Best Cities for Vegetarian Foodies

by on July 9, 2013

Many Americans worried about food safety and health issues are turning to alternative diets. 7.3 million Americans consider themselves vegetarian, and another 1 million consider themselves vegan. However, finding appropriate dining options while traveling can be tough. Here’s TravelNerd’s guide to the best foodie cities for vegetarians, complete with our top picks.

Austin, Texas

Texas may be the home of cattle country, complete with its emphasis on barbeque and steak, but Austin has a thriving vegetarian culture. Those seeking the full southern-comfort food experience should head to Counter Culture for their fill of vegan Mac & Cheese and quiche. In the summer, head to Beets Café for their yummy, filling smoothies full of healthy foods like Goji berries, kale and young coconut.Those seeking Austin’s famous food trucks aren’t left out – Guac N Roll puts their own spin on Mexican food with amazing custom guac (we love the ones topped with grape tomatoes) and steaming hot vegetarian tamales.

Dessert fiends can top off their meal with a stop at Red Rabbit Bakery, a cooperative that makes vegan baked treats. They’re known for their donuts that come in delicious flavors like Mexican Chocolate Glazed and Vanilla Lavender. Find out more delicious vegetarian and vegan restaurants at Austin Vegetarian and information about vegetarian-friendly events at the Vegetarian Network of Austin.

Portland, Oregon

Portland has turned vegetarian and veganism into a lifestyle, with vegan bike shops and even a cruelty-free massage parlor. Food Fight! is a handy one-stop shop for all things vegan – come by for vegan junk food and last-minute portable food like soups, produce and quick meals. Also stop by People’s Food Co-op to meet and mingle with the locals at their farmer’s market on Wednesdays or even pick your own food at the many U-Pick farms participating in the cooperation.

Want something fast and filling? The Whole Bowl is a healthy bowl of brown rice, beans, avocado and more, topped off with the Tali sauce, also known as “crack sauce”, which will have you running back for more. And of course, round off your visit with a stop at the famous Voodoo Doughnut, which has a great vegan selection of raised-yeast doughnuts, fruit cakes and chocolate cakes.

Los Angeles, California

Is it any surprise that there are plenty of restaurants catered towards any dietary restriction in Los Angeles? We didn’t think so. Los Angeles is the home of the vegetarian chain Veggie Grill, a cheap, fast option for vegetarian food that is growing on the West Coast. We love their sweetheart fries and delicious faux-meat burgers for a healthy quick meal on the go. Native Foods Café offers a lovely area to sit and relax on balmy summer nights, with a wide variety of vegetarian, dairy-free choices like Native Chicken wings, fritters and the scorpion burger. Top off your meal with organic, local beer and cupcakes.

Those looking for something more veggies should stop at Real Food Daily in Santa Monica, the original location. The menu is entirely plant-based, and all ingredients are grown exclusively with organic farming methods. Just down in South Santa Monica is Euphoria Loves RAWvolution, a favorite of locals featuring pesticide-free, organic produce from local farmers in all their raw dishes. If you’re looking for something extra-special, head to Chef Tal Ronnen’s Crossroads for a dinner of Mediterranean small dishes, salads and farm-to-glass cocktails.

New York City, New York

New York City is culinary heaven for all foodies, and vegetarians are not left out. Beyond Sushi is a fully vegan sushi restaurant opened by Chef Guy Vaknin, a veteran of the TV show Hell’s Kitchen. He customizes all his rolls down to the smallest details — his fruit- and vegetable-rolls are wrapped in either black forbidden rice or a custom six-grain rice blend. Blossom is a vegan restaurant with three branches (in Chelsea, Upper West Side and West Village).With three sit-down branches, a bakery and three “fast food” locations, there’s something for everyone. We recommend heading to the original branch in Chelsea for a relaxed dinner of dishes like risotto, mushroom calamari and arugula salad.

Candle 79 is another vegan restaurant focusing on organic, vegan cuisine sources from local ingredients. If you love the food, be sure to pick up the cookbook to make your own dishes at home after your trip. Then, top off a great meal with babycakes, where all items are dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and gluten-free.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is a thriving vegetarian haven in the Pacific Northwest. There are plenty of vegetarian options at most restaurants and many and vegan restaurants. Even universities have jumped on this – Bastyr University has dining commons open to the public that focus on keeping a green kitchen that also functions as a community-gathering place. On any given week, you’ll see stands selling fresh flowers and produce, bake sales or other student-run events. In The Bowl Bistro is a Southeast Asian bistro with vegetarian satays, springrolls and, of course, noodle soups.

