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Some tasty choices on vegetarian menu

Reggae on the sound system, butterfly decorations, a radiator painted purple and yellow, softly turning ceiling fans, a friendly staff: The Yabba Pot restaurant in lower Charles Village offers no stress. And no meat. The long list of selections changes daily at the vegetarian and vegan restaurant, where bumper stickers calling for peace grace the walls.

To avoid tough decisions, I ordered the sampler ($10.50), which offered no less than 12 choices, including veggie lo mein (chewy in a good way), savory lentils masala, a crispy green earth salad and a bland vegan macaroni and cheese that begged the question: "What's the point?"

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Unfortunately, though, the entire sampler was packed tightly into a single Styrofoam container, making it a challenge to distinguish one dish from another and even tougher to serve in discrete portions.

Scalloped sweet potatoes merged with veggie lasagna, which blended with fried plantains, and the falafel buried the tofu salad. I'm no fan of Styrofoam, but in this case, I'd lobby for at least two containers if it meant fewer unintentional food fusions.

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But the packing problem is a quibble, because this is a place that even reluctant vegetable eaters could handle. For example, a saucer-sized portobello burger ($5), ordered separately from the sampler, would pass muster with most carnivores and was dressed nicely with greens and a tangy sauce.

The Yabba Pot also has a juice bar where carrots, beets, celery and other produce are blended into healthful elixirs ($3.50 and $5). You may ask for a "booster" of ginger, kale or noni (a tropical plant said to have multiple healing properties) for $1.

We opted for a freshly made smoothie with a strong strawberry and banana bent ($3.50) and a frozen banana creme ($2.50), which was a delicious, dead ringer for homemade ice cream. For 50 cents you may add nuts or organic chocolate, but that would be overkill.

Vegan chocolate cake ($2.50) stood up to any box cake I've ever had (neither high nor low praise). But a nubby oatmeal-and-raisin cookie ($1.50) was comfort food of the highest order.

The Yabba Pot

Food: ***

Service: ****

Waiting area: ***

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Parking: ** 1/2

Where: 2433 St. Paul St., Lower Charles Village

Phone: 410-662-8638

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

Prices: Vegetarian dishes and fruit drinks, $3.50 to $10.50; credit cards accepted

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *


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