The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 62.0°F | Partly Cloudy

RESTAURANT REVIEW

A Vegetarian’s Guide to the MIT Area

A Rundown of MIT Eateries, Local Grocery Stores, and Restaurants

Sonja A. Sharpe

Staff Writer

Now that classes have begun in earnest at MIT, a student’s thoughts typically turn to where to find the fastest, cheapest food in the area. Vegetarians and vegans often have difficulty in this regard, since restaurants close to MIT, and even some on campus, do not all offer a large selection of vegetarian/vegan options. This guide was created to demonstrate the wide variety of vegetarian and vegan cuisine that is indeed available in the Boston/Cambridge area. It should prove most helpful for those incoming students who are new to Boston, but it can also serve as a wonderful tool to those who are just beginning to explore a vegetarian diet and to veterans of vegetarianism or veganism as well.

Only those restaurants that offer a variety of vegetarian options were included. However, Italian restaurants, Indian restaurants, and oriental restaurants, all of which typically have a pretty good variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, were omitted for the sake of brevity, except for one or two exceptional examples of these types of cuisine. Most other restaurants in the area do offer a limited number of vegetarian entrÉes, but typically only the standard ones such as a veggie burger, a salad, or a pasta dish. All of the places mentioned in the guide are accessible from MIT, either by foot or via the T, with the majority being accessible from the red or green lines.

For the purposes of this guide, vegetarian is taken to mean no meat or fish products, but including dairy and eggs. Vegan is taken to mean no animal products at all, but including honey. For more general information about vegetarianism/veganism, there are many vegetarian groups active in the Boston area which provide information about events, recipes, and other issues related to vegetarianism/veganism. The Boston Vegetarian Society is a prime example of this. Their web site, found at <http://www.bostonveg.org/index.html>, is a great place to find out what vegetarian-related events are going on in Boston (for example, the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival will be held on October 13th this year). The site also hosts a long list of links to other vegetarian/vegan-related web sites. MIT even houses its own MIT Vegetarian Support Group. Students are free to subscribe to any of their many e-mail lists, which cover topics from recipes to planned activities and group dinners. The group’s web page (although somewhat outdated) is rather informative and provides a very comprehensive list of links related to vegetarian/vegan issues. Their web site is located at <http://www.mit.edu/activities/vsg/home.html>.

MIT Dining

A comprehensive list of all MIT dining locations, including brief descriptions of the types of food served, can be found at <http://dining.mit.edu/locations/index.html>, while their exact hours of operation can be found at <http://dining.mit.edu/fall/ schedules.html>. The places mentioned below offer a variety of vegetarian options, as opposed to just one or two items. In general, MIT Dining is pretty good about providing vegetarian meals, but vegans will have a more difficult time finding much variety in pre-prepared foods. However, MIT Dining has confirmed that the breads, pita, bagels, and wraps used to make sandwiches are all vegan, and so is the white rice served in the oriental venues on campus. Students who have any suggestions or even recipes that they would like to share with MIT Dining are encouraged to send an e-mail to meal@mit.edu.

Courses Restaurant

Courses offers a variety of vegetarian breakfast options, but vegan options are limited primarily to bagels and fruit. Lunch and dinner provide more opportunities for vegans, since sandwiches, such as the veggie wraps and items prepared on the grill, can be custom ordered. General, vegetarian fare includes a daily vegetarian entrÉe (which may sometimes be vegan), a tofu kabob, a veggie burger, a veggie wrap, a mushroom burger, and salads. Pre-prepared meals, a couple of which are vegetarian, such as the lasagna and the macaroni and cheese, can also be found at Courses.

Stratton Student Center

Lobdell Food Court

The standout here is the Granary, which is all vegetarian, all the time, and even vegans can find something here, since cheese can be left out of many of the dishes. Other highlights include Tortilla Fresca, where students can pick out their own ingredients, the Salad Garden, which is a pretty decent salad bar, and Global Spin, where the rice is vegetarian, the veggies are fried in olive oil, and tofu is readily available. There is also Bene’s Pizza, which offers veggie pizzas (but does not offer no-cheese pizzas), and the Deli, which makes a grilled vegetable sandwich. At least one of the soups or chilies offered daily is also vegetarian, although not necessarily vegan. Even Burger King has attempted to become somewhat vegetarian friendly by offering a vegetarian burger, but students should take note that this only includes the bun and condiments; no patty is included.

Stratton Student Center

Walker Memorial

The food court in Walker is very similar to the Lobdell Food Court in the Student Center. Another version of the Granary is here, as is the Salad Garden, Bene’s Pizza, the Deli, and Jump, an oriental venue offering some vegetarian options. The food court here also sells Odwalla Bars, which are vegan power bars.