For a snack, stop by Cyber Dogs, an Internet café slash hot dog spot. They serve a whole variety of vegetarian hot dogs with toppings like avocado, walnuts, artichoke hearts and basil. Those with a huge sweet tooth should check out The Flying Apron, a gluten-free vegan bakery and café which serves scones, cupcakes and muffins of all types – take some home for breakfast the next day. Those with an adventurous palate should try Punjab desserts at Punjab Sweets. There are plenty of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options like coconut rolls, burfi (milk fudge pastries) and petha (candied fruit).

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is chock-full of local, organic restaurants focusing on healthy eating, so there’s no lack of vegetarian restaurants in the area. Greens focuses on organic, sustainable produce sources from local farms in the area, and serves everything from brunch to dessert. Those seeking Mexican food (always an excellent choice on the West Coast) should head to Gracias Madre, home of vegetarian Mexican food with dishes like coconut ceviche and guacamole con tortillas.

Source, as the name implies, focuses on fresh, seasonal organic food, shown through their famed sandwiches on bread baked in-house with the freshest produce fillings. This focus even extends to the food trucks. Sunny Vibrations is a solar-powered vegan food truck with a rotating menu of wraps, sandwiches, rolls and appetizers. Thinking of trying your hand at gardening? Travelers should be sure to check out the UC System’s Master Gardener Program, where they have how-to gardening seminars perfect for the at-home gardener looking to grow their own food.

Denver, Colorado

Denver is home to plenty of nature-loving, outdoorsy adventurers who love healthy, delicious foods so there are plenty of vegetarian options around town. Watercourse Foods is a vegetarian restaurant with a simple and accessible menu. We love the brunch dishes like scrambles, pancakes and breakfast sandwiches and tacos. Green Fine Salad is a local Denver-based chain focused on providing easy build-your-own salads wherever you are. Those heading to Denver shouldn’t miss out on the excellent beer scene.

The Kitchen Denver opened in the Spring of 2012 as Denver’s Community Bistro, which serves food and drink sourced from a community of farmers and ranchers. Have a vegetarian happy hour at Hops and Pie for build-your-own artisan pizza and local craft beer. With toppings like heirloom tomatoes, arugula, caramelized onions and vegan cheeses of all types, this place caters to all.

Atlanta, Georgia

The South has a reputation of having vegetarian-unfriendly food, but Atlanta is changing that perception with its numerous vegetarian restaurants. Cafe Sunflower has been around since 1994 and features dishes from the Caribbean, Asia and the Mediterranean, so you can try a little bit of everything.

Seasons 52 takes a fresh approach to their dishes, with a seasonally-rotating menu to take advantage of the freshest produce. Be sure to pair the food with their international wine list for a full dining experience. Those looking to cook should head to the Boxcar Grocer, which carries local goods from local farmers and artisans.

Boise, Idaho

Boise is an up-and-coming city with a growing population of young professionals looking for healthy delicious options. Plenty of vegetarian restaurants are popping up all over town. The Shangri-La Tea Room and Cafe blends its own herbal tisanes with organic herbs. Top off their excellent tea with snacks in their vegetarian café for the perfect afternoon tea.

The Boise Fry Company isn’t exclusively vegetarian, but is focused on keeping a green kitchen that uses the best local organic food. Their famous fries are vegetarian-friendly, fried in peanut oil that has not been used for other purposes. The Boise Co-op stocks local organic produce for those interested in cooking as well as fresh food with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options for travelers on the go.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City is a top city for vegetarians looking to grab a good plate of food and get out into the outdoors. Cafe Supernatural is located in Trolley Square, near downtown Salt Lake City. They have a 100% vegetarian menu focusing on local and organically ingredients to create dishes like vegetarian raw noodles and blue corn winter squash tamales. Cafe Rio Mexican Grill opened in Utah in 1997 and focuses on fresh Mexican food with handmade tortillas and plenty of vegetarian options, from burritos to tacos.

Zest Kitchen and Bar offers raw vegetarian foods and handcrafted cocktails – after dinner, Zest opens up the floor for live music and dancing. Sage’s Cafe uses traditional cooking techniques to create fresh, healthy vegetarian cuisine, complete with sea salt harvested locally in Utah so you feel good about what you are eating.


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Photo Credit: from Crossroads Kitchen

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