Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Thanksgiving turkey. Steaks on the cover of the Las Vegas Weekly. Christmas hams.
Can a vegetarian get no reprieve?
‘Tis the season of eating, which for most people means heaping plates of meat and butter-drenched sides. But some of us — about 5 percent nationally — prefer to see cows lounging in fields or adorning manger scenes, not stuck to the business end of a fork.
For vegetarians (no meat, chicken or fish) and vegans (no animal products of any kind, including eggs and dairy), here's a taste of some local restaurants that specialize in animal-free cuisine:
5115 Spring Mountain Road, #203, Las Vegas
The menu at Veggie House doesn’t sound vegetarian, but it is. Feast on beef, chicken, pork, fowl or fish that no animals had to die to create.
The "meats" are made from gluten or soy. Try spicy veggie gluten kidney ($6.50), bean sprouts with veggie ham ($8.50) or Kung Pao squid ($10.95). The house specialty is Chef Kenny's Spicy Crispy Beef ($10.95).
Wash down dinner with a sweet treat. Vegan mango ice cream with sticky rice was a recent dessert special.
Veggie House looks like a typical Chinese restaurant, with a little quirk. Fake birds adorn decorative branches and chirp to background music. The front door lists the restaurant’s hours as 11:28 a.m. to 9:33 p.m.
Go Raw Café
2381 E. Windmill Lane, #18, Las Vegas, or 2910 Lake East Drive, Las Vegas
Nothing in this restaurant is cooked. Go Raw Café features organic, live, vegan cuisine.
The “cheeseburger” ($10.88) is actually a mélange of raw beets, carrots, sunflower seeds and parsley, served on living bread with tomato, lettuce, sprouts, avocado, homemade ketchup and almond “cheese.”
The Very Veggie Sushi ($12.88) is filled with almond cheese, sprouts, carrots, avocado, tomato, cucumber, enoki mushrooms, yam rice, garlic and ginger.
A recent daily soup featured a puree of vegetables with sea kelp noodles.
The restaurant is nothing fancy — it looks more like a health-food store than a sit-down eatery — but the food is among the pricier vegan options in the valley.
On the tables, instead of saltshakers, sit bottles of FortiSalt, a mineral supplement made of sea mineral concentrates that adds flavor to dishes. Books about healthy living and pre-packaged flat breads and energy bars line the shelves.
Go Raw Café, located in the Smith’s plaza, also sells breakfast, smoothies and desserts.
"A treat here can't be that bad for you," a customer pointed out.
3504 Wynn Road, Las Vegas
A sign on the door of Veggie Delight warns carnivores that all offerings are vegetarian and "meat" products are made from gluten or soy.
The restaurant specializes in Vietnamese and Chinese dishes, although American meals, namely sandwiches, also are available.
Try the pork skin hand rolls ($3.99), black vinegar sauce chicken ($8.75) or tuna sandwich ($4.50).
All items can be made vegan, but that carries an additional charge of $1 or $1.50.
Veggie Delight also sells unique slush drinks made from avocado, lychee or durian ($3.25-$4.50).
Although seating is available, customers order and pick up food from a counter. Photocopied pictures of food line the walls.
Also keep in mind that the restaurant accepts only cash.
Pura Vida Bakery and Bystro
1236 Western Ave., Las Vegas
Billed as Las Vegas' first and only 100 percent cruelty-free kitchen, Pura Vida Bakery and Bystro offers made-to-order food from Chef Myra Trabulse.
Even the pickiest vegan, macrobiotic, gluten-free diner can find something yummy to eat.
Meals are made with local ingredients and without preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup or genetically modified ingredients, and chefs use low temperatures to keep microorganisms and enzymes alive.
The menu changes daily depending on what’s in season and available locally.
Customer favorites include the Pura Vida empanadas filled with potatoes, caramelized onions, vegan meat, vegan cheese, peppers, herbs and spices ($10) and the Dark Choco Waffle made with 70 percent fair trade organic cocoa and vegan chocolate chips, drizzled in chocolate and topped with fresh bananas ($13).
A pastry case houses vegan sweets, and Chef Trabulse makes custom vegan wedding cakes to order.
Pura Vida opened last year and is a hit with locals. It is off the beaten path in a mostly industrial area downtown.
3130 E. Sunset Road, Las Vegas
This coffee house offers more than just coffee, although there's plenty of that, too.
Diners hungry for breakfast, lunch or a pastry can choose from an array of goodies.
There's the signature Alien Burrito that includes couscous, vegetarian beans, hummus, spinach, tomato, avocado and red peppers wrapped in a spinach tortilla. Nonvegans can add cheese and a creamy cilantro ranch dressing.
The Nomnom Burrito features eggs, beans, potatoes, cheese, spinach, avocado, cilantro and sour cream.
For lunch, try the chili with soy chorizo or the Tofurky ‘Wich, made with fake turkey, hummus, red peppers and avocado. Add veganaise, a nondairy, egg-free mayonnaise, for an extra kick.
Most meals cost $5.99.
Wash it all down with a vegan coconut eggnog or coffee with your choice of soy, rice or almond milk.
People in a hurry can grab their eats from a drive-thru window. From 5 to 8 p.m., pastries cost $1.
Fresh Mama Café
5875 S. Rainbow Blvd., #104, Las Vegas
Dubbed a “freshetarian café,” Fresh Mama offers raw smoothies, salads, wraps, coffees, teas and raw desserts.
Smoothies ($7.99) are broken down into four categories: “recover” for protein, “hydrate” for electrolytes, “replenish” for nutrition and “boost” for energy.
The Sweet Peach features coconut water, peach meat, agave and SunWarrior (a raw vegan protein), and the Brontosaurus is made from grapes, mango, lemon and kale.
Salads ($7.99) include nut protein; wraps ($7.99) can be housed in Ezekiel bread, rice paper or collard greens; and spreads are made from sunflower seeds, almonds or tahini.
Fresh Mama draws much of its business from customers of a yoga studio located in the same plaza. Members receive discounts and line up for post-workout snacks.
The restaurant also hosts guest lectures on healthy eating and living. On a recent Saturday morning, it was packed with more than 200 people gathered to hear a talk about smoothies.