142 Memorial Drive

Dome CafÉ (Building 7, 4th Floor), Building 4 Coffee Shop (Infinite Corridor, Building 4), Bio Bagels (Building 68, 1st Floor), East Side CafÉ (Building E19, 3rd Floor), Refresher Course (Sloan Building, 1st Floor)

These cafÉs offer only limited vegetarian fare, typically in the form of bagels, pastries, pizza, yogurt, a salad, a veggie wrap and/or a vegetarian sandwich. The East Side cafÉ does offer several vegetarian breakfast options. There is almost nothing available for vegans at these locations, however.

Food Trucks

The food trucks on campus offer a good variety of vegetarian meals, similar to the Food Courts in Walker and in the Student Center, but cheaper. Four food trucks are located just off of Ames Street on the parking lot side of the Biology Building (Building 68). The options here include Yona’s pizza, which offers several veggie pizzas, Jeruselem CafÉ, which offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan Middle Eastern food, typically wraps and salads, Goosebeary’s, which provides many vegetarian and vegan options, and Jose’s Mexican Food, which offers vegetarian burritos, enchiladas, and nachos. The rice and beans at Jose’s are also vegetarian. A fifth food truck, Couscous Kitchen, is usually parked on Massachusetts Avenue across from the Student Center. Couscous offers Middle Eastern food that is cheaper and contains larger variety of vegetables than Jeruselem CafÉ. There is also a second Chinese food truck parked on Massachusetts Avenue, but it is more expensive than Goosebeary’s and does not offer as many vegetarian selections.

Grocery Stores

LaVerde's

This store is conveniently located on the first floor of MIT’s student center, but it is a bit pricey. The store does have a veggie-friendly deli and veggie pasta salad selections, but offers only limited produce, none of which is organic. However, the Sant’s selection of sandwiches (located with the prepared sandwiches at the front of the store) are made with some organic ingredients, and are all outstanding. All of the varieties (including hummus and black olive, tofu salad, tempeh Reuben, etc.) are vegan except for the eggplant Parmesan and the seitan Parmesan. LaVerde’s also sells soy and rice milk of several varieties, as well as vegan cookies made by Boston Cookies, a company based in Somerville, MA.

Stratton Student Center

617-621-0733

Hours: Mon-Sat 7 a.m.-Midnight Sun 8 a.m.-11 p.m

Harvest Co-operative Supermarket

Located right next to the Central Square T stop, Harvest is a wonderful source for vegetarian, vegan, and organic foods, and it is the health food store most convenient to MIT. Harvest has a wide selection of pre-packaged, easy-to-prepare vegetarian and vegan foods, and membership is not required to shop there. They also have an excellent bulk section, including many different spices, which you can buy in any quantity from a pinch to a pound or more.

581 Massachusetts Avenue (Central Square)

617-661-1580

T: Central Square

Hours: Mon-Sun 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Bread and Circus

Bread and Circus is a national chain of whole and natural food supermarkets. It offers excellent produce and organically grown foods, as well as a variety of eco-friendly household and personal care products, very similar to Harvest Co-op.

115 Prospect Street, between Massachusetts Avenue and Harvard Street

617-492-0070

T: Central Square

Hours: Mon-Sat 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Sun 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Star Market

Although it is a regular chain supermarket, Star offers a rather large selection of health/vegetarian foods in its Wild Harvest section. Organic produce is also available sometimes, but the selection is usually very limited. The closest one to MIT (address below) does carry Wild Harvest products, as does the one at Porter Square, but not all Star Markets offer Wild Harvest selections.

20 Sidney Street, next to University Park Plaza, off of Massachusetts Avenue

617-494-5250

T: Central Square

Hours: Mon-Sun 7 a.m.-Midnight

Restaurants

K2 CafÉ

This restaurant offers by far the most variety of vegetarian and vegan foods available near Kendall Square. There are numerous vegetarian wraps and sandwiches to choose from, and at least one of the soups offered daily is cooked using a vegetable-based broth. They also have a salad bar, pizza, and a large selection of smoothies to sample.

290 Main Street (Kendall Square)

617-583-7000 $6

T: Kendall Square

Hours: Mon-Fri 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Delivery/Take Out Available

Buddha's Delight (Vegan)

This restaurant is a vegan’s paradise, where tofu, wheat gluten and bean curd are massaged and seasoned to approximate the taste of the "chicken, steak, pork, and shrimp" headings found on the menu. No animal products are used in the entrÉes, and although condensed milk may be used in the desserts, coconut milk can be substituted. The food consists primarily of Vietnamese dishes, with the spring rolls and any of the vermicelli dishes being particularly good choices.

3 Beach Street, 2nd Floor (Chinatown)

617-451-2395 $10

T: Chinatown or Downtown Crossing

Hours: Sun-Thu 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Take Out Available

Country Life Vegetarian Restaurant (Vegan)

The vegan buffet in this restaurant is spectacular, featuring a main homemade entrÉe and sides that change daily. Call ahead to see what the menu is for the day, or visit them online at <http://members.aol.com/docvegan/ clife/> to view the menu for the month. EntrÉes aside, the dessert bar is fantastic, with whipped soy cream, carob chips, and soft-serve frozen soycream. The restaurant can be a hassle to get to because of the Central Artery construction project, and the restaurant itself is laid out in a somewhat confusing manner, but the trip is absolutely worth it for the quality of the food.

