Why Being Vegetarian Is Awesome (at Milagro Cantina)

Photo: Milagro Cantina

In a month of March Foodie Madness, Seattleite has focused on the meat eaters. It’s our turn.

If you’re not a vegetarian and you’re still reading this, I’m assuming you either A) Have a beloved friend or significant other who is, and you’re trying to be understanding. B) Didn’t notice the “vegetarian” portion and are now moving the mouse to click to the next story. Or C) Are just really bored and need to bide your time.

Photo: Milagro Cantina

Here’s the thing: I love meat. Ok, make that loved meat. I became vegetarian only a few short months ago. I won’t bore you with the how, why or what-the-hell-was-I-thinking. But I will say that being a dining-out-loving vegetarian in a social group of meat eaters is one of the most strenuous, trying things I’ve done in my 30 years on this planet.

Let’s face it: Meat-friendly restaurants are rarely accommodating in the flavor factor for meat-free entrees. In the last three months, I’ve eaten more salads than the average person does in a lifetime. And if my only entrée option is a goat cheese and beet salad one more time, I’m likely to strangle somebody. (Have you ever had to ask your waiter for the Salmon Risotto, without the salmon?)

Photo: Milagro Cantina

Recently I went out for a Mexican dinner with friends to Milagro Cantina in Kirkland. It’s no coincidence (ok, it is) that Milagro means “miracle.” This modern Mexican miracle on Lake Street in downtown Kirkland has rebuilt my faith in mankind (at least the mankind wearing the chefs aprons crafting my meals — thank you Executive Chef, Chris Peterson).

Now, before I lose the rest of you meat eaters still reading along: Milagro Cantina is NOT a vegetarian restaurant (oh the horror). In fact, my meat-eating counterparts were well satisfied through every bite of their meal. Some meaty favorites? Sopes de Milagro (crisp corn masa cakes filled with tequila, bacon and chipotle black beans, queso fresco, key lime crema). Tamal de Puerco con Chile Guajillo (braised pork and guajillo chile sauce steamed in a banana leaf, cilantro, pickled onion salad). Salpicon de Langosta y Pulpo (lobster, octopus, serrano chiles, mango and avocado on a tostada). And Mole Rojo con Pollo Oaxacan (red mole with braised chicken and white rice).

For once in my vegetarian existence, I wasn’t sitting in a silent jealous rage as my friends cleared their plates and I pushed around my overly drowned lettuce. I was able to happily feast on  my new addiction, the Calabacitus taco (butternut squash, poblano peppers, cactus, grilled corn, cotija cheese, key lime crema), as well as their amazing assortment of gourmet guacamole.

Even my most avid meat-eating friend raved at the deliciousness of the Calabacitus taco. It probably helped my case that, by that point in the meal, we were well on our way to our third round of margaritas.

Photo: Milagro Cantina

Aside from their deliciously authentic Mexican fare, the restaurant also has one of the most expansive tequila offerings I’ve seen this side of the border. And I’m not talking Senor Frogs’ congo line squirt-bottle type tequila. Think top of the line, impossible to find, rivaling the best bourbons in the world tequila. The right glass (ask your bartender for the best recommendations) on the rocks or straight up, and your tequila-weary days are gone.

Or, for less intensity, opt for any of their hand-crafted cocktails featuring seasonal ingredients. The White Peach-Serrano Margarita was my favorite (I love a little serrano spice), while the Washington Margarita and Malta Punch Malta were popular choices with my companions.

Top your meal off with Milagro’s handmade churros, seemingly straight off a Mexico City sidewalk (or a New York City subway station) and you’ll have discovered your own “miracle” on Lake Street.

Fellow vegetarians, you’re welcome.

Milagro Cantina | 148 Lake St S., Kirkland | (425) 952-6270