too at $8.

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you are probably aware of the rarity of looking at a menu on which every item is actually available to you. The need to *choose* something off of a menu is an unaccustomed pleasure, and I scratched my head for a good long while as I debated the merits of just about every delicious looking item offered. I ended up choosing a butternut squash gnocchi with a side of braised kale, and my dining companion ordered a portobello cheese steak sandwich on homemade baguette. Both were delicious, wholesome and beautiful. YES.

Gnocchi with grilled vegetables, toasted hazelnuts and feta cheese along side a huge delicious mound of lightly braised, wonderfully seasoned kale.

Just about every item on the menu is either vegan, or can be made vegan. Many items are gluten free. They bake all of their own (deliciously gluten-filled) bread. They allow you to substitute side dishes however you desire, which is pretty exciting because I want to try just about every one of them: braised kale, whipped veggies, french fries, roasted vegetables, etc. AND, they are doing everything with an eye towards sustainability.

Marinated portobellos, grilled peppers and onions, melted provolone and lettuce on a fresh homemade baguette, along side fries and what tasted like homemade ketchup.

The gals running the place were so friendly and hard working it made me love it all even more. I get the feeling they are still refining aspects the menu and service, but they were completely sweetly accommodating to my requests (for example, butter for my bread).

Chocolate mousse pie (vegan, I think), with a nice optional dollop of real whipped cream.

I can't say enough good things about this place. The last time I got my hopes up for a new vegetarian restaurant was for Plum, which was so dissapointing on my visit I've not given it a second chance. The fact that St. Dames is in my own neighborhood is just icing on the cake.

When people ask me "What do vegetarians eat?" I'd like to steer them right on over to St. Dames, where the dishes are composed to stand on their own as complete, delicious, and not based around re-creating meat dishes with manufactured meat substitutes. It's the kind of food I would cook at home if I had endless time and skill to put into it, and I am absolutely thrilled to have these gals willing and able to do it for me!

I really really wish success for this place, go there and eat and let me know what you think.

St. Dames on Urbanspoon

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