If you get Groupons, you have noticed that this weekend two of the options are restaurants at opposite ends of the food spectrum. On Saturday, the offer is for the Corner Pug, where you can get solid burgers and other tasty pub fare such as shepherd's pie or yankee pot roast, served with a wide selection of beers, ales, . Even if you don't know their food, you may have been their troop of pugs in the Park Road Parade - and if you haven't, go on October 5th to see this year's proud pooches!
The Corner Pug Groupon is good for lunch Monday-Saturday from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Warm up with classic Baked French Onion soup or Quahog Chowder, or have something more substantial such as Beef, Beer & Sausage Chili with Corn Oysters, Irish Nachos, or Boneless Buffalo Tenders. If you need more, they have everything from Mac 'n' Cheese and Fish and Chips to The Plowman's Lunch, omelets, Chicken Pot Pie, and the aforementioned burgers, Shepherd's Pie, and Yankee Pot Roast. You get you get two $15 certificates for $15 - a $30 value that you can share with a friend, or use twice for yourself.
While vegetarians can find some options at the Corner Pug, such as the Roasted Vegetables Plate or the Zen Burger, it's at Fire & Spice Restaurant on Sisson Avenue in the West End that they can truly enjoy a wide range of options. Everything at this tiny restaurant - they do a brisk take-out business - is vegetarian or vegan, and many items are gluten-free as well. You have two Groupon options here - a smaller Groupon for two and a larger one for four, but again you might need to bring an extra friend because portions are generous and prices incredibly reasonable. I haven't spent $30 - the value of the smaller Groupon - with a friend even when we buy beverages, although maybe if we had room for dessert..........
I love this restaurant for many reasons: First, the food is very tasty, and it's hearty enough that even a meat-eater won't leave feeling that they missed anything. While you can get basic items such as tempeh burger or "not chicken" nuggets, it's the less familiar items such as chole (an Indian dish of chickpeas simmered with curry masala and okra); fabulously spicy jerk tofu; and the traditional West Indian ital stew that truly shine. In addition to the regular menu items, they have specials that take advantage of seasonal produce and the chef's creativity.
Second, I can go there with many of my friends who cannot eat in other restaurants. Fire & Spice is not only vegan and vegetarian, but many items are gluten-free and soy-free and all foods are clearly marked so friends with allergies feel safe eating there. They have a few without garlic or onions to meet the requests of allium-prohibited customers. Even friends who keep Kosher will eat there, because they know there is no concern about contamination from non-kosher meats or other items. And Fire & Spice has a number of raw items beyond salads in case a friend is following that regimen.
Third, I love going to restaurants where the food is different, and more complex than I am likely to cook at home. While I might whip up a dal or curry occasionally, I am perfectly willing to get Fire & Spice do the work for ital stew and enjoy their slow-simmered mixture of coconut milk, sweet potato, pumpkin, chayote, beans or peas, garlic, and spices. Because some items swap out seasonally or based upon availability, it's always a little bit different but equally wonderful.
If you have not tried Fire & Spice, get the Groupon and give it a taste. It's tucked away just down the block from the Half Door, but without a liquor license so you wash down your meal with soda pop or a West Indian beverage such as Hibiscus/Sorrel; Cucumber/Ginger (especially refreshing with the spicier foods); teas, fair trade coffee, or smoothies and fresh juices. I may not buy the Groupon - while it's a great deal, I'm happy to pay full price to eat there. Fire & Spice also caters events, check their website for details.