For those of us hardcore omnivores, the art of creating truly crave-worthy vegetable dishes tends to involve something fried, and usually involves cheese. I, for one, would make a really fat vegan, because I'd eat nothing but french fries and veggie burgers. Below, a few of my personal favorite vegetarian items around town that are definitely not diet-friendly, but are worth a special trip.
Milk-Braised Celery Hearts at Hard Water
An amazingly delicious bar snack if ever there was one, these breaded, deep-fried, milk-braised, extra-tender celery hearts come out of a longtime New Orleans tradition -- and out of a desire to make use of a part of this kitchen-staple vegetable that usually ends up in the compost. They come with an Old Bay aioli, and if you polish off an order by yourself you can be sure that it's your calorie alotment for the evening. Pier 3 on the Embaracadero.
Hen of the Wood Mushrooms at Alta CA
Daniel Patterson and chef Yoni Levy's new mid-Market restaurant and cocktail bar keeps all the food quality at a pretty high level, but I was especially in love with this very rich vegetarian dish, large enough to be an entrée if you're not too starving, featuring meaty Hen of the Woods mushrooms in a risotto-like cracked wheat porridge. It's a dish full of umami, olive oil, and aged parmesan cheese, as well as some tender braised baby turnips, and fits perfectly into a cold winter evening. 1420 Market Street near Polk
Tortilla 'Andres' at Coqueta
Chef Michael Chiarello's spin on Jose Andres's version of the traditional Spanish "tortilla," a tapa which is more of a potato and egg torte layered with sweet onion, manchego, and served with a piquillo pepper aioli. It's delicious with one of the bars house-special "gin tonics." Pier 5 on the Embarcadero
Smoked Potatoes at Bar Tartine
The fried potato flatbread is to die for, as are the celery root and scallion cakes, but for my money the best vegetable dish at Bar Tartine remains the killer smoked and fried potatoes with black garlic aioli. They're incredibly meaty, and kind of like no potato you've ever tasted. Again, winter comfort at its most caloric. 561 Valencia Street
Hand-cut Furikake Fries at Fog City
One of the immediate hits at Bruce Hill's revamped Fog City (not Fog City Diner) were these fries, which come topped with the traditional Japanese condiment mixture of seaweed, sesame, salt, and bonito (dry-cured fish) flakes. OK, so, the bonito makes these not quite vegetarian, but yum! 1300 Battery Street at the Embarcadero