With Americans looking to go more and more healthy, vegetarians and just us commoners, alike, simply can’t go wrong with a classic veggie burger, vegan soup, or good ‘ole tofu. Here’s our top pics from all across these great states.
Millennium Restaurant, San Francisco
No matter which millennium it happens to be, we hope this place stays around for quite a few more! Located just west of Union Square, Millennium is a frequent winner of VegNews’ annual readers’ choice award for Favorite Fancy Vegetarian Restaurant. Its seasonal menu crosses culinary boundaries: Korean-spiced smoked tempeh; a tamale with sesame mole; a house-made sunchoke ravioli. The wine list features more than 50 bottles, all of which are organic or sustainably grown. The menu rotates around the season so it’s always fun to come back time and time again to see what their culinary masters’ latest creations. Those on a budget may want to try their “Frugal Foodie Menu” that’s available Sunday through Wednesday only, offering an appetizer, entree, and dessert for $42 per person.
Meze 119, St. Petersberg
Coming highly recommended from our friend Shannon O’Donnell from session #3 of The US City Traveler Podcast, Meze is inspired by the traditional cuisine of the Middle East and infused with a modern culinary flair. Their all-vegetarian menu features fresh salads, authentic pita bread, and sauces that showcase middle-eastern spices and flavors. They also have a daily selection of savory puff pastry, sandwiches, delectable desserts, and more. Their unique menu caters to vegetarians, vegans, and anybody who loves fresh, delicious food. The prices are also rather reasonable. Try the Moroccan BBQ Chikk’n with sweet and savory moroccan bbq sauce served with couscous and crispy fresh spinach for $13. Best in town! Probably in all of Florida!
Weathered wooden floors, exposed brick, and a soaring textured ceiling create an elegant downtown space in this food- and health-obsessed college town. The farm-to-table menu, sourced in part by owners Lenny and Sara Martinelli’s nearby Three Leaf Farm, is primarily gluten-free. More than half its items, such as miso-glazed tofu and zucchini-noodle manicotti, cater to those diners avoiding both meat and gluten. Try their yummy “Beet Steak” for $16, featuring sesame crusted beets, garlic mashed potatoes, seasonal veggies, wakame salad, and wasabi coconut cream! If you don’t like this then you’re just sick!
Vegeria, San Antonio
Tex-Mex gets reinvented at this homey spot billed as San Antonio’s first and only entirely vegan and gluten-free establishment. Classic southwestern ingredients such as beans, corn, and guacamole result in homemade tamales, tacos, and enchiladas. Be sure to ask about Rosalie’s Daily Special, named in honor of the owners’ late grandmother; it might be loaded nachos or fajita salad. They are also especially well known for their yummy smoothies, coming in four different flavors: peanut butter cup, orange creamsicle, swamp goddess, and sun kissed! My favorite is the yummy Raw Taco Salad for $13, with lettuce, pico-de-gallo, avocado, corn, raw sour cream, raw sunflower chorizo, micro greens and raw tortilla chips.
Husband-and-wife chefs Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby prefer it that way, eschewing vegan stereotypes to call their celebrated 2011 opening a “vegetable restaurant” instead. A veggie charcuterie bar features a variety of house-made pickles, while Landau (who grew up a carnivore) imparts meaty satisfaction to entrées like smoked eggplant braciole. Try the Grilled Seitan for $16, featuring swiss chard, whipped tahini, pickled turnips, and za’atar!
Kajitsu, New York City
Kajitsu’s shojin cuisine, a style of vegetarian cooking derived from Zen Buddhism, transforms local vegetables into multicourse meals featuring fresh-daily soba noodles, soups, and painstakingly prepared sauces. Executive chef Ryota Ueshima draws on the culinary traditions of his native Kyoto, where he completed a decade-long tenure at Michelin three-star restaurant Hyotei. Traditional ceramic dishware (some more than 200 years old) adorns the otherwise spartan midtown dining room. It’s a little pricy than the options above, but after all it is NYC so what did you expect?! Come for lunch for the $18 Bamboo Shoot Sukiyaki Donburi or come for dinner for the $85 eight course masterpiece. Kajitsu will leave you feeling full and refreshed from the ordinary, making it a real winner in our book.
Green Seed Vegan, Houston
Forget fat-bubbly steaks and cheese-drenched crab enchiladas, Green Seed Vegan features delights like the “dirty burque,” a mega-size melee of veggies. The veggie pattie looks like meat, feels like meat, and is seasoned way better than meat. It’s actually made mostly of buckwheat, a protein-rich grain. Spiced with cilantro and kicky peppers, it’s a welcome alternative to patties that taste like cow. It’s solid but a bit mushier than its meaty brethren, and the texture is not at all off-putting. The pattie is decorated with green chilies, snappy arugula, avocado, tomatoes, raw white onions, and a thin coat of eggless mayo on a fluffy whole wheat bun. Finish it off with the antioxidant-packed drink from the super blends section, called “superacai.” The frapped drink is filled with blueberries and acai berries.
Natural Selection, Portland
Plank floors, warm lighting, and finely etched color portraits of vegetables give Natural Selection a rustic grace, while an open kitchen adds a modern touch beneath a gleaming rack of stainless-steel pots. Chef Aaron Woo avoids faux meat products in favor of a vegetable-driven prix fixe selection of salads, soups, and mains. While they do tend to have somewhat of a limited menu, Portland is nevertheless known for their outrageous restaurant delights and the “Natural Selection” offers all you could expect and more! My favorite? The Chestnut Tagliatelle Pasta with truffle, cabbage, flageolets and ver ju is a real treat.
