Oh, I know: lox is not vegetarian. But one thing you should know about vegetarians is that many of us can keep going because we've got the occasional exception. I personally eat fish about once a month, and I started this because I just didn't feel healthy otherwise. I try to eat fish that isn't overfished or dangerous, and I also try to eat from a large fish so that I am not responsible for the entire consumption (and in my mind, death) of the animal. But I don't eat just any fish. Since I became a vegetarian, my tastes have changed radically and the only fish I enjoy are very, very fresh—think sushi—or nova lox.
Nova lox is not just another food to me; it's a symbol of my cultural heritage as a Jew and a link to a childhood of festive Sunday brunches. That's why I also eat the gefilte fish Mopsy makes by hand (my great-grandmother's recipe, I think) for our Passover seder. Giving up lox and bagels would feel to me like giving up a part of myself, and I just wasn't able to do it. But I never buy lox myself. Since I am around Jews fairly frequently, it just shows up. And I don't have to eat lox every single time lox n' bagels is served; I do have a vegetarian alternative that deeply satisfies me, which I will share with you.
These are not the only "allowable" ways to eat lox n' bagels; when I lived in Berkeley, California, I went to an event that served bagels with red pepper tofu spread, cucumbers, and alfalfa sprouts. To me, a Midwestern Jew, this seemed a flagrant violation of all that is good about lox n' bagels, but many Californians seemed delighted, so more power to you if you like your bagels with a topping of Hippy.
Original Lox N' Bagels
bagel, sliced in half
cream cheese (chive cream cheese OK)
optional slice of cheese (Muenster is most traditional)
slice of tomato
slivers of red onion
some nova lox
fancy optional extras: capers, grind of fresh black pepper
Jews eat these open faced and not like a sandwich.
Vegetarian Lox N' Bagels
same as original without lox and make the tomato slice thicker
Jews in my experience prefer to have each topping spread out nicely on a platter so that it feels more like a banquet. They like to have chub (NOT de-boned) on the side, also sometimes potato salad or slices of fruit and vegetables. And keep the coffee and tea coming. For an extra touch of authenticity, start a conversation about Maimonides or your gallbladder.
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