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Casual, affordable, vegetarian friendly

Please help!! We love eating good food but so many places, especially in the city, are a little more expensive. We love those places too, but they are easy to find.

We want to make a list of some casual, affordable (entree prices around $15 or less) restaurants where we can sit down and eat a nice meal. We're both vegetarians (we do eat eggs & dairy) but usually find decent veggie options at most places--especially ethnic restaurants. We live in Arlington but have easy access to both the T and a car, so location is not terribly important.

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  1. The obvious mention is Red Lentil, which I like quite a bit. It's in Watertown on Mt. Auburn, across from Arax & Sevan. Vegetarian with vegan and nut free options. For example, I like their tempeh rueben.

    A favorite is Stellina in Watertown Square. The entrees at dinner can be more, but they have orders and always a bunch of vegetarian appetizers and at least 2 entrees. It's creative N. Italian. Good wine list. Nice bar area. Lots of locally sourced food. They make excellent pasta, especially lasagna. Many Italian places have some form of vegetarian food. (I wish Galleria Umberto made a veggie arancini.)

    Since both my daughters have been vegetarians - one still is* - we seek out vegetarian friendly places. These are mostly ethnic. Of these, my daughters would both recommend most highly Sichuan Gourmet, any of their locations. They have some great cabbage dishes, real Dan Dan Noodles and very good tofu dishes. Their family style tofu is a favorite.

    *You'd think that working in TV would mean eating in the stereotypical LA lifestyle but the food revolves around junk food and copious quantities of meat. She had to eat meat or starve, given the long hours in TV production.

    6 Replies
    1. re: lergnom

      Aren't Dan Dan noodles topped with pork? Do they offer a vegetarian version?

      Clover in Harvard Square (or various food trucks) would fit your requirements.

      1. re: nightsky

        sky, i wasn't aware that dandan noodles always had a meat component , but you can pretty much bet that any chinese restnt will be happy to make a vegtrn version of any dish that has meat in it.

        1. re: opinionatedchef

          There are versions with pork but it's not standard. Ma pa tofu has pork but everyone makes it without or even with vegetables.

          One of my kids says Refuge Cafe in Allston - formerly Herrell's - has a number of vegan options.

        2. re: nightsky

          The dan dan noodles at Sichuan Gourmet do have pork if ordered with no special instructions; I haven't tried special-ordering them as when I get food there it tends to be a big take-out order with the rest of my officemates and I don't want to confuse things.

          1. re: antimony

            I regularly order dandan noodles at Sichuan Gourmet without the pork on top. They're very accommodating, and really delicious!

          2. re: nightsky

            The dan dan noodles at Myers & Chang are vegetarian. Myers and Chang is actually a great vegetarian option...they'll provide you with a veggie menu if you ask. It's also definitely in the affordable category.

        3. Try Veggie Galaxy in Central Square. Vegan/vegetarian paradise. They make everything there, use all local ingredients and everything is vegetarian and vegan. Save room for their incredible vegan desserts. We also like True Bistro in Somerville, but Veggie Galaxy (not to be confused with Veggie Planet in Harvard Square) is our family favorite.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mvi

            Veggie Galaxy and Veggie Planet I think are owned by the same people.

            1. re: Bob Dobalina

              Yes, they are but there's a huge difference in the menus and the quality of the food....and the atmosphere.

          2. EastxNortheast has a lot of veggie options, small plates of innovative Asian inspired food. Rendezvous and Oleana in Cambridge, and Strip T's in Watertown - do a number of neat veggie things, though check menus for pricing. There are recent threads on all these spots.

            502 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139

            East Asia Restaurant
            868 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144

            134 Hampshire St., Cambridge, MA 02139

            Strip-T's Restaurant
            93 School St, Watertown, MA 02472

            1. Istanbul'lu in Teele Square, Somerville.

              7 Replies
                1. re: Madrid

                  All good suggestions. I always throw in the grilled vegetable platter of the day at East Coast Grill. Can't praise this enough.

