13 Must-Try Spring Vegetable Dishes Across America

By Zagat Staff  |  April 23, 2014
Credit: Leslie Kelly

Regardless of the season, veggies are taking center stage on the plate at restaurants around the U.S. But just for spring we're highlighting some of the tastiest veggie-focused, seasonal dishes in the country that don't make you feel like you're "eating your vegetables." Check them out below.

  • NYC: Parsnip “Steak” at Rosette

    At this cozy Lower East Side bistro, Nick Curtin is giving parsnips the steakhouse treatment. The long, ivory-colored root is slow-roasted until tender, then finished on a pan just like a hunk of meat. Curtin bastes the parsnip with butter, garlic and herbs to caramelize the exterior and plates it with a whimsical spin on two steakhouse sides: spinach and mash. A well of creamy potato purée - spiked with mustard and folded with chard - holds lightly sweetened hazelnut butter, and the entire dish is finished with wisps of fried parsnip.

  • Los Angeles: Peas and Morels at Cliff’s Edge

    After more than a year at the Silver Lake gem, Vartan Abgaryan has shown his prowess with seasonal ingredients and is having a lot of fun along the way (check out his roast chicken nights on Mondays). Every spring you’ll definitely see things like ramps, favas and rhubarb on his menus, and this dish is a perfect example: super-unique blonde morel mushrooms, English peas, green garlic, smoky honey and Parmesan cream make magic together on the plate.

  • Credit: Christopher Cina

    Denver: Roasted Hearts of Palm at The Squeaky Bean

    Leave it to an ace of playfulness like Squeaky chef Theo Adley to bring so many unsung ingredients together on one startlingly gorgeous plate. With its clean vegetal tang and somewhat-fleshy texture, hearts of palm comes showcased amid a host of cool, tart and nutty accents - wheatberries tossed in foraged-nettle purée; green strawberries lightly pickled with sugar and lime juice; green almonds, which Adley describes as “juicy and cucumber-y,” and charred, sumac-dusted wild spring onions.

  • Chicago: Cauliflower at Stella Barra

    We have a difficult time justifying Jeff Mahin’s addictive pizza as healthy, but we can call the roasted cauliflower a more nutritious option. The cauliflower steak, a beefy piece of cauliflower that can be found at Balena and other restaurants roasting vegetables in their wood-burning ovens, is served with brown butter, smoked provolone, hazelnuts and lemon.

  • Houston: Tomato Sundae at Haven

    Eat with your eyes and your stomach with this dish. A bed of vibrantly colored, assorted heirloom tomatoes is topped with mildly sweet, white 1015 onions. Next, refreshing frozen lemon-olive oil crème fraîche ice cream is added, plus a drizzle of aged balsamic. A garnish of fresh microgreens and dehydrated tomato skins is sprinkled on top.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: Pullet egg With Mushrooms and Lettuce Broth at The Farm & Fisherman

    Like early spring lettuces, pullet eggs appear only at the very beginning of the season - they come from young hens who've only just begun laying, and are more flavorful than all that follow. Chef Josh Lawler lightly poaches his, and places it over smoked and sautéed mushrooms that enhance its richness. The surrounding baby greens and foraged herbs are brought in with a crisp, bright-green broth made of lettuce, mint, parsley and chervil.

  • Washington, DC: Eggplant Spread at Tel’veh Café & Wine Bar

    Chef Dimo Kolouas at Tel’veh Café & Wine Bar makes his eggplant spread ($6) from spring onions foraged from Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market. He recommends looking for vibrant, bright colors and a just-picked aroma when scouring farmer's markets for the very best produce. To store spring onions, Kolouas suggests wrapping the entire thing in a slightly moist paper towel.

  • Boston: Seared Baby Romanesco at Alden & Harlow

    Romanesco tends to make a return on menus in spring, and chef Michael Scelfo's Harvard Square spot does the baby broccoli right. His seared romanesco ($11) is served with equally in-season fiddleheads and spring onions, plus wood sorrel and almonds. 

  • Austin: Veggie Benedict at Enoteca

    The staff affectionately calls it the veggie Benedict, but on the menu it’s spelled out in more detail. Somehow we think the two-word phrase rolls off the tongue more than “two poached eggs, sautéed spinach and roasted tomato on focaccia bruschetta with brown butter hollandaise,” but we’re not going to quibble when it tastes this good.

  • Credit: Farah Fleurima

    Dallas: Grilled Celery Root at Victor Tangos

    We’ve been seeing grilled cauliflower steaks rising in popularity, and this is a similar but singularly unique take on that. The celery root slab is poached in mirepoix before hitting the flame, creating a slightly crispy outside and pleasantly toothsome inside. Drizzled in a perky tonnato sauce, it's crowned in greens that add a mild bitter balance to the dish. A sensational side dish or starter.

  • Credit: Leslie Kelly

    Seattle: Risotto con Piselli at Serafina

    Serafina's Risotto con Piselli is so pretty, getting its various shades of green from sweet English peas, herbs and delicate pea vines. Its creaminess comes from mascarpone but the dish is not overly rich: it's perfectly al dente rice, bound together by a slightly soupy sauce. Served at lunch and dinner, the risotto can be ordered as a starter or a main. 

  • San Diego: Saigon Rolls at Native Foods

    Palm Springs-based Native Foods Cafe's rabid and loyal following has followed them into Encinitas where they serve flavorful vegan food using plant-based proteins. Our favorite is the saigon rolls that will sway the unconvinced that a vegetable-based appetizer doesn't equal flavorless. Lemongrass tofu, daikon, carrots, rice, cucumber, cilantro and basil are rolled into a whole wheat wrap and served alongside a tangy peanut sauce.

  • Atlanta: Vegetarian Reuben at The General Muir

    Take beets. Rub them with coriander and other spices and smoke them prodigiously. Slice, place on twice-baked rye from Alon's Bakery, and layer with Gruyère cheese, sauerkraut and house-made Russian dressing. Grill sandwich, serve with a pickle. That's how to make a veggie Reuben - who knew?