The Veggielante has had it up to here with people bitching that St. Louis restaurants are vegetarian unfriendly. Sure, we'd like to see more restaurants offering more meatless dishes, but there are excellent choices out there if you take the trouble to look for them. We're not here to proselytize about greening up your diet. Our only motive is to spread the word about places where you can order good grub that ain't got no meat. To enhance your reading experience, we've settled on a handful of criteria we'll use to suss out a restaurant's vegetarian friendliness.
Destination: Three Kings Public House (6307 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-721-3355)
Neighborhood: The Loop
Overview: When Three Kings opened for business this summer, Delmar locals took notice. By emphasizing local, seasonal ingredients, Three Kings follows precedents set by the likes of Schlafly's brewpubs and Square One. Three Kings may not brew its own beer, but offerings such as homemade veggie burgers and hummus are tasty enough to lure even the most discerning diners over to Delmar for their veggie fix.
The Grub: It's certainly not the first time we've seen hummus on a St. Louis menu, so it says a lot that Three Kings' version is interesting enough to catch our attention. The lemon and garlic are bold without being overpowering, and the side of roasted red peppers and grilled pita are mighty delicious. Still, the star of our meal was the vegetarian burger, which consists primarily of locally made Match meat. The addition of avocado is a welcome burst of flavor and nutrition, and the chipotle mayo, though slightly too tame, gives the burger a much needed moisture infusion. We like, too, that there's an option to get vegetarian black beans as your side dish, leaving no doubt that the folks at Three Kings have created a thoughtful and healthful menu.
Seasonality/sourcing: Ryan Pinkston, Derek Deaver and Derek Flieg (the "three kings" behind Three Kings) have developed relationships with multiple Missouri and Illinois farmers, including Lee Farms and Thies Farm and Greenhouses.
Resistance to clichés (vegetable medleys, pre-made veggie burgers, etc.): There's French onion soup, spinach salad, hummus and a Portobello sandwich -- all fine offerings, but none of them very original.
Improvisations & accommodations (vegan, gluten-free, etc.): Although the veggie options lack creativity, the kitchen aims to please. Diners can add or subtract virtually any ingredient to the veggie burger, and Flieg notes that he's constantly looking for ways to improve and diversify the menu. Unfortunately, though, Three Kings' fryer is not vegetarian friendly, which is a shame because we loves us some sweet-potato fries.
Extra credit: The "beer flights" option.
Standout item: The homemade veggie burger.