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Food that will satisfy Indian vegetarians and American meat-eaters?

I am hosting a 'rehearsal dinner' for 35-40 people the night before my son's wedding (in three weeks -- yes, I've been putting this off). He is marrying an Indian woman and she and her family--who will be coming to the U.S. from India for the first time ever--are vegetarian (although not vegan), while our own relatives will be wanting non-veggie options.

Trying to keep it personal and keep the costs down, my plan has been to bring in food to my home and have a buffet. My daughter-in-law-to be has nixed the idea of catered Indian ("they can have that any time at home -- why would they want it here?"). I then thought of Lemonade, but honestly I like their braises better than their salads, so my latest thought is to get a medley of pastas, salads and antipasti from an Italian place. I'm hoping Chowhounders have other suggestions. There was a post not long ago where someone who asked for something similar ended up choosing Komodo, which looks like a great menu except that I don't see much for vegetarians. I'd like my vegetarian options to not include soy things that try to emulate meat.

So that's been my main worry -- what food to have. But now it's just hit me that the cost of renting heaters for my back yard (can't seat everyone inside) is really going to knock my costs up. So I'm suddenly wondering if I should move this event to a private room somewhere -- in which case, my second question is, do you have a recommendation for an INEXPENSIVE restaurant with a private room? We're in Santa Monica and would like to stay on the Westside.

Thank you for your thoughts.

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  1. i'd enquire about what take-out party trays are offered at

    1) Shamshiri Grill
    they will have PLENTY of options both for vegetarians and for omnivores at very nice prices (persian food/skewered meats/vegan mezze and stews)

    2) Cafe Gratutude for vegan food

    3) C&O Cucina for both italian vegetarian and omnivore food

    4) Ayara Thai Cuisine for Thai food

    for INEXPENSIVE restaurant with a private room, i'd check out C&O cucina. not only do they have inexpensive food (both vegetarian and for omnivores), and a private room, they also have a parking lot.

    12 Replies
    1. re: westsidegal

      +1 for Shamshiri grill and Thai food.

      1. re: westsidegal

        The more I think about this, the more I feel wsg's recommendation of Shamshiri Grill is the best one..... It has the most variety of vegetarian dishes to make a nice meal that will be guaranteed meatless, unlike Thai food, which uses prodigious amount of fish sauce in all of their tasty sauces, marinades, etc....

        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

          Good thing WSG isn't an I-told-you-so type. ;)

          Is there really a lot of fish sauce in the seemingly veg dishes? I don't know much about the "construction" of Thai food, but presumably you would be only marinating... a piece of meat, no?

          1. re: ilysla

            Not sure why she'd have to say that to me, I didn't even recommend any specific restaurant, but yes, she's gracious that way!

            Well, I know, for instance, Thai curries, even the vegetarian ones have fish sauce in them..... I don't know about any other specifically vegetarian dishes, as I eat the meat, fish & shellfish when having Thai food, but I do know it is in the majority of their condiment sauces as well.

            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

              Didn't mean to imply she'd have to say it to you, specifically. Was just trying to crack a joke. ::shrug::

          2. re: Dirtywextraolives

            Usually, Thai places are willing to make dishes without fish sauce. Most of the ones near me ask about fish sauce the moment I ask for vegetarian.

            But, I love Shamshiri Grill and it caters well.

            Good luck!

            1. re: Kalivs

              Ah, that's smart on their part. I would think it alters the flavor a bit with Thai curry dishes though.

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                I don't miss the fish sauce so much. I can definitely taste the difference. But, no egg in my pad Thai? Now, that makes me cry! OTOH, it means we can food, other than Indian, as a family.

                As for weddings, in my family they are vegetarian & there is no meat in the house (even eggs) while anyone is staying with us. There might have been various In'n'Out runs & eating on the side of the house with the smokers. But, for the most part, we were pretty compliant.

                Having something vegetarian for the bride's family is an incredibly thoughtful and respectful idea.

                  1. re: suvro

                    no, since I don't usually cook Thai food & can add fish sauce to my own portion. But, thanks! I will try this.

                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                  A lot of places add the fish sauce when making the curry paste. It's worth asking about shrimp paste and other fish ingredients, as a lot of types of Thai curry use no fish sauce, but do use shrimp paste.

          3. I'd do Mexican food - the flavors are similar to indian food (cumin, cilantro, chilies, etc) so it won't be completely foreign.

            1. Your future daughter-in-law is right about her family likely not wanting Indian food. Years ago we hosted a couple of Lebanese co-workers. My housemates decided to take them to a Lebanese restaurant and the guys were unenthusiastically picking at the food. I asked them if they wanted to try something different and one of the guys perked up and sheepishly asked if we could go to In N Out burger.

              7 Replies
              1. re: granadafan

                If the DIL's family are vegetarian, I don't think that they will appreciate In n Out. Thai food works because it is a similar format to Indian food, Rice plus entrees. It can be served family style. Just make sure there is no egg or fish sauce. And opt for tofu rather than fake meat. Mexican food is great, too. You will have to check that the beans and rice don't have any chicken stock or other meat products. While cucumbers, green chiles and onions are often served with meals in India, salads are not that common.

