Despite the vibrant food culture here in St. Louis, there's still a dearth of quality vegetarian and vegan dining options around town. Frida's Deli, which opened last summer in U. City, is doing its part to rectify this situation, offering up a nice selection of veggie-centric fare, as well as raw, low-glycemic, gluten- and oil-free choices.

Frida's space is small--just a handful of seats are available inside, though the restaurant is in the process of expanding into the adjacent storefront. There also are several tables outside on the sidewalk for those who like to dine al fresco.

Those who think that vegetarian and vegan eateries only feature variations on some sort of salad are in for a surprise when they look at Frida's bill of fare. There was a plethora of hot and cold sandwiches available, as well as various sizes of smoothies and juices. The Sweet Zinger (16 oz/$6), a sublime concoction of apple, carrot and ginger, lived up to its moniker, delivering a fine balance of sweet and spice.

We started with a couple of cups of soup, a Split Yellow Pea ($4) and Thai Vegetable ($4). At first, our jaded palates didn't register the subtleties of the ingredients, being so accustomed to highly seasoned dishes as we are. There was little, if any, discernible salt in either soup; and at first, we reached instinctively for the salt shaker. But before salting, we decided to refrain and were pleasantly surprised at how the subtle flavors of the vegetables came through once we gave them a chance. The Thai soup could have benefited from a bit more heat, though.

The Raw Tacos ($10) consisted of scoops of spicy sunflower ‘meat’ on lettuce leaves with pico de gallo, scallions and avocado. We were woefully ignorant of what ‘raw’ really meant; but thanks to the restaurant's informative website, we learned that the label only means that the food is prepared at 118 degrees F or less to keep it as nutrient-rich as possible. The taco filling had the consistency akin to tuna salad sans mayo, and it contrasted nicely texture-wise with the crisp lettuce. Again, the seasoning was super-subtle, but after a bite or two, the low-key spice of the sunflower began to unfold, as did the vegetal snap of the lettuce.

The Falafel Wrap ($8) was served warm—a multi-grain wrap filled with house-made falafel, hummus, red onions, cucumber, tomato and a creamy vegan tzatzki sauce that really tied all of those fresh veggies together.

To finish, the Avocado Mousse ($5), a light, smooth, slightly sweet take on the classic decadent dessert. Seriously, why isn't everyone making desserts with avocado?

Although we remain ardent omnivores, we found the menu items at Frida's satisfied all of our appetites. It's not just for so-called ‘adventurous eaters’ or those with dietary restrictions of some sort--we found plenty of offerings that would make any diner happy.

--Frida's, 622 North and South Road,, 727-6500

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