Recently a friend and colleague let me know he was going to be in town, and asked whether I was free for lunch. I’ve known this friend for a long time, and we’ve had a lot of meals together. A few years ago he became a vegan, and when I first learned, I thought it would be difficult to dine out with him in the same way we’d done when he ate animal products. 

While it does limit one’s options when dining out, there are more and more vegetarian and vegan dining options here, and most fine-dining restaurants will happily accommodate a vegan if you give them some advanced notice. That was certainly the case when we dined at Coquette and Bayona, for example. We also dined at Seed a number of times.

Oddly, in January another friend came to town with his family and while they were here we hosted them for dinner. My friend and his son are vegan, and thus so was our meal; I made a vegetable stew with Moroccan flavors, a carrot salad, some pickled vegetables and cous cous. I’ve been eating a lot more vegetables lately, and while I’m not going to give up meat, I do find myself cooking vegetarian and sometimes vegan meals inadvertently more and more often these days.

I’m going through another of my “cuisines of the world” phases at the moment – this time the food of the Indian subcontinent – and while most of what I’m cooking includes dairy (I make ghee and sometimes the quick cheese known as paneer), it’s mostly vegetarian.   

So it was a bit ironic when my most recent visitor told me he was no longer vegan. He was staying at a hotel on Canal Street, and asked me to pick a spot for lunch. I settled on the Grill Room at the Windsor Court, because I hadn’t been there in a while and because I am very fond of their lunch special.

The special (click on “Plate Lunch” after following that link) is a riff on the “meat and three” lunch plates you see all over the South. You pick a main course from choices that currently include shrimp scampi, a pork taco and gulf fish almondine. You then pick three items from a diverse list of “sides,” and the whole meal comes out at once.

The portions for the mains are a bit smaller than you’d get if you ordered them a la carte, but I’ve never left the table hungry and the quality of the food is top-notch. The meal ends with three small scoops of assorted sorbets, and currently there is a $2 martini special.

I will admit to having one of those when I dined with my friend last week, and under the right circumstances (a long, celebratory lunch when I had nothing serious to do the rest of the day and did not have to drive) I could see myself hitting the 3-per-customer limit. Finally, the restaurant will validate your valet parking.

I don’t get to see my friend very often, and thus when I do, I’m not going to recommend a restaurant that I’m not confident will be excellent. It occurs to me that this may be a new way for me to judge how much I like a place – is it somewhere I’d take a friend or client? That’s a topic for another day, perhaps.