Just like the real thing... except it's not.

Just like the real thing... except it's not.

Some vegetarians are vegetarians because they don't like the thought of eating animal flesh and muscle. They find it gross. Others would love to chow down on a steak, but they either avoid it for health, religious or ethical reasons. For the second group -- and for any carnivore who might be thinking about making the transition -- here's a list of restaurants around the state that specialize in tricking your senses, making food that looks, feels and tastes like familiar meat dishes. See if you can tell the difference. 

Lion's Den Vegetarian Restaurant, Hartford. (860) 241-0220. Hartford Jamaican restaurant that serves almost exclusively vegetable dishes (with the exception of some fish meals). Currently offers vegetarian stir fry chicken as a meat-replacement dish.

Elaine's Healthy Choice, New Haven. (203) 773-1897, elaineshealthychoice.com. Another Jamaican vegan restaurant, this one in New Haven. Customers have raved about the vegetarian pepper steak and vegetarian chick bites.

China Pan, 1600 S East Rd., Farmington. (860) 674-1311. Chinese restaurant based in Farmington that specializes in vegan versions of famous meat dishes, including their vegan citrus ribs and vegan General Tso's chicken. Usually uses a combination of seaweed and mushrooms for the fake meat.

Black Bamboo Chinese Restaurant, 844 Farmington Ave., West Hartford. (860) 236-8888, myblackbamboo.com. Fresh food Chinese restaurant that emphasizes its vegan selections, many of which feature meat substitutes. Try their vegan BBQ boneless ribs or their sesame vegan chicken.

It's Only Natural, 386 Main St., Middletown. (860) 346-9210, ionrestaurant.com/thesexycarrot. Vegan restaurant in Middletown that features affordable tempeh crab cakes and tempeh Caesar salad (tempeh being made from soy into a burger-like texture).

Georgie's DIner, 427 Elm St., West Haven. (203) 933-1000, georgies-diner.com. Immaculately furnished West Haven spot that features both vegan and gluten-free menus. Don't miss their mock chicken salad or their tempeh reuben sandwich.

Fire & Spice Vegan Restaurant, 248 Sisson Ave., Hartford. (888) 367-7970, firenspiceveganrestaurant.com. The menu is distinctly international, representing Jamaica, India, and Russia. Favorites include the BBQ tempeh and seitan stroganoff.

The Red Lentil, 25 Temple St., New Haven. (203) 891-7105, theredlentil.com. Vegetarian & vegan restaurant that has a variety of meat substitute dishes, including shepherd's pie (made with soy sausage) and millet loaf, which is served with Ethiopian spiced tempeh.

Bloodroot, 85 Ferris St., Bridgeport. (203) 576-9168, bloodroot.com. Fairfield County’s default winner or runner-up for our Best Of readers’ poll. Its menu constantly changes to accommodate what’s in season, what’s locally available and what’s  fresh. Recent meat-replacement dishes include vegetarian Jamaican jerk chicken and moussaka. 

The Lime, 168 Main Ave., Norwalk. (203) 846-9240, limerestaurant.com. A Norwalk gourmet natural foods restaurant since 1979. Try their soy carrot loaf (not quite meal loaf) and their grilled tofu in Oriental orange sauce (not quite chicken). 

Shandal’s Vegetarian Café, 520 Capitol Ave., Bridgeport.  (203) 345-8903. A Bridgeport destination for an array of vegetarian meat substitutions (mostly tofu), including mock-chicken and mock-beef barbeque. The fava bean curry is also well-loved. Jamaican is their specialty, but they also offer Italian and American options.