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Meat is certainly murder — murder on vegetarian restaurants, that is.
Next week is Brooklyn’s second annual vegetarian restaurant week — but even the organizer says the herbivorous event can’t blossom because diners keep getting steered towards beef, pork, poultry and other protein-packed pleasures of the flesh.
Only seven restaurateurs from Greenpoint to Park Slope concocted special vegetarian and vegan menus to lure in plant-eaters for “Brooklyn Goes Veg!” between Oct. 19 and 25.
Many of the proprietors told The Brooklyn Paper that demand for their animal-free fare has flattened out. Melissa Danielle, the restaurant week producer, said that the crash of vegetarianism is a result of livestock being raised more humanely and in a more environmentally conscious manner — reducing the knee-jerk reaction against consuming animals.
“[That has] something to do with vegetarian food losing momentum,” she said.
But even if the movement is losing traction, Danielle said Brooklyn Goes Veg! will be a feast for the ages.
“It’s not necessarily about bringing new people in, it’s about celebrating what exists,” she said.
Danielle added that she tried to cook up support from NYC & Co, the city’s official tourism promoter, but claimed the promotional group didn’t want to send a message that tourists should limit themselves to flora when on vacation in such a diverse food city as New York.
“They get very sensitive around you using the word ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan,’ because they don’t want to say, ‘Don’t eat meat,” Danielle said.
Not all the participating eateries are strictly vegetarian. The reason? If you want to be successful these days, you can’t risk having patrons ask, “Where’s the beef?” — a main problem of all-vegetarian joints.
That’s why Cody Utzman, chef-owner of Papacitos, a Mexican joint on Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, offers tacos and enchiladas in meat, veggie and vegan varieties. (Next week, all lunch tacos are $1.50 for the fest.)
But don’t count out vegetarianism entirely. There are still some people who are willing to experiment with the vegan lifestyle for a night or two, said Matteo Silverman, the chef at 4 Course Vegan, a private supper club in Williamsburg.
“Sixty to 70 percent of my customers are not vegan,” he said. “They’re just seeking out quality, seasonal food.”
But even Silverman admitted that there are fewer and fewer new vegetarian restaurants in the last year or two because non-vegetarian eateries are doing a better job, thanks to increasingly high quality local produce available at green markets.
Eating vegetarian no longer means pasta primavera seven nights a week.
Still, the trend appears to be in the direction of all-vegetarian menus going the way of the dodo bird (which, apparently, tasted pretty darn good) since the bumper years of vegetarian restaurant, 2002–2005.
“People tend to be a little less abusive to the restaurant” for selling meat dishes, said Charlie Statelman, the owner of Café on Clinton in Cobble Hill, and veteran of the seminal Patois on Smith Street, a bistro that did not cede any ground to vegetarians.
“[Vegetarians] used to come in and expect special orders and be hard on the wait staff,” he said.
Brooklyn Goes Veg! runs from Oct. 19–25. Visit www.bklyngoesveg.com for info and a list of participants.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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