                  1. re: justbeingpolite

                    I agree that the ECG Veg O the Day is generally excellent. However it isn't always grilled. They often have deep fried preparations, etc.

                    I would second the Veggie Galaxy recommendation.

                    Also, the Other Side on Upper Newbury is good and affordable.

                  2. re: Madrid

                    Istanbul'lu's website menu doesn't have prices. Do you know what the price range for their entrees is?

                    1. re: pollystyrene

                      It's been a little while since I went to Istanbul'lu, but last time I was there they had plenty of entrees in the $10-$20 range, and you could get a great sandwich for dinner on the lower end of that.

                      1. re: blink617

                        Thanks! And one more question: do they serve alcohol?

                        1. re: pollystyrene

                          the last I heard, Istanbul'lu was trying to get a liquor license. I don't think they suceeded, unfortunately, since their tapas menu (less than $10 for the most part as I recall) would be great with wine. They are right next to TJ Ryan's pub if someone really wants a beer before or after.

                  3. As a fellow vegetarian, my affordable favorites are Helmand, City Girl Cafe, Tupelo (in addition to the veggie crepe, the beans and rice make a yummy entree), and Picco (best mac & cheese in Boston according to me). I'm looking forward to trying Veggie Galaxy.

                    I'm glad you posted this because it made me realize how many of my favorites that I think of as affordable have entree prices (or prices for 2 small plates) approaching or exceeding $20. No wonder my wallet's so thin. So I hope more people chime in.

                    1. Lots of great suggestions so far. Right up Mass. Ave. heading toward Porter is Cafe Barada, a casual Lebanese restaurant that offers several reasonably priced vegetarian options. The mujeddara, a lentil and rice dsh, is really tasty. The ful mudammus appetizer, a brown bean, lemon and garlic dish, is also great. Sometimes we just get lots of small plates and an order of falafel to share. They always have one or two rotating vegetarian entrees as well. Nice people, too.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: bear

                        Their menu looks great, and I've been meaning to try it. Having to drive in from the burbs, I steer away from places that don't offer a full experience, including alcohol and some ambiance. This thread has made me realize how few places there seem to be to "sit and have a nice meal" as the OP says, for $15 or less per entree.

                        Istanbul'lu and Barada look appealing, but maybe not worth a 30 minute drive. On the other hand, if those places did takeout, it would be great to swing by and pick something up on the way home if in the area anyway.

                        1. re: pollystyrene

                          Cafe Barada does serve beer and wine. The list is pretty basic if I recall.

                          I wouldn't say it's worth a 30 minute drive but it's a good option for vegetarians who live in the area. They do takeout, but can be pretty slow so be forewarned. As I said, lovely people and a very low-key atmosphere. A homey neighborhood spot but not a desination.

                          1. re: bear

                            Thanks, bear. Good to know about the beer, wine and takeout.

                      2. Most Indian places are a good bet for a variety of vegetarian options; I'm partial to India Quality in Kenmore.

                        1. Baraka Cafe in Central Square is probably the best answer that hasn't been posted yet. Affordable, delicious and has multiple vegetarian options.

                          There are countless places in Chinatown that are affordable and veggie friendly. Dumpling Cafe is great. Any Shabu Shabu place should have veggie broth and contents ion their menu.

                          People think of meat when it comes to Coppa but I really like their vegetarian dishes. The marinated cauliflower is amazing.

                          I second the recommendations of Picco and India Quality.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kinopio

                            I love Baraka too, but like Istanbul-lu, no alcohol. Plenty of places nearby to get before or after drinks, however.

                          2. Biryani Park on Route 99 in the east side of Malden (just head east on Route 60, and take a brief right south onto 99).


