The Vegetarian Option

Dining out meat-free.

The Vegetarian Option: Tipsy Parson

"Do all chefs think their vegetarian customers only want to eat fried foods, mac and cheese, and salad every time they go out to dinner? Or do they care?"

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[Photographs: Maggie Hoffman]

Tipsy Parson

156 9th Avenue (near 20th St; map); 212-620-4545‎; tipsyparson.com
Cuisine: Southern-style American
Veggie Options: About 15 snacks/sides and a few salads
Cost: Snacks are $4-8, salads $13-15

Tipsy Parson in Chelsea has a sweet sitting area by each window, perfect for after-work cocktails and nibbles. We ventured in for a bite and found snacks and salads aplenty for the meat-averse among us. But do hush puppies and a plate of arugula make a meal?

The hush puppies ($4) are tasty—with a crackling-crisp shell and the brilliant addition of an Old Bay aioli for dipping. "These hush puppies taste like crabs!" my Baltimorean friend exclaimed. (Coming from a Marylander, that's a good thing indeed.) The hush puppies' interiors may be a little dense, but they're not greasy, and their corny sweetness is the perfect foil for the spiced aioli.

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The fried pickles ($4) have a sturdy crust, preventing any soggy mishaps. Their dipping sauce has a bit of a kick, but these felt a little heavy to us.

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Tipsy Parson offers The Fry Up as an appetizer ($10) or a larger serving ($17)—the only meatless large plate. A small was enough for us, though we did like dipping the tempura in the spicy vinegar sauce (and the tartar sauce, too). The fried mushrooms and fennel were deeply flavorful and delicious. Fried celery was less of a hit, and tricky to eat.

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Though it's officially considered a side dish, the gratin of Grafton Cheddar Mac & Cheese ($6) is rich enough to be a main course (especially if you order a side or salad, too.) Grana Padano adds to the sharp cheese flavor, and the sauce was less soupy (and slightly less creamy) than the version we've had a few times at Tipsy's sister restaurant, Little Giant. Some of our tasters found the noodles a bit too chewy, but the al dente lovers among us may prefer them this way.

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To save ourselves from rich-food overload, we ordered a few salads, too. The menu calls this one a Watermelon Salad ($15), but the kitchen was a little stingy with the melon. The flavorful arugula, earthy olives, and feta made up for it though, and the basil oil dressing added another dimension.

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Our favorite dish of the night was the sorrel salad ($13), garnished with delicately crispy fried chickpeas and an amazing lemony chickpea puree. This is the kind of salad we'd like to see more of around New York: fresh flavors and even a bit of protein! Our one complaint was that this salad was just slightly overdressed.

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We couldn't resist a side of spicy-drunken watermelon ($5), which hit the spot on a hot day. The watermelon was ripe and sweet, and the flakes of salt and chili added a savory note and brought out the flavors (a squeeze of lime helped, too.) We didn't taste any tequila, but it was still a refreshing bite.

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We'd heard good things about the grasshopper ($8), and it did not disappoint. Under a crown of whipped cream and a crisp layer of chocolate, the unnaturally green mint mousse was cool and light. Dip a spoon deeper to get some cookie crumbles and chocolate cremeaux: it's an Andes-mint-fanatic's dream dessert.

While we wished that Tipsy Parson had more in the way of vegetarian entrées, our snacks and salads were more than enough to leave us stuffed. It made me wonder—do all the chefs in this city think their vegetarian customers only want to eat fried foods, mac and cheese, and salad every time they go out to dinner? Or do they care?

About the Author: Maggie Hoffman is always looking for good beer, good wine, and a few good restaurants to recommend. She also writes about cooking for Pithy and Cleaver.

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