Laura Hayes

The Dish: Vegan Hearts of Palm Cakes      

Where to Get It: Equinox Restaurant  

Price: $33

What It Is: The Mid-Atlantic is famous for having the best crab cakes in the country. Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant, known for his vegan culinary creations, is now serving a version of this regional favorite. To make patties that look like crab cakes, Gray braises hearts of palm in olive oil then shreds them. Next, he folds in diced sourdough bread, capers, lemon zest, dairy-free mayonnaise, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and chili powder. Then, he molds patties and sautés them, finally serving them with a side of vegetables. The result closely mimics the original dish.

The Story: Gray loves to develop innovative versions of classic American dishes that to appeal to carnivores, flexitarians, and vegans alike. “Knowing how popular our crab cakes were, we wanted to do something in the same style, but vegan, so we started with a vegan crab cake sandwich, and then came up with this dish where the ‘crab’ cake is really the star,” he says.

Why Even Meat Eaters Will Like It: Hearts of palm have unique texture and are low in calories and cholesterol. Gray manages to manipulate the vegetable into a hearty entrée that he says has been popular with diners. The dish has all the elements of a delicious crab cake: a bit of heat, a hint of sweetness, tender filing, and a crusty exterior.