Call me crazy, but sometimes meat is the least appealing food group I can imagine. I’ll catch a clip of the latest Michael Pollan documentary or take a look at one of those PETA flyers, and I’m immediately convinced that all animals have a soul, and it’s wrong to eat them.

Yeah, I’ll admit it, sometimes my appetite is the polar opposite, and I am convinced there can be nothing more delicious than a juicy steak, but I also have days where I am appalled at the thought of consuming the muscles of a once living, breathing, furry little animal. This is quite the dilemma for a budding foodie, because I want to be able to try everything at least once.

Luckily, these guilty feelings only come in waves. However, I do always feel for vegetarians who are on the lookout for delicious dining options, or for those people who are curious about vegetarianism but afraid to limit their flavor choices to bland tofu dishes and vegetables.

So, I’ve figured out where to go for truly scrumptious food when one of these non-violent, anti-factory farming, animal loving phases of mine hits, or when I’m just feeling the urge to step outside of my regular dining endeavors and eat something different. Here are a few restaurants where you can find some violence-free fare that’s just as delicious as a big ol’ steak.

Taj Indian Restaurant

Indian restaurants are usually good places to go if you’re looking for meat-free dishes, as most food eaten in India is vegetarian. With the huge flavor varieties of the various spices used in Indian cuisine, meat isn’t even needed to give a succulent flavor to their dishes. I’ve found Taj to serve some of the tastiest Indian food in Madison.

Their large menu offers a plethora of vegetarian-friendly options, from the fried mashed potato patty Allo Makki appetizer to a huge selection of traditional Indian breads. The Allo Mattar entr?e is a savory and thoroughly satisfying dish, consisting of sweet green peas and cubed potatoes served in a hearty and lightly spicy sauce over basmati rice. Three heat levels are available if you like your Indian food spicy, and Taj is available for delivery or takeout.

Chautara/Himal Chuli

These two sister restaurants, located right next to each other on State Street, are favorites for many Madison vegetarians. Their flavorful Nepalese dishes are largely vegetarian friendly, and the flavor combinations that come from these restaurants are outstanding. Try Himal Chuli’s Katahar Kabab featuring marinated jackfruit if you’re feeling adventurous, or the Quati, a traditional Nepali soup made with nine kinds of beans and an herby, gingery kick. Himal Chuli is much smaller and a bit cramped, but cheaper than Chautara and a great place to take a date this Valentine’s Day. Both will leave you satisfied.

Sunroom Caf?

Ah, yes, Sunroom Caf?. Although often overrun by chatty girls in spandex, this State Street mainstay is a great place to find vegetarian and vegan dishes. From their popular breakfast options of French toast, vegetarian quiches and whole wheat pancakes to the many grilled vegetarian sandwiches they offer for lunch, Sunroom has a vegetarian option for all hours of the day.

Their dinner menu is actually quite impressive. Many pastas, pizzas and sandwiches are available for the animal-friendly crowd, and I’d say that dinner is the best time to eat a thoroughly enjoyable meal at Sunroom. Try the pizza bella, topped with pesto, creamy goat cheese, red onions, tomatoes and mozzarella for a slightly odd twist on a classic, or the pasta primavera, a fresh and easy pasta dish that’s done well by Sunroom’s kitchen.

Green Owl Caf?

This is perhaps the most exciting restaurant on this list, for several reasons. One, it’s a newly opened restaurant on Atwood Avenue. Two, its menu is entirely vegetarian. Three, everything on the menu is $13 or under. Many of their dishes incorporate faux-meat themes, like the Crabby Cakes, which use mushroom and tofu instead of crab to create a dish similar in texture to your traditional crab cake, but without any animal products whatsoever.

The Green Owl is also another place where you can try the mysterious vegetarian favorite jackfruit, used in a savory BBQ sandwich on their menu, or their top-secret Vegan Schnitzel if German fare suits your fancy. Also available is a simple veggie dog, served with oven-roasted sweet potatoes on the side. The Green Owl’s menu is full of interesting, yet, inviting vegetarian and vegan options that are appealing to seasoned vegetarians, meat-eaters or those new to the vegetarian/vegan food scene.

As you can see, there are many options out there if you’re not feeling very carnivorous. Vegetarian dishes are adventurous, usually healthy and really quite tasty if you’re willing to give them a shot. These four restaurants are great examples of the versatility of vegetarian cuisine and can help you realize that there’s more to vegetarian cooking than tofu and broccoli.

Elin Amundson is a senior majoring in History and Philosophy. Comments and suggestions can be sent to [email protected]