200 High Street (Financial District)

617-951-2462 (Menu)

617-951-2534 (Main)

Lunch $7.50, Dinner $8.50, Brunch $10

T: South Station or Government Center

Hours: Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Dinner: Tue-Thu 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

Sunday Brunch: 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

Closed Saturdays

Take Out/Catering Available

Milk Street CafÉ (Vegetarian/Vegan)

This cafÉ is a dairy kosher sandwich shop that offers a limited menu of excellent quality food which is served in very generous portions. The cafÉ offers salads and soups, sometimes vegetarian, but not always. However, the cafÉ does provide 13 different kinds of vegetarian sandwiches to choose from, such as Guacamole Passion, Venice Beach (cheese and vegetables), Middle Eastern Wrap (eggplant/hummus/tabbouleh), and South of the Border. For vegans, the cafÉ offers the Portabella Fantasy sandwich, as well as any of the others, minus the cheese.

50 Milk Street (Financial District)

617-542-3663, $8

T: Downtown Crossing

Hours: Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

Catering Available

Helmand (Afghani)

This restaurant offers hearty, highly seasoned cuisine that relies heavily on vegetable-based sauces and an accompaniment of baked rice. The flat bread is typically served hot out of the oven, and is accompanied by cilantro-vinegar, chili-tomato, and yogurt-mint. Vegetarians have many options, including the popular kaddo, consisting of baked sweet baby pumpkin topped with a garlicky yogurt sauce.

143 First Street (by CambridgeSide Galleria)

617-492-4646, $15

T: Lechmere

Hours: Sun-Thu 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

Fri-Sat 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

Take Out Available

King and I (Thai)

This is a great Thai restaurant that will substitute tofu for any meat in any dish. They also cook everything to order, and do not use chicken fat to cook their vegetables (unlike many oriental restaurants). The pad thai with tofu is particularly delicious.

145 Charles Street (Beacon Hill)

617-227-3320 $10

T: Charles/MGH

Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Sun 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Take Out/Catering Available

Fire & Ice Improvisational Grill

(Mongolian-style Barbeque Grill)

This is a fun restaurant for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Patrons chose the ingredients and sauces for their meal (there is a large variety of vegetarian/vegan ingredients), and then take the food to the open grill in the middle of the restaurant to be cooked. Vegetarians and vegans should be sure to take their food to the vegetarian section of the grill, where their meal is cooked separately from everyone else’s. Best of all, the wait at the veggie section of the grill is usually much shorter than for the restaurant’s other patrons.

Two locations:

50 Church Street (Harvard Square)

617-547-9007

T: Harvard Square

205 Berkeley (Back Bay)

617-482-3473

T: Arlington

Lunch $10, Dinner $16

Hours: Sun-Mon 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (bar 1 a.m.)

Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m. to midnight (bar to 1 a.m.)

Take Out Available

The Middle East Restaurant (Middle Eastern Food)

Live music and concerts aside, the Middle East is also a great place to go for home-cooked vegetarian and vegan food. They have a large variety of delicious vegetarian/vegan fare, such as pumpkin kibby, grilled tofu kabob, lentil stew, and baked eggplant. All the food is made from scratch, and the hummus in particular is absolutely outstanding. In addition, Zu Zu Restaurant, the more upscale version of the Middle East restaurant which is located right next door, has a wonderful variety of vegetarian Middle Eastern appetizers.

472 Massachusetts Avenue (Central Square)

617-354-8238, $15

T: Central Square

Hours: Sun-Wed 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

Thu-Sat 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Take Out/Catering Available

Picante Mexican Grill II (Mexican)

This restaurant offers authentic Mexican food, complete with an extensive salsa bar. Several excellent vegetarian entrÉes are offered. The rice and beans are always vegetarian, and lard is never used to prepare any item on their menu. The fresh limeade is also a big hit.

735 Massachusetts Avenue (Central Square)

617-576-6394, $6

T: Central Square

Hours: Sun-Wed 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Thu-Fri 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

Sat 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

Delivery/Take Out/Catering Available

Asmara Restaurant (Ethiopian and East African)

This restaurant is a lot of fun if you like to eat with your hands. Instead of a plate, the stews are served on a large, pancake-like bread called injera, which is set on top of a colorful woven basket-table. What makes the dining experience all the more interesting is that the bread is the only utensil, and is used to scoop up the stew. Many vegetarian and vegan stews are available, consisting primarily of legumes and greens.

739 Massachusetts Avenue (Central Square)

617-864-7447, $12

T: Central Square

Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

Take Out Available