Just 20 years ago, meat and potatoes were de rigueur at most restaurants, and vegetarian offerings were slim-pickings. Today, however, modern vegetarian cuisine is enjoying somewhat of a Golden Age, with hundreds of veggie-centric restaurants cropping up in cities coast to coast. In honor of vegetarian awareness month, we scoped out the nation’s best vegetarian restaurants that celebrate all-things-veggie. Showcasing imaginative flavor combinations, bold ingredients and all-around good food, these seven veggie-only restaurants are sure to delight all palates—from staunch vegans to fussy foodies to meat-and-potato fiends.
Need proof that vegetables are in vogue? Simply step into Vedge, one of the nation’s hottest vegetarian restaurants, nestled in an elegant 19th Century townhouse in Philly. Here, Chef Rich Landau (who won an episode of Food Network’s “Chopped”) dishes out enthralling plant-based cuisine with a global twist. Dubbed “deceptively vegan” by Philadelphia Magazine food critic Trey Popp, meat-eaters and devout vegans alike will be wowed by Vedge’s innovative menu, which showcases fresh, seasonal ingredients and progressive pairings—think saffron cauliflower soup dusted with fennel pollen, or grilled seitan finished with a dab of whipped tahini. Restaurant-goers can round out their meal with one of Vedge’s whimsical hand-crafted cocktails.
Ever since it first burst onto the vibrant Portland dining scene in 2011, vegan-vegetarian restaurant Natural Selection has been the talk of the town. Serving European-inspired vegetarian food in a rustic, intimate setting, this Portland gem—led by acclaimed chef Aaron Woo—is boldly pioneering elevated vegetarian cuisine. Menu offerings vary by season, with a keen emphasis on classic culinary techniques and French flavors. Diners can order a la carte or opt for a four-course meal for $40. Top it all of with a glass of vino or an artisanal cocktail.
Taim Falafel and Smoothie Bar
New York, N.Y.
“Taim” means “tasty or delicious” in Hebrew, and this itty-bitty falafel shack holds up to its moniker. A little gem of a restaurant tucked on a tree-lined West Village neighborhood, Taim serves vegetarian Israeli cuisine that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Don’t be deterred by the eatery’s unassuming façade: This hole-in-the-wall restaurant draws “100-person crowds” with its famed falafel, which is gluten-free and entirely vegetarian. Twelve bucks will you get the generously portioned falafel platter, a sampling of three falafel flavors on a plate with hummus, Israeli and tabouli salads, and an assortment of sauces.
Karyn’s on Green
Nestled in the heart of Chicago’s vibrant Greektown neighborhood, Karyn’s on Green is an earth-friendly vegan restaurant that will satisfy the most discriminating of herbivores and their carnivorous friends. Highlighting the best in progressive vegan cuisine, Karyn’s features classic American fare re-imagined as vegan—think barbecue seitan, “chorizo” sliders made with Portobello bacon, and a mouth-wateringly good sweet potato and black bean burger. Perfect for a girl’s night out, Karyn’s chic minimalist interior and whimsical chandeliers create a sultry dining atmosphere. Vegan food has never been trendier—or more sexy. BONUS: The eatery boasts an extensive wine list featuring a diverse lineup of the market’s finest organic and sustainable wines.
Los Angeles, Calif.
Last year, Flore Vegan Café earned the coveted spot of “2012 Best Restaurant” in LA Weekly’s prestigious reader’s poll, and rightfully so: This reasonably priced café, nestled on Sunset Boulevard, serves up an array of gorgeous, fresh vegan cuisine and fresh-pressed juices. A favorite brunch nook, diners can soak up their hangovers with vegan-friendly breakfast classics such as Tofu Benedict, “chicken” and waffles and banana pancakes. For only $10, you gain access to Flore’s famous all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch buffet. With so many satisfying and decadent plant-based selections, carnivores won’t miss a meat.
Although the name “Science Club” conjures an image of lab coats engaging in intellectual debate, Science Club is one of D.C.’s trendiest haunts, and it happens to double as a purveyor of the city’s finest vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Highlighted as a Washington Post Editors’ Pick, Science Club is a stylish, funky bar where patrons can sip $3 bottles of Yuengling and nosh on bar-style vegetarian nibbles—veggie quesadillas, bountiful hummus platters and a to-die-for Kashmiri lentil soup. If you sit and linger past 8 p.m., Science Club transforms from a laid-back cocktail lounge into one of D.C.’s most bumping nightclubs, with dim club lighting and DJs spinning dubstep beats. Vegetarian cuisine has never been more hip!
It can be rare to stumble upon good vegan cuisine while traveling in the South, but Plant is a shining example of Southern vegetarian fare at its finest. A local Asheville favorite, Plant consistently receives rave reviews for its innovative and imaginative approach to vegan food. Committed to using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients whenever possible, Plant will dazzle even the most persnickety of foodies with inspired menu offerings ranging from jerk-spiced tempeh and sweet potatoes to a finger-lickin’ good cherry bomb cheesecake, all entirely vegan.