The New York Times

Sunday, March 2, 2008

By Susan M. Novick

In the Region | Quick Bite | Long Island | Port Jefferson

Before Lisa Cucinello opened the Tiger Lily Café with her mother, Jo Anne, in 1998, she was frustrated at the blandness of most prepared vegetarian food she had tried. “I wanted people to know that there were alternatives to meat that actually tasted good,” she recalled.

Since then, Cucinello family recipes have been adding zest to tofu as well as tempeh and seitan (vegan soy and wheat-based proteins) at this charming order-at-the-counter cafe in Port Jefferson, NY.

Tofu comes in many guises here. It’s layered in a terrine with grilled vegetables in the Tuscan Tofu Torte ($4.95); in cutlets encrusted with coconut and served with a mango salsa ($2.50 each) and folded in a sesame tofu wrap with tomatoes, sprouts, mesclun and Asian peanut sauce ($7.95).

The excellent salads include the Newport Blues, a mix of mesclun, sliced pears, blue cheese and brown-sugar-roasted pecans with a shot of spicy cranberry vinaigrette ($7.95). And the well-stocked juice bar features juice cocktails with wheat grass or spirulina ($3.99 for 12 ounces; $4.99 for 16 ounces) and soy protein energy shakes ($5.29 for 16 ounces).

Dairy-free, wheat-free and gluten-free options are available for customers with allergies or food sensitivities. There are even choices for non-vegans, like a grilled-chicken-and-roasted-vegetable sandwich or a smoked-turkey-and-brie wrap ($7.95 each). There’s also a full cappuccino bar, with drinks ranging from $2.50 to $4.25.

Velvet sofas, art-glass fixtures and a colorful rotating exhibit of local artists’ work give the cafe atmosphere. Red French doors open to a new back deck where live music will be offered in warmer weather.

Tiger Lily Café, 156 East Main Street, Port Jefferson, NY 11777; (631) 476-7080; Winter hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Extended spring hours begin in May. • Zesty Vegetarian • Sunday, March 2, 2008