There is a popular chain restaurant in Boston called Legal Sea Foods.
People like it. They are #1 in Boston's Zagat survey. It's moderately
expensive, but apparently the food is better than moderately good. I wouldn't
know, because being vegetarian, I don't eat seafood, whether it is legal or
But I have ended up there no fewer than three times in the recent past, for
special occasions in honor of non-vegetarians.
They have an item on the menu for people like me. It's called the Vegetarian
Box. It's a Thai-ish stir fry, with tofu, cashews, and some veggies (mainly
carrots and eggplant) served over rice. It costs about $15.
Sometimes, I think restaurants overprice vegetarian dishes just so the
vegetarian doesn't feel left out. I wouldn't really feel like part of the
occasion if my vegetarian stir fry were to only cost the $7 it would cost any
other place, while others at the table munched on $22 plates of shrimp.
Ordering the Vegetarian Box is guaranteed to produce an awkward moment with the
server. It seems they are required to ask whether you would like your
Vegetarian Box with shrimp or scallops. All three servers have realized that
this is a dumb question, yet have sucked it up and asked anyway. One of them
offered a third option, "just vegetarian". So, I guess I ordered a vegetarian
Yes, I know that there are people who call themselves vegetarians and eat
fish. They are not vegetarians in any meaningful sense of the word. But, if I
were the kind of "vegetarian" who ate either scallops or shrimp, and I was at a
restaurant full of them, I would not be ordering the Vegetarian Box. I am in
fact ordering the Vegetarian Box because it is the only entree on the menu that
does not have those things.
Don't get me wrong, it's tasty. I'm pleased that they offer it. But the real
reason to order this dish is for the presentation. The title is meant to be
taken literally. They bring it to you in a white Chinese food takeout box. With
a flourish (one that I'm quite practiced at myself), the server inverts the box
on your plate and carefully removes it, leaving a virtual Jenga(TM) tower of
steaming coconutty tofu and cashew goodness. They take the box away and leave
you to your meal.
But there's a problem. I have a thing about eating all of the food that I order
at restaurants. Nine times out of ten, I finish everything on my plate. Ask
anyone. The first two rounds with the Vegetarian Box, I followed through,
though it was a challenge. But the third time, itching for some variety, I
ordered a salad of Mixed Field Greens with Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette. This
salad put the meal over the brink, and I couldn't finish it.
Left with the toppled and mostly eaten remains of my Jenga(TM) tower, I
realized that I could actually use the takeout box. But of course, as part of
the initial presentation, they don't leave it hanging around. I had to ask for
So, Legal Sea Foods, three suggestions for the Vegetarian Box.
- Remove the option for shrimp and scallops. In the entire history of Legal
Sea Foods, since the day in 1950 when George Berkowitz opened a fish market
next to his father's grocery store in Inman Square in Cambridge, MA, I am
certain that no one has ever ordered the Vegetarian Box with shrimp or
- Leave the box. I might need it.