White-tablecloth vegan—it was bound to happen. The booths are tufted, the Toulouse-Lautrec lithograph is original, and Tal Ronnen's food is universally appealing. You'd swear the chopped hearts of palm that goes into his “crab cakes” was Maryland's best lump crabmeat. The breaded “scallopini”—made from a grain compound—is crisp and rewarding. Pastry chef Serafina Magnussen's cannoli shows just how good a dessert made without milk or eggs or butter can be.
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Great wine list, plush booths, original Toulouse-Lautrec art, beaucoup celebrity sightings—Crossroads is a vegan restaurant that toys with expectations. In keeping with its no-creatures-shall-be-exploited principles, the restaurant won't deign to serve honey, yet chefs Tal Ronnen and Scot Jones have created an establishment where carnivores will feel almost as comfortable as their meat-free counterparts. The dainty “schnitzel”—crusty, golden, brought into focus by sprightly greens—will make you forget it's a protein analogue. A smidgen of Old Bay seasoning confers an evocative authenticity on the hearts of palm “crab” cakes. The “oysters,” fashioned from artichoke leaves peppered with richduxelles and yellow tomato béarnaise, acquire a fitting brininess from the finishing dab of kelp-based beads of “caviar.” Pastry chef Serafina Magnussen does just fine without milk, butter, or cream. A crackling marsala-scented cannoli is freighted with vegan ricotta flecked with lime zest—the pudgy, snow-soft ends dipped in chopped candied olives.
Forget showing up in Birkenstocks, folks. You won't find this many celebrities all in one place outside of Craig's. The A-listers are lured by vegan—oh, sorry, “plant-based”—cuisine, which is executed by Tal Ronnen, onetime chef to Oprah Winfrey and gourmet guru to restaurant partners Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. No black bean burgers here: Set atop white cloth-covered tables are fried oyster mushrooms in an artichoke leaf “shell” and pappardelle bolognese with surprising depth. The city's sceniest spots seldom boast its finest food, and this one is no exception. But considering the extra dietary challenge, Crossroads is a treat. So is the full bar.
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All the things we love—butter, eggs, bacon—seem like ingredients we can't live without. It turns out we can, and atop white tablecloths to boot. Crossroads can make the most skeptical carnivore a believer in the vegan experience. You don't have to eschew meat to relish Tal Ronnen's lentil flatbread with smoky spreads or his flaky kale spanakopita. Eating here is pricier than going to the local hippie hang for a plate of mashed yeast, but you leave feeling full and light at the same time. This is “clean food” that doesn't smack of self-denial