No Meat, No Problem
This monthly column explores the vegetarian and vegan opportunities in Eagle River and Anchorage area restaurants. It also looks at other healthy options available in area restaurants like whole grains and low fat.
I visited Chepo’s with my husband and 92 year old mother-in-law in the summer. While we waited for our food we enjoyed the flowers in the garden.
Chepos Mexican Restaurant (11535 Market St. in Eagle River) offers several vegetarian specialties on the menu. One, not familiar with Mexican food, might naturally assume that refried beans are vegetarian. The waiter explains they aren’t because they have lard in them. Ok, so that’s out. Any of the items on the vegetarian menu can be made vegan by leaving out the cheese. Whether a “Quesadilla” can be called that without the cheese is beside the point! I decide on a black bean vegetable burrito without the cheese. If you are nervous that either the “pico de gallo” or the “chipotle sauce” might be too spicy for your tastes ask for it on the side. The waiter assures me that the guacamole is made fresh so I ask for that on the side of my burrito.
The Mexican Pizza is also a vegan option with beans, tomatoes and black olives.
On my second visit I decide to try the Spinach Enchiladas. I ask for very little cheese; it is delicious! Oops! I forgot to ask for brown rice (even though I’m sure it isn’t offered, still it would be good to ask—just to raise awareness!). I also neglected to replace the sour cream with guacamole—so I end up ordering an additional serving of guacamole. I did ask for the cheese on the side. It was delicious without it.
Servings are generous and the food is great. No whole grains are available. Hmmm, that’s one area for improvement.
Appetizers: Most have meat, cheese and or are high fat, but could probably be ordered without meat and cheese. The one vegan option is Guacamole Dip. Even though avocados are high in fat, the kind of fat and the general health benefits of make a moderate amount healthy… but one shouldn’t go overboard.
Salads: Without even asking two salads are available from the menu: Garden Salad and Guacamole Salad.
Desserts? Well, while they are vegetarian, nothing on the menu is vegan. All are high in fat as is common with desserts.
Need more information about Chepos? Check out their website: http://cheposfiesta.com/menu.html
Cooking your Mexican food at home? Soak the beans overnight first for quicker cooking. Then I like to simmer them very slowly on the woodstove. A hint from Delisa Renideo (Yes to Life Nutrition & Cooking Classes instructor): Add the salt after they are cooked or the salt will prevent the beans from getting tender.
A vegetarian since 1964, Ruth deGraaff lives with her husband in Eagle River, after careers teaching in Pa., Ak. and in international schools. Her two grown children, raised on a vegetarian diet, still follow the diet themselves.