A vegetarian eyes Restaurant Week options

Classic moment on "The Office": At a barbecue at the home of paper salesman Jim Halpert, icy accountant Angela Martin stands in the queue before the grill and deadpans, "I'm a vegetarian." Without missing a beat, Jim helpfully replies, "There's soda inside." With a disgusted sigh, Angela storms away.

Being that Angela is one of the show's least-sympathetic characters, I'm not inclined to empathize with her very often. But as a fellow member of the meatless masses who has put up with more than one limited menu over the years, I'm with her at that moment.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 5% of Americans identify as vegetarians and 2% as vegans. How those numbers hold up in and around Orange County, I don't know. Still, with Newport Beach Restaurant Week set to start this weekend, I found myself curiously perusing the prix-fixe menus on the event's website to see how I (and, more importantly, Angela Martin) would fare during the festivities.

The answer, as it turns out, is pretty well — at least if you go to the right places. Granted, the menus at most venues are heavy on steak, chicken and the like. But here's a sampling of the meatless cuisine available at others:

Zinc Cafe & Market: As any vegetarian knows, one of the hardest things sometimes is to convince carnivorous friends and family to attend a meatless restaurant. If you're able to persuade them, though, this is the place to go: an all-veggie spot with sister locations in Laguna Beach and Solana Beach. The Restaurant Week menu includes stuffed bell pepper, roasted vegetable polenta and a couple of lasagnas. I've never had a bad meal at Zinc, so whatever you choose, just shovel it in, and it's bound to be good.

Crow Burger Kitchen: In grand "Saturday Night Live" tradition, this Balboa Peninsula spot advertises "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger" at the top of its menu. But it also offers an organic garden burger, which the website describes as a "crowburger signature blend of organic vegetables and grains," plus veggie garnishes on a wheat bun.

Tamarind of London: This Indian restaurants offer multiple vegetarian options: vegetable korma, wraps and "naanwiches" (flatbread sandwiches with an assortment of fillings) at the latter.

Yard House: This chain has a wonderful (and incredibly large for a restaurant of its type) menu section based on Gardein, a soy-based chicken and beef substitute. The prix-fixe menu doesn't touch on it, but it does offer a vegetarian taco option in hongos y rajas, which includes shiitake mushrooms, roasted pasilla peppers, grilled onions and more.

That's not a comprehensive list, of course; visit http://www.newportbeachdining.com and check the individual restaurants to see what they're offering. Keep in mind, too, that what appears on the site are only prix-fixe menus. Even restaurants that have all-carnivorous options for Restaurant Week should have at least something vegetarian on the regular menu.

And if not, there's always soda.

MICHAEL MILLER is the features editor for Times Community News in Orange County. He can be reached at michael.miller@latimes.com or (714) 966-4617.

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