My parents recently sent me a link to an article in the New York Times about a vegetarian moving to Kansas City. They thought I could relate. Eating out in my homeland definitely got a little trickier when I decided to quit meat. It isn’t a problem in Madison where you can get your (vegan) chili from Weary Traveler minus the beef or macaroni and cheese from Mickey’s Tavern (hold the kielbasa). Things get a little dicier when you head all-points north, south, east and west. And I spend a lot of time traveling around this state with my guitar and harmonica-playing mate. While I may feel better these days (I’m still quite happy with my choice to go meat-free a couple of years ago, even if I didn’t actually mean to do it at the time), I probably used to be more fun. Raw fries with (beef) gravy at Phil Rohrer’s Lunch? Sure! Frozen pepperoni pizza from that tavern in the middle of nowhere? Bring it on! Now I spend a lot more time looking at menus and saying no. But I’ve learned from my mistakes as I’ve spent some very grumpy weekends with low blood sugar, looking for a place to simply serve me some peanut butter on something resembling bread that doesn’t look like it just took a bleach bath. I now travel to Two Rivers with my emergency paper sack snack stash of (vegan) muffins, nuts, apples and Cedarburg cheese from the Willy Street Co-op. I can wake up and grab my breakfast out of the van (even more convenient when we sleep in the van). Ready for lunch? A little place I like to call the paper sack in the van. Dinner time? Beer (or the veggie pizza at Port Sandy Bay if we’re in Two Rivers and it’s acceptable to not eat meat because it’s Friday). Or, there’s always the van. Everyone wins.
When I am headed out of town on a Friday evening for a show with Dan, I usually ask with a hint of desperation in my voice: “What about dinner?” If we don’t know the answer, we make a quick stop at the Co-op before hitting the highway. A couple of weeks ago we were headed to La Crosse, so Dan made a quick call to our friend Pat, who spent several years there. Pat told Dan to take me to a place called the Root Note. Pat must know me well. Conveniently located across the street from the venue where Dan was playing, we parked the car, dropped off the guitars, and ran across the street to the cafe.
I immediately started drooling over the crepes listed on the chalkboard and then my eyes moved to the black bean chili. Dan asked the question I dread asking. “Is your soup vegetarian?” “Our whole menu is vegetarian,” replied the lovely man behind the counter. I wanted to kiss him. I ordered a bowl of the chili with onions and cheese and a bottle of my favorite beer (the brown ale) from the local brewery, Pearl Street, and told him that we would be back for breakfast. The music that night at La Bodega by Gregg “Cheech” Hall and Dan made me tap my foot a little longer and sing along a little louder.
And we went back to the Root Note for breakfast.
Oh, did we go back for breakfast. There was a coconut latte with organic milk.
A crepe with Nutella and bananas.
Another with spinach and an egg.
It was pretty perfect.
There are some fantastic places around the state serving quality vegetarian meals, we just have to seek them out and shout them from the rooftops. Tag. You’re it.