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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eat-Rite Is Strictly Vegetarian - With Mixed Success

Chances are, many people are still stuffed after Thursday’s feast. If you’re looking to atone for that day of gluttony, maybe you should visit Spokane’s only completely vegetarian restaurant.

Eat-Rite uses absolutely no animal products in its food. Instead of butter and cream, cashew milk gives a vegetable soup its creamy base. “Steaks” are made from veggies and are then smothered in mushroom gravy. Tofu gives the popular lasagna a stick-to-your-ribs quality and Jerusalem artichoke noodles are used in the pasta salads.

The menu is ultra-healthful by design. Owners Rahela and Boris Vrbeta are Seventh-day Adventists - a religion that promotes vegetarianism. Natives of the former Yugoslavia, the Vrbetas are so passionate about their beliefs that they not only offer from-scratch meatless and dairyless meals, but they also sponsor regular seminars on health-related topics and offer cooking classes.

They deserve credit for their good intentions, but after numerous visits, I’ve found the food uneven. Some days, diners might wonder how something that is so healthful can be so tasty. Other days, the entrees can be downright bland.

Located in the basement of an old church, Eat-Rite is set up cafeteria-style. Often there’s just one person serving and working the cash register, so be prepared for a wait if it’s busy.

Every day of the week, a different ethnic cuisine is featured. On Mondays, it’s Mexican. Oriental dishes are served Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, it’s Italian. Slavic food, including the popular cabbage rolls, are served Thursdays. And on Fridays, it’s the cooks’ choice. Brunch is served on Sundays, with a lineup of waffles, crepes and hot entrees.

In addition to the ethnic dishes, there’s a rotating selection of casserole-type entrees, so on any given day diners can choose between two main courses and, in the winter, two soups. Soup choices range from vegetarian chili to tomato noodle and sauerkraut bean.

Also, low-fat, sugar-free desserts, including cakes, cookies and a frozen, fruity treat called Supreme Delight, are made on the premises daily.

Of the entrees I’ve sampled, I enjoyed the rich, savory mushroom stroganoff over brown rice and the hearty lasagna, layers of Jerusalem artichoke noodles, tofu and marinara sauce. The price of all entrees includes a small bowl of greens from the extensive salad bar.

It’s the inventive salad bar that keeps me coming back, in fact. It’s loaded with the usual ingredients - leaf lettuce, green peas, olives, carrots, two kinds of sprouts and other raw veggies - that are crunchy-fresh. The dressings, which can include a creamy dill and an Italian, are flavorful and low-fat.

There is also a sizable selection of entree-type salads, if you choose to eat only the salad bar. I’m especially fond of the tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern dish made with nutty-tasting bulgur wheat. A lemony-mint dressing gives this salad its zing, and the addition of a non-traditional ingredient, kidney beans, makes it truly substantial.

On the salad bar, I also like the tangy potato salad and the cold Oriental noodles that derive their vivid flavor from sesame seeds.

Recently, I invited a friend, who is a confirmed carnivore, to lunch at Eat-Rite to get a fresh perspective. It’s easy enough to preach to the converted, but I figured if this guy liked the food, anyone would.

Unfortunately, we hit it on an off-day. My chickpea a la king with noodles, garbanzo beans and green peas had a creamy gravy but was underseasoned and the gummy texture was unappealing. The Oriental pasta-veggie stir-fry that he ordered had little flavor. And he was unimpressed with the cream of vegetable soup. (He even made me drop him off at David’s Pizza on the way back.)

OK, so Eat-Rite is not everyone’s cup of herbal tea. But for folks looking for a totally vegetarian alternative, this is the only game in town. Eat-Rite deserves recognition for serving its brand of feel-good food.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: EAT-RITE HEALTH CENTER Address/phone: 2303 N. Washington, 325-1957 Meals: vegetarian Prices: $6 for lunch and dinner; $11 for Sunday brunch Hours/days: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays Alcohol: no Smoking: no Reservations: no Credit cards: no Personal checks: yes

This sidebar appeared with the story: EAT-RITE HEALTH CENTER Address/phone: 2303 N. Washington, 325-1957 Meals: vegetarian Prices: $6 for lunch and dinner; $11 for Sunday brunch Hours/days: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays Alcohol: no Smoking: no Reservations: no Credit cards: no Personal checks: yes

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