Dell’z Uptown, Charleston
The latest offspring of Dell’z Deli and juice bar Dell’z Vibez opened in May 2013 in a muraled dining room that channels its predecessors’ funky spirit. Casual comfort food gets a healthy twist: spicy hummus tacos are dressed in fresh tomatoes, avocado, and feta, and pita-crust pizzas are piled high with veggies and vegan cheese. They offer a few incredible smoothies to help wash it all down, ranging from the Uptown Elvis (dark cholotae, almond butter, almond milk..) to the Green Goodness with fresh oranges, spinach, banana, and even ginger. Be sure to save room for dessert so you can try their special vegan cupcakes in flavors like pumpkin cream and espresso chocolate.
Green Zebra, Chicago
On any given day there’s usually one animal-protein option, such as rainbow trout or occasionally chicken, but never more than two. A few menu items carry a “V” designation for vegan, but don’t be misled. Several of these dishes are marked for their vegan potential, though they are not vegan as described. Which explains why the roasted beets with olive tapenade get a “V,” despite the presence of goat cheese. What seemed perhaps most impressing was their unusual assortment of desserts, including a Peanut Butter and Jelly Bombe, a Gianduja Chocolate Mousse, and even Eggnog Ice Cream! Yum!
Café Sunflower, Atlanta
Voted the South’s best restaurant by Vegetarian Timesreaders, this suburban Atlanta standout has been serving a mixed portfolio of Asian, Caribbean, and Mediterranean flavors for nearly two decades. Try the spicy pad thai and spring rolls, both of which also turn up at the restaurant’s newest location, in Buckhead. Try the Sunflower Pizza, with grilled endive, capers, artichokes, dates and pumpkin seed pesto. Or go for the Harvest Salad, offering organic mixed greens, asparagus, herb croutons, Granny Smith apples, gorgonzola cheese, candied walnuts, carrots, dried cranberries with thyme vinaigrette ($11). They also have a soy patty Sunflower Burger, with a hand rolled whole-wheat bun romaine lettuce, pickled purple onion, tomatoes, baked sweet potato fries, and organic mixed greens ($12).
Café Flora, Seattle
Seattle Magazine readers named Café Flora the best vegetarian restaurant in 2013, no small honor in a city where well-regarded peers include Plum Bistro and Sutra. The dining area, converted from an abandoned laundromat, features a verdant, sunny atrium walled in floor-to-ceiling windows, plus an on-site herb garden available for special events. The selection of sandwiches, salads, and stone-fired pizzas relies heavily on local farms. Try the Oaxaca Tacos with corn tortillas filled with cheesy mashed potatoes, served with black bean slew, smoky braised greens, fire roasted salsa, and lime creme fraiche for $16.5. Or go for the Roasted Yam and Grilled Pepper Tamales with black mole sauce, Mexican rice, pickled radish, red onions and avocado-peanut salsa ($17).
Choices Vegan Café, Miami
Freshness is the order of the day at this downtown café. They offer a huge selection so vegetarian or not, there is plenty to go choose from. Organic juices and smoothies come in tempting blends such as Green Dinner (apple-kale-spinach-ginger-lemon), Sex A-Peel (apple-beet-cucumber-ginger), and CocoBliss (coconut-cacao-goji-almond butter-chia-agave). Pair yours with a salad, wrap, or sandwich also bursting with good-for-you grains, fruits, and vegetables—and come back over the weekend for the make-your-own-pancakes brunch. Those looking for a little liquid after the deep Miami heat will want to try the Ginger Miso Soup, Sweet Potato Kale Stew or the Kale, Lentil, Quinoa ($8). Those looking to mix up their breakfast game (especially locals!) will want to come on the weekends for their special breakfast pancakes, offering toppings like spinach, cacao nibs, pineapple, mango, chocolate chips, bananas, and a number of other, even a few healthy batter options too!
M.A.K.E, Santa Monica
Raw pioneer Matthew Kenney wraps kimchi dumplings in young coconut meat at his restaurant and school. The dining area of M.A.K.E. has three main components: a communal omakase-style bar where guests will watch our chefs prepare a tasting menu, and have a fresh juice or cocktail; an airy dining room accented with natural woods and fabrics, and a full service outdoor patio to take advantage of the near-perfect Santa Monica weather. Get the Bahn Mi Tostada with maitake, guacamole, chipotle creme, carrot and radish for $15. Or perhaps the Black Pepper Kelp Noodles are more your style; they come with mushrooms, snap peas, olive crumb, and pea vines ($17). Finish off that fabulous meal with pumpkin cheesecake, a banana split, chocolate cake, passion fruit, or even a seasonal ice cream trio.
Crossroads, Los Angeles
Prior to opening this West Hollywood spot in early 2013, chef Tal Ronnen prepared his plant-based cuisine for celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. Mediterranean-inspired small plates like lentil flatbread, kale spanakopita, and chile- and cumin-spiced carrots invite sharing. And the atmosphere encourages you to linger: chandeliers, wing-backed chairs, and an original Toulouse-Lautrec print lend an air of sophistication to the restaurant and adjoining private dining rooms. From a nice cauliflower bisque to the Risotto Del Giorno, Crossroads is undoubtedly the place to see and be seen!
What’s your favorite vegetarian restaurant? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!