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Vegan at the Bend: LaSalle Grill: Call ahead for the best vegan meal options

We had a celebratory dinner at the La Salle Grill last week, and it was the second time I visited the Grill. Truth be told, I wanted to go to the Crooked Ewe, with its vegan menu, but it was closed on the day.

LaSalle Grill is one the more upscale restaurants in South Bend. The menu is drawn up daily and shows the current date, underscoring the seasonal and artisanal preparation. But as the menu changes so frequently, it is difficult to know beforehand what the vegan option will be, or whether it will be to our liking. The server suggested during the meal that we call ahead to find out, and if it is a planned outing then patrons can call a few days ahead and request specific dishes. But we were there on a whim and chose from the menu.

I started out with one of their signature cocktails, the Dunhill ($10), and it was exceptional (a gin base with sherry, dry vermouth, Cointreau and absinthe spray). The server brought us hearty vegan bread (from Bit of Swiss) which we ate with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I am not sure olive oil was the best accompaniment for grainy dark bread, but the restaurant did not offer other vegan spreads.

RELATED: LaSalle Grill bringing back lunch for the holidays, Nov. 24, 2015

The menu had a short section with one vegan and one vegetarian dish — oven roasted curried vegetables, and crimson lentils and butternut squash cassoulet. The latter is not vegan because it contains butter in the breadcrumbs, but upon our request the chef was able to omit the butter. Both of these entrees were high quality gourmet dishes. The curried vegetables dish, while tender and flavorful, was a tad on the light side; vegans do not live on just veggies — if we did then there would have to be a large quantity of veggies! The vegetables would have been more filling if served with another grain or legume. The cassoulet, on the other hand, because it was made with lentils as well as vegetables was a substantial meal that could even be shared.

At about $18 to $19 per entrée, these were not inexpensive meals. So calling ahead and making a special request might be the best way to ensure that the food meets your expectations.

We shared the housemade sorbet, a generous scoop each of three flavors (lychee, strawberry and mango, $8), and each one was outstanding. I suggested to the server that they offered a warm vegan dessert in colder months.

RELATED: Even something like enjoying a cupcake is a symbolic act, Nov. 8, 2015.

As someone with vegan sensibilities, reading through a long menu filled with animal foods cast a pall on my celebratory mood. If being reminded of violence done to animals ruins your vegan meal, then I suggest you ask the server about your meal options, rather than read the menu. Like the Crooked Ewe, it would be a good idea for all our local restaurants to have a designated vegan menu so the experience of eating out is not compromised.

For more tips and tales of dining vegan in Michiana from Rama Ganesan and her fellow meatless maven Crystal Hallwood, sign up for the Vegan at the Bend email newsletter.

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