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Thursday, January 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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How to avoid meat at Pig Out: Options for vegetarians and vegans

Deep fried cheese curds. (Courtesy)
Deep fried cheese curds. (Courtesy)

Don’t let the name ruin the fun: Pig Out in the Park isn’t all about the pigs. Or the meats.

In fact, in the food festival’s 40 years in Spokane, some might consider it decidedly vegetarian-friendly with mounds of desserts, appetizers and all things deep fried, including mac and cheese.

Vegan-friendly? Now that’s the question. But let’s not get too carried away.

Organizer Bill Burke says that in the four decades since Spokane’s most glutenous weekend has been in operation, the variety of offerings has only increased. Gluten-free. Multiple ethnic offerings. And, yes, even some vegan food.

“We really look to the vendors,” said Burke. “Who’s out there? That’s who’s going to determine the menu. It’s not easy to sell outdoors.”

Here’s our list of the best vegetarian/vegan options to help you navigate the pig-less dishes at this year’s Pig Out in the Park.

Best vegetarian grub

With options so vast, it’s difficult to pare down just one. Which is why we’re going to cheat a bit.

For our money, you really can’t go wrong when it comes to cheese, especially the deep-fried variety, cholesterol concerns aside.

What better way to celebrate than with a good ol’ American grilled cheese at JB’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese. While the North Idaho-based sandwich truck sells more meat-friendly offerings than vegetarian, their triple-cheese sammie is a classic.

They’re made on sourdough bread, as all grilled cheeses should, and are served with a dill pickle.

Best save room, though, for a Wisconsin favorite – Deep Fried Cheese Curds. These ones are served with Sriracha, ranch or garlic sauce.

Bon appe-cheese.

Best vegetarian dessert

It’s decidedly difficult to make an omnivore dessert, so the options here are nearly endless. But for our money, nothing screams “pig out” quite like cheesecake (do you see a theme here?).

Thankfully, there’s plenty of offerings, and the best is most absurdly Charlie’s Cheesecake, a Hayden, Idaho-based food truck.

They serve chocolate-dipped cheesecake, chocolate-dipped bananas and caramel apples. Looking for a challenge? Try having all three.

Best vegan grub

You’ll need an open mind – and, preferably, an empty stomach – to eat vegan at Pig Out.

While several places offer some vegan options, like fries or rice, the best full-on vegan dishes can be found at a few separate booths.

Island Noodles from Napa, California, is your best bet if you’re looking for something healthy but with plenty of flavor. While their noodles can be made with teriyaki chicken breast, the standard dish is 100% plant-based.

Don’t just take it from us. Here’s the description on Island Noodles’ website.

“Island Noodles is a unique, healthy meal not typically found at outdoor events. Ingredients include our own soba noodles, a variety of 21 fresh vegetables and a proprietary island-style sauce,” it reads. “Looking for a vegan option? Order your noodles without chicken. We even use separate utensils.”

Noodles aside, the Azar family, who owns Azar’s Greek Restaurant on Monroe Street, is bringing three food trucks, all with different options.

At Azar’s Cafe, vegans can order hummus and gyros without tzatziki and with falafel. At Azar’s Unique Burgers and Buns, there’s the fried peanut butter and jelly roll.

And if a kebab is more your speed, the veggie doner at Doner Haus can be ordered without the herb sauce and cheese. A vegan sauce substitute can be swapped in – just tell the cooks to make it vegan.

Best vegan dessert

While it’s possible some places might carry a dairy-free ice cream, the best option available out-of-the-gate is Kona Ice’s shaved ice. They’re all vegan by design and quite delicious, too, with flavors like lime, pina colada and blue raspberry.

And, of course, there’s plenty of cotton candy no matter where you look. Possibly a deep-fried pickle or two, too, if that’s your definition of sweet treat.

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