READERS' PICK: The Garland is ideal for vegetarians both orthodox and lax, and even their non-veggie friends. The extensive menu offers something for everyone, with options like the Mexican bean burro, pasta combinations, and for those less restricted in their diets, a grilled Mahi Mahi, shrimp marinara, or one of many imaginative omelets. Best and most interesting are the classic veggie sauté; the tofu Normandy with delicious acorn squash smothered by vegetables and tofu in Mornay sauce (served over rice); and a delicious spinach lasagna stuffed with ricotta cheese and accented with pine nuts. All entrees are served with choice of savory soup or salad of baby greens. Dinner at the Garland defies the rabbit food myth of vegetarianism. Both the variety on the menu and the mega portions in which they're served speak to appetites in all ways healthy. It's no small wonder that it's been a perennial favorite for fine vegetarian fare. (Also see Best Breakfast, page 46.)
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Govinda's Natural Foods Buffet, 711 E. Blacklidge Drive. Located in the Chaitanya Cultural Center, Govinda's Natural Foods Buffet offers a peaceful, tranquil dining atmosphere -- a perfect compliment to their delectable vegetarian buffet. Situated mere feet from the traffic and noise of First Avenue, the quiet, walled-in patio feels like it's a million miles away from the hectic world-at-large. Awash in twinkling lights and resonating with the sound of a bubbling water fountain, the tree-lined patio offers a secluded oasis perfect for relaxing conversation. An on-site aviary, featuring a group of occasionally sassy peacocks and macaws, and a man-made lagoon featuring a waterfall and large fish, adds yet another excuse for curling up and taking a nap right on the premises. Indoor dining is also available, for those days when it's just too hot to loll outside. Govinda's Hindu-themed dining room offers its own level of relaxed atmosphere. (See also Best Therapeutic Meal, page 47.)
MORE MANIA: Convincing meat-eating friends to try a veggie restaurant is one of the most trying ventures for vegetarians. Guilin, 3250 E. Speedway Blvd., solves that problem with ease, having earned its place as a solid contender on the Chinese food scene. Incredibly fresh and flavorful offerings will please the meat-free and their carnivorous companions equally. Standout appetizers are the creative seaweed finger rolls, a vegan variation on a spring roll, using seaweed as a wrapper.