Rating: Three forks out of four
Where: 1812 S. Seneca, 316-295-4498
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays; closed Saturdays.
Type of food: Vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, crepes, wraps, desserts, salads and pizzas.
Smoking: Not allowed
Web site: www.dsozo.com
Kansas meat eaters tend to view vegetarian restaurants with some degree of skepticism. Sure, meat-free food is good for you, but is it good?
But even the most ardent red-meat fan can be assured that d'Sozo — a new vegetarian cafe on South Seneca — offers food that's free of meat but full of flavor. (The food also is free of dairy, trans-fat and any animal product.)
Officially spelled with a lower-case "d," d'Sozo is in a cavernous space that also includes a small health-food market, a bakery and space for soon-to-be-launched cooking classes.
The cafe also has a real chef — Miguel Larcher, a Martinique native who specializes in vegetarian cooking and who will lead the classes when they start in the next couple of months.
ON THE MENU: At lunchtime, d'Sozo serves vegetarian sandwiches, wraps and crepes, both sweet and savory. It offers a fresh salad and soup bar and blends a large menu of smoothies, both fruit and "green," made with ingredients such as parsley, kale and spinach.
The cafe offers dinner from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, but that menu features only vegan pizzas, smoothies and a couple of desserts.
Breakfast, offered from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, includes granola, muffins, croissants, fruit and other baked goods.
DON'T-MISS DISHES: Having a real chef on staff makes a difference for d'Sozo. Everything we sampled was fresh and flavorful, and none of it had that sometimes unpleasant "health food" flavor.
One of the best items we sampled was a Thai burger ($7.95), made with a veggie patty and served on a homemade wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and a Thai peanut sauce. The burger did not taste Thai at all, but it was nonetheless delicious, especially the patty, which had a nice texture and surprisingly meaty flavor. It was served with a side of giant and nicely seasoned baked "fries." (d'Sozo also offers other meat substitutes, including soy turkey and a substance called "chik'n.")
The Caribbean sweet avocado sandwich ($7.49) was served on the same bread but featured sliced avocado, cucumber, tomato, black olives and a creamy cucumber dressing, and it was also served with the baked fries. The fresh and hearty veggies made for a light but not-too-light lunch.
The Caribbean Dream smoothie we sampled was just that. Made out of a blend of pineapple, mango, orange juice, coconut milk, Silk milk and vanilla, it was a tropical taste treat and had a nice ice-creamish texture (though it tasted too sweet to be too healthy).
We checked out the salad bar, which was overflowing with fresh veggies — spinach, raw garbanzo beans, etc., but opted to stay with chef-created food, finishing the meal with a dessert crepe — a crepe Suzette ($3.99.) The crepe itself was expertly made, and though the caramel orange filling was a bit too sweet (and tasted oddly of apple pie filling), we're eager to sample the two other flavors — praline ganache and strawberry with fresh mint and soy ice cream.
Larcher also offers daily specials, which include entrees ranging from Thai stir-fry to eggplant manicotti.
The pizzas, which are $12.99 for a 14-inch and $2.49 for a slice, include toppings such as veggie bacon, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, eggplant, capers, roasted portobello mushrooms and soy cheese.
AMBIENCE: The d'Sozo building, which is in a fancy new Italian-themed strip mall, is huge, with tall ceilings and lots of natural light. Cafe seating is in a corner, featuring plenty of space, tables, chairs and booths. Customers order at the counter and can watch Larcher work in an open kitchen.
PRICE RANGE: Sandwiches and wraps are all around $7.50. Savory crepes are $6.50 and $7.50, and sweet crepes are $3.99 to $6.50. Pizzas are $12.99. Smoothies are $4.99 to $8.95.
SERVICE: The counter staff was friendly and informed. Customers order at the counter and wait for the food to be delivered. We found the roving dining room waitress friendly but a bit inattentive.