Vegetarian Trends: Cauliflower Power, Veggie Ash, and the 5 Must-Try Meat-Free Sandwiches

No longer just for dips and soups, this unlikely new star is showing up in main dishes at some of the hottest restaurants around.

Photo by Justin Fantl. Prop styling by Donnie Myers at De Facto.

Something surprising is climbing to the top of the gourmet-food pyramid. When Michelin-starred, tastemaking chefs like Wylie Dufresne and April Bloomfield get giddy about an ingredient—especially one that isn't carved off an animal—you know something is afoot. This season, humble cauliflower is being showcased in unexpected and delicious new ways by some of the country's top culinary minds. Fried, grilled, roasted, smoked, or seared, this hearty veggie is staking a claim as the other other white meat. And for those of you who just don't like that vegetable, see our roundup of the five best non-cauliflower veggie sandwiches of the moment and the crazy flavor of the moment.

Where to Get Mouthwatering Cauliflower Dishes

Salvation Taco

New York City

At their self-proclaimed inauthentic taqueria in Murray Hill, Roberto Santibañez and April Bloomfield serve the vegetable roasted and stuffed inside a tortilla with curried crema and fried curry leaves (pictured at top).

State Bird Provisions

San Francisco

Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski—who bring a dim sum approach to adventurous American fare—coat cauliflower in dark-rye and caraway bread crumbs and then pan-fry it and serve it with a horseradish-ale cream.

Superba Snack Bar

Los Angeles

"It's incredibly versatile," says chef Jason Neroni of the vegetable that he carves like a T-bone before it is seared until crispy and caramelized and served with olive-and-orange pistou.

Rasika West End

Washington, D.C.

At the second D.C. home of Ashok Bajaj's modern Indian eatery, a crunchy, spicy pile of deep-fried florets are dipped in cornstarch-and-chili batter and tossed with mustard seeds, green chilies, and curry leaves.


New York City

Wylie Dufresne, who says the veggie is a staple at staff meals, was sure to put it on the menu of his recently opened East Village gastropub. The cauliflower is fried until golden brown, draped with an unctuous piece of lardo, and sprinkled with cocoa nibs.


Portland, Oregon

At his new 115-seat restaurant, Iron Chef winner Vitaly Paley roasts cauliflower over a wood-fired grill, then marries it with a hearty chickpea stew finished with fire-roasted mushrooms and braised kale—and a soft-cooked sous-vide egg for good measure.

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Where to Get Mouthwatering Cauliflower Sandwiches

The Golden West

Behind a glowing "Au" neon sign is the newest San Francisco treat: a cauliflower-curry salad with raisins and cilantro served on a poppy-seed roll.

Marion Street Cheese Market

This suburban-Chicago bistro's new thick, browned cauliflower sandwich on multigrain comes with curry aïoli and melted Cheddar.

Shut Up and Eat

A baguette of roasted cauliflower and broccoli at this Portland, Oregon, eatery is stuffed with onions, olives, Cheddar, and mascarpone.

Willow Road

The cauliflower a la plancha comes paired with golden raisins, pine nuts, and baby spinach atop pizza bianca at this New York City gastrobar.

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5 Insanely Delicious Veggie Sandwiches That Aren't Made with Cauliflower

Pulled Squash

Served on a hoagie roll with smoked slaw, cilantro vinaigrette and housemade pickles, the perennial favorite at Charleston-based sandwich shop Butcher & Bee is the vegetarian's answer to southern BBQ.

Mushroom Burger

At least one burger is meatless bliss: James Beard winner Spike Gjerde's mushroom patty at Artifact Coffee in Baltimore is bound with tofu and oats on a benne seed bun with sauteed onions and greens.

The Uovo

Egg salad gets an upgrade at Indianapolis bakery Bluebeard, with capers, pickled red onion, greens, goat cheese, and traditional hot dip bagna cuda.

Chickpea Fritter

Memphis' meat-centric Hog & Hominy gets equal love for the fried chickpea fritter on a toasted hoagie with a smoked eggplant puree, topped with a balsamic reduction and quick-pickled vegetables.

The California Maria di Salvio's popular Charlie's Pantry, features a very Left Coast-centric mix of fresh heirloom tomato, avocado, red onion, daikon sprouts, hummus, and tzatziki on a choice of seven house-made breads.

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The Flavor of the Moment: Veggie Ash

Chefs across the country have started to char veggies into oblivion and use the sweet, smoky ash to season dishes. In San Francisco, Fifth Floor coats its wagyu steak in onion ash and venison in beet ash. Area 31, in downtown Miami, garnishes its seared scallop dish with ash made from leeks. And Atlanta-based Restaurant Eugene chars carrots for 15 hours before grinding them into ash for its beet salad.

—Kate Parham

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