A vegetarian-friendly city like San Francisco might seem relatively close, at least in terms of modern transportation. Salt Lake City feels much farther removed than a mere airfare's journey, though. With Utah's roots firmly planted in the history of the Wild West, agriculture and cattle ranching, it's understandable that you're much more likely to encounter a pastrami-laden burger in local restaurants than you would a bean burger.
Vegetarian-centric restaurants seem hard enough to pull off successfully, but consider the bigger challenge of a vegan eatery goodbye to eggs, milk and cheese which is a whole different order of difficulty. Enter Leigh and Rachel Kade and their new Frisch Compassionate Eatery, which opened last summer.
If the pair had doubts about whether local diners would support another vegan restaurant, they were laid to rest after the Kades' initial Kickstarter campaign, which ended May 20. The crowd-funding website helped the couple rapidly raise more than $8,000 in start-up capital from local backers, who made donations ranging from $5 to $200.
The restaurant is located in the old Rico Market building along 500 East. Inside, it's a vibrant affair, abundant in bright yellows, oranges, blues and greens. The front of the building serves as the dining room with a handful of tables and chairs, while in the rear there's a smaller eating area and open kitchen with a counter where you order.
You're likely to be greeted and served by either one of the Kades, who are friendly, funny and charming in equal measures. From the counter, you place your order, grab a drink and take a seat, and your food will be delivered quickly.
The well-edited menu is separated into salads and wraps with a few other sundries and specials. The house-made dips are worth trying. They're offered individually ($4) or a sampling of all four ($8), and they're served with tortilla wedges, veggies or a mix of both. Every one was a hit: a smooth hummus, a spicy red lentil curry, (my favorite) a garlicky white bean and the most unusual dip, a bright green amalgamation of spinach and edamame.
Daily specials bolster the modest menu, and they seem to routinely sell out. On one day where I managed to snag the hearty fall pea soup special ($3), I almost licked my bowl clean.
My favorite selections were wraps, such as the Fancy Boy ($8) and Chantelle's sesame chick'n wrap ($8), filled with a faux chicken substitute that offers a mouth-feel that meat-eaters might like. The Fancy Boy mixes crunchy vegetables with a spicy vegan mayo, while the sesame wrap has a slightly different flavor profile, thanks to Bragg's liquid aminos, sesame seeds and ginger. In a nod to the building's past, the wraps are served on excellent Rico tortillas, and come with a side of tortilla chips, too.
While I'm usually ambivalent about salads, I couldn't ignore the black bean and quinoa Toni ($8), which was amped up with chile, lime, cilantro and tomatoes. I was eagerly recreating the flavors at home several days later.
The restaurant also serves a range of vegan desserts. As a newcomer to the idea of vegan eating, I assume there must be some kind of black magic at work. What else could explain the creamy-sugary goodness of the Twinkie-like Dillos ($2.50, courtesy of Cakewalk Baking Company, 434 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City; 801-953-0804). It's a complete mystery to me about how it's possible to leave out eggs, cream, milk and butter and still produce these bites of heaven. Every choice from the plain Dillo to a zesty lime-shrouded version were delightful. A red velvet cupcake ($2.50) was less successful, as it was somewhat flimsy and unstable.
The simplest and highest praise I can give Frisch, though, is that I'm a full-blown carnivore, and I enjoyed every meal there without thinking about the fact that my chick'n never roamed any pastures.
Tribune restaurant reviewer Stuart Melling blogs at gastronomicslc.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frisch Compassionate Eatery
Food • HHhj
Mood • HH
Service • HHH
Noise • bb
At this new vegan restaurant, owners Leigh and Rachel Kade take care to ensure every menu item is packed with flavor, color and creativity.
Location • 779 South 500 East, Salt Lake City; 801-532-2216,
Online • frischeats.com
Hours • Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.; closed Sunday-Monday
Children's menu • Yes
Prices • $
Liquor • No
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • Yes
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • All major