                Good luck and congratulations!

                1. re: Kalivs

                  <<You will have to check that the beans and rice don't have any chicken stock or other meat products. >>

                  in mexican food the beans and rice are often infused with LARD. be sure to double check on this.

                  also, it is my understanding that many of the sauces (i.e. moles) are also infused with lard and/or stock

                  even many of the americanized mexican chains use lard or bacon in their beans, rice, sauces.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    Yes, lard is prevalent in traditional Mexican cooking. Perhaps a place like Kay n Dave's, which does not use lard, may work for this situation.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I've never heard of Lard in rice before and Lard is used for refried beans, but you'd be surprised at how few Mexican restaurants use it. If you get the soupy beans (frijoles de la Olla) they will more likely be vegetarian like those tasty ones at Tacomiendo.

                    2. re: Kalivs

                      I wasn't implying that they would enjoy going to In N Out. The point being, people who come here sometimes want different foods. Sometimes not.

                      1. re: granadafan

                        I understand. I come from a vegetarian Indian family myself and there are many issues that come with choosing a restaurant. I get that you want to serve both the non veg people and the veg people. But, when being vegetarian is not a lifestyle choice button religious reasons, it's better to be a little cautious. They may not feel comfortable eating at an event where meat is being served (so someplace like FdeC would be difficult. I believe the right word is "honor." this is the first time the family is coming to your house. You want to show your respect for them. Most of the veg Indians I know don't get fake meat. If you grow up in a society where meat is not central, then you don't need a replacement. Every family member is going to have a different comfort level. I have no problem eating meat around my aunts and uncles, but I would never do so around my grandfather. Ask your DIL, what her family would be most comfortable with. After all, this is only one meal during a very happy time.

                        1. re: Kalivs

                          Pssst.... granadafan isn't the OP....

                          Calla99, perhaps a Mendocino Farms or Tender Greens has a private room?

                  2. Take everyone to Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills.

                    Kickass salad bar, so your guest can choose what they want for themselves.

                    Kickass churrasco meats, to satisfy the omnivores.

                    Maybe if you do lunch at FdC it might be cheaper than dinner. How about a Rehearsal Lunch instead of dinner?

                    26 Replies
                    1. re: J.L.

                      respectfully disagree.
                      imho, when a sizable percentage of the party is vegetarian, going to a restaurant which lacks hot vegetarian protein sources is not ideal.
                      cold commercial cheese and tinned legumes, iirc, are what they offer

                      sort of like insulting the importance of the bride's family and their religion

                      also, keep in mind that the bride's family will have invested a lot just to get here for the wedding.
                      a salad bar meal with commercial cheese and tinned beans would not go far to acknowledge their efforts.

                      1. re: J.L.

                        FDC is not the first place I would take an Indian vegetarian to.

                        I'm Indian, and even though I'm not veg, I have a lot of family and friends who are. Keep in mind that Indian vegetarians are vegetarians for religious reasons, not for health/lifestyle reasons. I know if I took some of my veg family to FDC, they would be completely grossed out by the meat being carved tableside right in front of them. Not to mention, I could also imagine some of them complaining about the salad bar being their main meal -- "what is this grass and leaves you're feeding us?" Salad is not a typical Indian meal -- it's an accompaniment, so feeding them a salad bar meal is not going to be a good experience.

                        1. re: boogiebaby

                          << Keep in mind that Indian vegetarians are vegetarians for religious reasons, not for health/lifestyle reasons>>

                          even if they were vegetarians for health/lifestyle reasons, your points would STILL be valid.
                          truly, their reasons should not be on trial here.
                          1) they are important people to the bride
                          2) they will have invested plenty just to show up.
                          3) finding a workable vegetarian option in a city as diverse as LA is not really a hardship to the host

                          all of these, imho, are adequate reasons to honor and to accomodate their food preferences.

                          1. re: westsidegal

                            i agree with wsg.
                            to me, it's largely a question of manners.

                            however, one thing i disagree with is the phrase "honor...their food preferences."
                            accommodate, respect, happily indulge, etc. yes.
                            honor is...not the right word here.

                            but, i'm just picking nits.

                            1. re: linus

                              i hereby edit my post to delete the word "honor" and, instead, substitute:

                              <accommodate, respect, happily indulge>>

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                now i feel guilty in a way that's very familiar.

                        2. re: J.L.

                          As a vegetarian myself, I REALLY do not like it when at many Thanksgiving dinners, everyone has sumptuous HOT food and they throw me a salad and hope to be done with me.
                          This is rude folks.

                          1. re: VenusCafe

                            Can't you partake in the hot side dishes on almost every T-giving table like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, et al?

                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              Mashed potatoes often has cream and/or butter, which depending on the type of vegetarian is verboten.

                              Same with something like green bean casserole or even sweet potatoes.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Calla99 said the bride's family are not vegans; they are vegetarians and dairy, cheese, milk/cream are not a problem.