                            1. If you like soup, the Little Q Hot Pot in Arlington is fun, and all of their broths except the black chicken one can be made vegetarian. Just down the street is Kathmandu Spice, which is Himalayan and a good casual place. Tons of veggie options.

                              Zocalo in Arlington is also good for Mexican, as is Tu Y Yo in Powderhouse -- neither has a ton of veggie options but what they have are good. And for americanized greasy Tex Mex, Rudy's Cafe, across the street from the already well-recommended Istanbul'lu has several veggie options. Those all have at least beer/wine licenses, and Rudy's has a full bar.

                              If we're going as far afield as Malden, as someone did above, Habesha is wonderful, super-affordable Ethiopean. (The veggie combo plate is big enough for two, unless you're super-duper-hungry, and they have beer and wine.)

                              Also, for brunch/breakfast/all-day-diner food, the Deluxe Town Diner, in both Watertown and Newton, is awesome. They even have veggie sausage for the traditional diner combo plate thing.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: antimony

                                True about Deluxe, but Red Lentil across the street is all veggie, does very good brunch, and definitely beats standing in line at the Deluxe.

                                1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                  I've never been over to Red Lentil for brunch -- I didn't even know they had one.

                                  Sometimes there's nothing like greasy-spoon food, though, in my book, and the Deluxe is my favorite for that. The one in Newton has a liquor license, too -- I've actually only been to that location, so IDK about the Watertown one.

                              2. Not sure what "affordable" is in your book, but we had a great meal recently at True Bistro in Teele Square Somerville. All vegan...prices range from $6-8 for apps/salads and $16-18 for entrees. Very pleasant room. I second Red Lentil for a very casual meal, pretty consistent. For a quick macrobiotic meal, there is Masao's Kitchen on Moody Street in Waltham. Excellent quality, macrobiotic food bar, with a few dishes made to order. Go early, he usually sells out between 7-7:30pm.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Science Chick

                                  Our fave veggie breakfast place was always The Friendly Toast in Portsmouth NH, which is now in Somerville. Havent been to that one but they always had lots of choices including great veggie bacon and sausages which are hard to find eating out. I used to love Mi Tierra a very cheap place in Waltham on MOody street. I think its El Salvador and Guatamalen. Great homemade cheese and sour cream with avocado and marinated red onion salad and cheese papusas. Next door is a Masao, a macrobiotic place I have never been too. Are you guys looking for healthy vegetarian or okay with fun junky bad for you stuff thats not nmeat?? Oh yeah, also if you go to Midwest Grille for lunch it is 10 bucks for a giant salad bar with plantains, rice beans, pastas etc and Brazilian music on Sundays. Unless you cant stand watching a lot of meat skewers all around you.. Have only been to the Saugus one, and beans on salad bar have meat but they are really nice about bringing a giant bowl of veggie beans to you on request. Sushi Island Wakefield has good veggie options with nice jazz weekend nights. Oye in Stoneham has half price apps that can make up a nice veggie meal in the afternooons and jazz on Fri nites. Also used to love Barada when it was in Arlington years ago. Imagine its the same now.. Loved the M'Klouta egglplant stew. Bobby C's in Melrose is high priced but they have a really good huge lasagna for 1299 inc. salad and a big acapella show on Wed nites. Nice fresh Mozzarella sticks and delicious pizza esp with onions. I guess i have focused on giving places that you get some entertainment with your cheap eats.. Mexico Lindo in Melrose has excellent authentic food, nice atmosphere, and yes, music on Wed nites. If you like greek, Brothers Kouzina in Peabody is a semi upscale casual with a great spinach pie dinner esp with greek string beans and roasted potato, also great salad, and live greek band late on Sat nites with Meze menu.

                                  1. re: chompie

                                    to the many fine suggestions above i'd add Family in Brookline (Turkish and amazingly inexpensive with lots of vegetarian options), Dok Bua (thai and ditto) and Basta Pasta in Cambridge, YoMa in Brighton (Burmese).