While small town Oklahoma may still be all about chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes covered in gravy, Norman restaurants are catering to a broader palate these days. Norman eateries serve cuisine from around the world, from the German offerings of Das Boot Camp to a number of Asian selections including sushi, curry and more. But for some folks, alternative cuisine isn’t about taking a break from pizza or a burger with fries. 

In fact, alternative eaters may want exactly a pizza or burger — with a twist. Vegetarians, vegans and the gluten intolerant no longer have to stay home or go hungry. In Norman, there are many eateries serving a wide variety of selections for people with special diets. Perhaps it’s the influence of the university and the confluence of students and teachers from around the globe, not to mention a high level of interest in healthy cuisine.

Whatever the case, the following is a small sampling of the alternative cuisine choices Norman has to offer.

Want a soy latte and a vegan muffin? Head to the Gray Owl Coffee, 223 E Gray St. If you’re trying to avoid both dairy and soy — have no fear — this relaxed coffee shop offers a variety of non-dairy milks. While you relax with coffee and a vegan or vegetarian treat (non-vegs love them too), enjoy the free wifi.

Speaking of downtown eateries, want to drink and eat? McNellies has vegetarian burgers. You can party with your pals, and they don’t even have to know you’re saving the life of a cow somewhere.

The Earth Natural Cafe & Deli, 309 S Flood Ave, was doing plant-based cuisine and catering to special health needs long before anyone else got on board, and nobody does it better. Enjoy a gluten-free meal or a smoothie outdoors on a pretty day, or get it to go and walk across the street to Lion’s Park.

While there are websites that specialize in identifying restaurants that cater to gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan eaters, it never hurts to call ahead and find out what your choices might be. Most places these days offer at least a vegetarian selection, but vegans should approach most veggie burgers at restaurants with caution as many do contain eggs.

For those times when the boss suddenly schedules a work lunch with the staff, ask the server if the restaurant has a special menu for your food choice needs. It’s a growing trend to make selecting those items easier for customers and servers alike.

Several Norman restaurants have special menus for vegetarians, vegans and gluten intolerant that identify which recipes are appropriate or how to order (sans sour cream to go vegan, for example) on a variety of menu items.

Coriander Cafe and Blu Fine Wine and Food are perfect examples. Both have a special menu which outlines which dishes suit vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free needs.

Coriandor Cafe, 323 White St (at Buchanan), is on the Campus Corner and offers quick service and incredibly good Vietnamese style cuisine that includes vegan, oval lacto, take-out and non vegetarian options. Diners chose preparation style, banh mi sandwich, rice bowl, noodle salad, or lettuce wraps, and then add protein choices including tofu for the vegetarian and meat for those non-veg friends who’ve trailed along for the meal.

The menu includes vegetarian egg rolls, papaya salad, and vegan spring rolls, using local produce when possible, and a locally made tofu, all at a price that won’t break the bank.

The free wifi might tempt you to hang out, but be kind, the restaurant is small and someone might just be waiting for your seat.

Blu Fine Wine and Food, 201 S Crawford Ave, serves semi-traditional offerings with a modern twist. Enjoy black bean soup for lunch or bring a date for dinner and take in the atmosphere while munching down on spinach salad. The edgy decor and romantic atmosphere is a sure winner any time of day.

Blu also hosts wine tastings and a plethora of local events. As part of a locally owned and operated group, Blu may have the most offerings of alternative cuisine, but special menus are also available at Campus Corner Blackbird, Jax and The Library. 

For Italian, try Sergio’s, 104 Gray St. or Gaberino’s, 283 34th Ave S.W. Both are family friendly with warm, cozy atmospheres and lots of personal attention. Offerings include vegan and gluten-free.

For Mexican, Chipolte, 1641 24th Ave N.W. is the fast food that doesn’t taste fast. Vegan options include a soyfrito filling made from soy protein or simply customize your order of tacos, burritos or bowls by requesting no cheese or dairy.

Locally owned Misal of India Bistro, 580 Ed Noble Parkway, offers Tandoori dishes including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The food is authentic and the otherworldly atmosphere is intimate, created by the Indian décor.

Keep your doshas in balance with spicy or sweet and moderate fare. The affordable price and wide choice of menu items make for a relaxing meal. Great for lunch or a date-night out.

Joy Hampton

366-3544

jhampton@normantranscript.com

Follow me @joyinvestigates

My passions include yoga, running, swimming, cycling, hiking, nature photography and a love of animals and the natural environment.

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