Swee Sin and his wife Lisa stood next to a table, with glowing smiles on their faces. As they gestured to come over toward the table, Swee pointed at the meal sitting on the table top, inviting destruction to what was on the plate.
“Are you hungry?” Swee said.
Swee was asked what the food was and grinned.
“I won’t tell you what it is until you eat it,” he said.
The dish sitting on the table was a pie with a mashed banana “crust“, and smothered with a combination of strawberries, blueberries, and dates.
“This dish is sugar free,” Lisa said.
Lisa and Swee are the owners of Café Tarragon, located in Bay View. The café specializes in vegetarian and vegan dishes, as well as raw desserts. Lisa and Swee, who are both vegetarians, said they want to encourage people to eat healthier. Both of them said they want people to know they can still have a delicious meal, even if it doesn’t have meat, dairy, sugar, and gluten.
“Most of our food is sugar free,” Lisa said. “The only sugars we use are agave, which is a naturally low glycemic sugar, and sucanat, (a non refined cane sugar), which isn’t processed.”
Increased Vegetarian and Vegan Options
Their café opened just over three weeks ago, and Lisa said their focus on healthy, vegetarian and vegan dishes has gotten them some rave reviews, some of them being meat-eaters.
“We had a restaurant critic come in,” Lisa said. “He told us he’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He said this was some of the best food he’s ever eaten.”
A growing number of restaurants in Milwaukee are offering more vegetarian and vegan options for their customers. Café Centraal in Bay View offers numerous vegetarian and vegan dishes on its weekday menu and its weekend brunch menus.
Josh Moore has worked in Café Centraal’s kitchen for the last year and a half. He said he’s noticed more meat-eaters trying some of the restaurant’s vegetarian items, one of which is a veggie burger made with a black bean patty.
“I think some people are just curious,” Moore said. “Some people are surprised at how good (some) dishes are, without meat.”
The Palomino is a restaurant and bar that has featured many vegetarian and vegan dishes, since it opened in 2002. Manager Julie Amann said one of the restaurant‘s most popular vegetarian options was the “Tofullo” wings, which are served like chicken wings, but are actually made with tofu, instead of chicken.
“Our Tuffalo wings outsell our regular wings.” Amann said.
Amann said that like Café Centraal, The Palomino’s vegetarian options are popular, not only with the non-meat eaters, but also with people who do eat meat.
“A lot of people who eat meat tell us they like our (vegetarian) options.” Amann said.
Is It a Trend Or a Fad?
According to a 2008 Vegetarian Times study, 7.3 million American adults (3.2 percent) follow a vegetarian based diet. The study also found that 11.9 million non-vegetarians (5.2 percent) are “definitely interested” in following a vegetarian-based diet in the future.
Chelsea Muench is a senior at UW-Milwaukee. She’s been a vegetarian for almost six years and says she’s noticed more people changing to a vegetarian-based diet.
“I know at least 20 or 25 people who are vegetarian.” Muench said. “ I don’t know if it’s just a fad, or if (more people) are becoming of aware of the health benefits.”
The American Dietetic Association recently released an updated position that said that vegetarian diets can help treat or prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
A 2006 United Nations report called the damaged caused by the meat industry as “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”
Lisa Sin said that her and her husband committed to promoting the environmental benefits to eating a vegetarian or vegan diet. She said their café does many things to promote being “green”
“We grow our own foods,” Sin said. We work with our own farmers (who bring in produce). We have our own composting words, in our basement.”
The worms’ composted dirt used to grow their plants, which lay in their garden on the rooftop of the building.