                                1. re: VenusCafe

                                  Some vegetarians won't eat anything with eggs (pastry, ice cream, noodles) or rennet (cheese)

                              2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                I went to a friend's thanksgiving dinner once and EVERYTHING had bacon in it including all the sides. Heck, there were even bacon bits on the pumpkin pie. I mistakenly took a date who was vegetarian who gamely picked the bacon parts out and pretended the dishes were meatless. She was a trooper.

                                1. re: granadafan

                                  the ubiquitous use of bacon in EVERYTHING is trendy now.
                                  my personal pet peeve is that it is getting almost impossible to find brussels sprouts served in a restaurant without some sort of pork being involved.
                                  (i get my brussels sprout fix at cafe gratitude.)

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    Correction, the ubiquitous use of bacon in everything is trendy two years ago. I think people are already realizing it's played out, at least on the coasts. It may be *common* still, but given that McDonalds and Burger King have had bacon milkshakes / sundaes for over a year, I think it's clear that the trend has run its course.

                                    1. re: will47

                                      i'm waiting to concede the point until most of the "small plates" places make their brussels sprouts sans bacon.

                                      this dish is really my sticking point.
                                      maybe next season.

                                  2. re: granadafan

                                    Wow. Well, that's certainly NOT the norm. But yes, your date was definitely a trooper.

                                    And yes, many vegetarians don't have any problem with eggs and dairy, others do. I even know a couple who swear they are vegan, yet are okay with eggs and dairy, go figure. I'm not gonna argue with them, I believe people should eat what they want.

                                    But I've got to say, to be a guest at my home, I would bend over backward to accommodate anyone who has any dietary issue.... But don't expect me to alter my way of cooking or serving a traditional thanksgiving meal, just so you can feel smug & morally superior about your choice of what to eat..and yes, unless it's for health or religious reasons, it IS a choice. I will make sure there is something for you to eat, but yea, it might just be the salad....maybe you should eat at your own home before coming to a non vegan thanksgiving dinner, just sayin.

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        How hard could it be to supply more than just a salad for your friends that don't eat meat? Couldn't you just make sure the broccoli and cauliflower dishes don't have animal products, and how about a decent spot of wild rice or a mushroom side???

                                        For me, even when I ate meat many decades ago, the veggie dishes above were ALWAYS the heart of good Thanksgiving eating.

                                        1. re: VenusCafe

                                          Re read this sentence I wrote : But I've got to say, to be a guest at my home, I would bend over backward to accommodate anyone who has any dietary issue.... But don't expect me to alter my way of cooking or serving a traditional thanksgiving meal, just so you can feel smug & morally superior about your choice of what to eat..and yes, unless it's for health or religious reasons, it IS a choice.

                                          1. re: VenusCafe

                                            I think it's great when people are accommodating (and of course, with family, it's maybe a slightly different story), but I don't think it's realistic to be a guest in someone's home for Thanksgiving and expect that they'll accommodate your specific dietary preferences. You can always bring a dish or two to share.

                                            1. re: will47

                                              HA! See my experience with this. it is right below.

                                        2. re: granadafan

                                          That's ridiculous. I'm all for meat, but this bacon trend has got to stop. I love me some bacon for breakfast or in a BLT, but it is such a distict and sometimes overpowering taste that I feel it ruins food. "Everything is better with bacon" is just not true.

                                        3. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                          Its thanksgiving again a year later; time to add a thought:
                                          HA!
                                          When I used to bring MY OWN Thanksgiving food (hot dishes like Mushroom pie, wild rice, etc), those ridicule slinging carnivores managed to hog my food and it disappeared way before their own turkey/etc and worse, before I even got any!

                                          1. re: VenusCafe

                                            Maybe if it had a sign on it that said it was vegan...please save some for the vegans. Perhaps next year you should host and have all the vegan dishes you want to make, and have your carnivores bring their own food....

                                      2. re: J.L.

                                        um...no. My East Indian relatives are Hindu, as are undoubtably the OPs soon-to-be inlaws. And most if not all Hindus will be uncomfortable with how the meats at Fogo de Chao are served. It is one thing to have someone else eating beef in your presence, it is another thing altogether to watch it being carved at table, possibly for someone sitting next to you, and dripping juices...maybe even onto your plate. My husband tolerates me eating beef when we go out, but will not go to Fogo de Chao. He considers it too "in your face"....

                                        Besides, it definitely does NOT fit the OPS request for "inexpensive."

                                        1. re: J.L.

                                          Fogo De Chao is exactly what I was recommending--they have a private room, AMAZING salad bar, and lots of meat. But then I erased it whan I read that the OP is looking for inexpensive. I seem to remember Fogo being on the pricier side? But yeah, I agree. Perfect place.

                                        2. It's hard to find stellar vegetarian and meat at the same restaurant on the Westside (Indian excluded). Often regular restaurants will have just a few veg options, and you never really know if there's animal fat in the veg dishes.

                                          Is it crucial that your side of the family gets meat? I can think of a couple of vegetarian restaurants that I, as an omnivore, enjoy very much. (Rahel probably tops the list. Thai Vegan is good too, for take-out.) Or, if you're ordering take-out, you could order from both an excellent veg place, and an excellent meat place.