After a recent visit to Asheville, which is considered the best vegetarian-friendly small city, I had the opportunity to visit Salt Lake City. GoVeg.com considers Salt Lake City to be the 3rd best vegetarian-friendly small city. Sage’s Café was consistently listed as one of the best of the best vegetarian restaurants in Salt Lake City. I think they may give Asheville a run for their money.
The driver from our hotel wasn’t quite sure where the restaurant was when he pulled up to the address. He pulled into a driveway about a ½ block away not sure if he was dropping us off at the right spot. I knew we were at the right place because there were a ton of bikes parked in front of the building. The front of Sage’s Café is covered with large green grape leaves obstructing the front of the building from the street. It wasn’t until we were in front of the building did we see a sandwich board at the street corner for the restaurant.
Sage’s is a relaxed and eclectic café serving some of the best vegetarian cuisine I have ever tasted. They have several options for seating including an enclosed patio and an outside area underneath grape leaf cover.
In researching Sage’s, I learned that in 2005 they won the award for “Best Vegetarian Escargot” so, I knew I had to get it. (I mean, really, if a city can sutain a competition for vegetarian escargot you know there have to be a lot of vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the area.) It was with an embarrassed frown that our server, David, let us know that they just ran out of the carrot butter. As the mushroom escargot is encrusted in the carrot butter, it wasn’t available. The server was quite apologetic but it would take over an hour for more to be available. He then became even more apologetic when the wine I requested was also not available. He mentioned that they had just revamped their wine selections and the menu had not been updated yet. He did recommend another wine that was similar to the original wine I requested. We were certainly on a roll with ordering…but things turned out to be more than okay.
We opted, instead to have the asian lettuce wraps as an appetizer. Our server recommended to have them with tempeh as our protein although tofu and vegetarian chicken are also available. In a word, they were phenomenal. When given our plate, our server recommend we add the spicy garlic blossoms but use a light hand as they were quite strong. He was right – the addition of the spicy garlic blossoms made them even better.The menu described the sauce as “ a sweet and spicy tamari reduction”. The spiciness of the dish was subtle not quite hitting the tongue until after a few moments. If I didn’t have an entrée coming, I would have requested another order of the wraps.
While waiting for our meal, I could see on the patio below me a woman eating the Picadillo Vegetariano which is described a “fresh sauté of tomato, bell pepper, onion, carrot, tofu, black beans, brown rice and Caribbean spices, topped with California black olives.” The large, almost overflowing bowl, looked colorful and appetizing. She was certainly eating it with a particular zeal.
After polishing off the wraps, we soon saw our server coming towards us with our plates and right before he set them on the table he turned tail and brought them back to the kitchen. He came back to apologize. Salt Lake City was having their “restaurant week” which offered a three course menu options which included the mushroom stroganoff. Apparently the cook provided the ½ portion “restaurant week” size of the mushroom stroganoff. So, we had to bring it back to the kitchen. Because of that, it and the tacos vegetarianos that I ordered had to be prepared again from scratch. No worries, I’d get a fresh plate and, besides, we had plenty of wine to keep us company.
Once our entrees arrived, we dug in with gusto. The mushroom stroganoff was described as “creamed portabella mushroom infusion tossed into fresh semolina papparadelle pasta”. The sauce is made from a silken tofu and closely mimicked actual cream. There was a subtle sweetness to the dish which we supposed was nutmeg? The fresh pasta was about an inch wide and cooked perfectly al dente.
The Tacos Vegetarianos were a feast for both the eyes and the palate. The corn tacos were filled with mixed vegetables. I chose vegetarian chicken as my protein. Tempeh, tofu or portabella mushrooms were also available. The corn tortillas were fresh and had a strong corn flavor. My friend commented that the tortillas were made so perfectly that they resembled exactly the authentic fresh corn tortillas made at lunch trucks in the Baltimore area. (And, trust me, the people cooking in those trucks know what they are doing!) The details in the presentation of the dish should not be overlooked. From the garlic blossom on the top to the subtle sprinkling of sesame seeds added to both the look and the taste of the dish.
We ended our meal with bananas infused with rum. They were creamy and warm. The rum flavor did not overwhelm the cinnamon and the sweetness of the bananas.
On Tuesday nights, Sage’s hosts an all you can eat salad and pizza night. While we opted to order off the menu, we did see the pizza that was being served. The edges were billowy while the rest of the crust was thin. Servers brought around a variety of flavors and combinations including a pizza featuring peppers from all colors of the rainbow. People were happily taking second, third and fourth slices. The salads looked like they were mixed greens and appeared quite fresh.
So, although our first choices weren’t available off the menu and there were some mis-steps with the service, this did not hamper our overall experience in the restaurant. In fact, the quality of the food and professionalism and helpfulness of the staff outweighed any of those small negatives, I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. I walked away full and happy. Sage’s Café’s casual atmosphere combined with a fresh menu make this restaurant a must-visit when in Salt Lake City.
473 East 300 S (Broadway)
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Bonus picture: The view from the glass-enclosed patio was gorgeous on this fall evening. Not only were there giant grape leave…but grapes themselves. Both green and purple. Impressive.