While located a daunting 23 mile drive from downtown Baltimore, we started the year with a visit to the vegan “Great Sage” restaurant in Clarksville. We were “WOW”-ed with a gourmet vegan dining experience unlike anything we’ve encountered. While other vegan dining options that we tried over the years have had a very casual collegiate (“One World” or “Golden West”) or a 1960’s counter-culture feel ( “Land of Kush” or “Yabba Pot”), Great Sage’s upscale feeling dining room immediately impressed us with sophisticated colors and lighting highlighted by eye catching art surrounding 20 polished butcher block topped tables.
Great Sage’s menu quickly raised our consciousness over what gourmet plant-based dining options could be. Two house made soup options ($4.50) immediately got Marty’s attention. A half dozen “starters” with items like “Black Bean & Roasted Corn Quesadilla” and “Makizushi” (raw carrot, red cabbage, cucumber, ginger with spicy peanut sauce wrapped in squash) got John and our guest Rita’s attention. We found a half dozen salads ($9 – $12) and 8 main courses ($15 – $18 including Hearts of Palm faux crab cakes, Seitan Au Poivr or Roasted butternut squash, eggplant and spinach in a robust herbed red wine tomato sauce tossed with rigatoni and topped with cashew ‘cheese’). Plus at lunch, there’s a half dozen sandwiches/wraps ($10 – $13). All of this made making decisions on what to order interestingly difficult!
Marty opted to start with “Pea & Garlic” soupwhile John & Rita decided to start by sharing a Hummus platter. Marty decided on a Green Lentil & Pumpkin burger for his main course.
John ordered the Autumn Chili for his main course (though sorely tempted by a vegan “Ruben” with marinated, baked spiced tempeh and faux ‘Parmesan cheese”) while Rita went for a Apples & Baby Spinach salad.
Marty’s soup had a rich, creamy texture which he liked (Marty used some pieces of crusty French bread to mop up his bowl).
The hummus platter surpassed our expectations with a large container of delicious toasty brown garlic hummus, a golf size ball of awesomely good olive tapenade, a pile of toasted naan bread, lightly sautéed artichokes and red onion along with cucumber, carrot and celery sticks (This generous serving could have easily functioned as an entrée or as an appetizer easily shared by four).
Marty’s pumpkin seed crusted vegetable “burger” with green lentils, pumpkin, quinoa, green cabbage, caramelized onion, and grated carrots topped with mustard greens and garlic aioli on a Kaiser roll and accompanied by house made sweet potato chips won his “Thumbs Up!” easily (Ever Kosher conscious, he passed on the standard included tempeh “bacon”…) Rita’s salad with roasted apples and butternut squash on baby spinach with a smokey maple vinaigrette and topped by a mound of crispy fried onions tasted (and looked!) wonderful and earned another “Thumbs Up” (she passed on usually included tempeh “bacon” and toasted peanuts). John’s chili – with roasted sweet potato, roasted garlic, black and red beans, onions, tomatoes and peppers – was served with toasted quinoa and a big hunk of delicious corn bread. It was both satisfying and tasty and earned yet another “Thumbs Up!”. (FYI – Don’t bother tough asking for butter for the corn bread though in a vegan restaurant! <Wink>) Service was attentive – water glasses were refilled without asking and requests for extra ‘sharing’ plates or catsup for Marty’s sandwich were filled quickly)
A dessert menu (most $7) offered choices that we found it hard to resist. After considerable pondering, John and Marty decided to share an Apple Brown Betty while Rita had to try the grilled pumpkin pie.
The brown betty arrived in an earthenware crock with cinnamon scented pieces of apple under a walnut and oats crust and topped with a scoop of Coconut faux ice cream. Mmmmmm! The pumpkin pie – with a cinnamon cookie crust and finished with dribbles of salted caramel sauce looked and tasted so much better than the supermarket equivalent version. John managed to get a small taste and that one spoonful was enough to explain the blissful look that emerged on Rita’s face. With too many memories of past big disappointments with vegan desserts around Baltimore, Great Sage’s vegan desserts wildly exceeded our expectations and earned yet more “Thumbs Up!” kudos from us.
Contrary to some of our initial fears in deciding to trying another vegan restaurant, Great Sage proved that a vegan restaurant can provide friendly, attentive service in visually interesting upscale space with plant-based cuisine can be totally satisfying. Worth the drive? Definitely! (and if you try it out, be sure to include a visit to the wonderful vegetarian “Roots” supermarket a short walk away!)
FACTS: Great Sage; 5809 Clarksville Square Drive, Clarksville; 443-535-9400; greatsage.com; Full Bar; Vegan; Live music on Thurs evenings; Sunday Brunch 10 – 3; Closed Monday; lunch & dinner Tues – Sat 11:30 am – 10 pm; adjacent ample free parking. The wonderful “Roots” vegetarian supermarket is a short walk way and is well worth a visit when you go to Great Sage. (Last Visited: 1/3/2013)