Enjoy vegetarian cuisine like homemade gnocchi at the best vegetarian restaurants in the country.
Vegetarians want more than a meal at a restaurant without the meat; they want innovative, delicious faire with an emphasis on vegetarian protein. Reasons for going vegetarian vary from religious to ethnic to ethical, and vegans go without any animal products, including milk, honey and eggs.
In honor of World Vegetarian Day Oct. 1, celebrate at one of the best non-meat restaurants in the country. For more information on vegetarianism, visit www.worldvegetarianday.org.
Dragon Fly Neo V Cuisine
What: Dragon Fly Neo V Cuisine is where street food, seasonal ingredients and noteworthy cocktails meet. The “On the Fly” counter and carryout section is where you can indulge in street food like crispy falafel, a vegan portabella steak sandwich, three daily choices of empanadas and crispy sesame “sushi.” Happy hour and dinner attendees love the lavender gimlet, vanilla Manhattan and Jezebel cocktail, a sassy mix of orange vodka, cranberry juice and Goldschlager. Tasty dinner options include the cornmeal crusted tofu with vegan macaroni and cheese, pizza of the day and creamy polenta with avocado, black beans and tempura batter.
Where: 247 King Ave., Columbus, OH 43201
The Red Avocado
What: Start with the silky corn coconut soup at The Red Avocado, a vegan oasis in Iowa. Strangely, few items on the menu actually contain avocado, but you probably won’t miss it with dishes such as the tempeh Reuben, the Iowa BBQ Tofu Platter, fried seasoned tofu in a homemade barbecue sauce with local corn cakes and chipotle slaw; white bean pate and Jupiter’s Gnocchi, which features homemade gnocchi in a tomato-coconut milk sauce, roasted red peppers, tofu cheese, toasted cashews and sunflower seeds. Seasonal lunch and dinner offerings change daily, and the Red Avocado’s happy hour means house red or white wine is $4 a glass and select bottles of wine are 50 percent off.
Where: 521 E Washington St., Iowa City, IA 52240
Laughing Seed Café
What: Vegetarian restaurants aren’t hard to find in Asheville, with its nod toward Bohemian culture, and Laughing Seed does not disappoint. Its creative dishes include Miyabizushi, otherwise known as “decorative sushi,” Vietnamese-French banh mi sandwich, low country rollups with sweet and tangy tofu barbecue, and the local favorite, the harmony bowl, with organic brown rice, black beans, grilled tofu, steamed vegetables and sesame ginger sauce. Dishes are typically Vietnamese, Thai or Indian influenced.
Where: 40 Wall St., Asheville, NC 28801
Café Sunflower Buckhead
What: Asian-Latin-themed vegetarian food and killer desserts are all the rage at Café Sunflower in Buckhead (there’s another one in Sandy Springs), though the veggie burger here should also receive high praise. Vegan substitutes abound in the restaurant, such as soy cheese, seitan and tofu. If you can’t decide what to order, get the Sunflower Box, a smorgasbord of spring rolls, stuffed mushrooms, steamed dumplings, soy nuggets and red pepper hummus. Order the sesame chicken or garden loaf with herb mashed potatoes and miso mushroom gravy for dinner, and don’t miss the dense, rich carrot cake or old-fashioned chocolate cake for dessert.
Where: 2140 Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta, GA 30309
What: Source is where creative meets healthy – and healthy-sized portions. For an appetizer, order the baked vegan spinach artichoke fondue, a creamy (dairy-free!) concoction with cashew “cream,” truffle oil and bread crumbs, and for lunch, try the Fire Pot, a spicy rice noodle bowl spiked with star anise, ginger, lemongrass broth, assorted vegetables and soy protein. Raw enthusiasts will love the Live Platter, with hemp tabouli, marinated mushrooms, green goddess salad, lettuce tacos and “living chips.”
Where: 11 Division St., San Francisco, CA 94103
What: Delicious house-made sodas and margaritas compliment the Tex-Mex vegetarian menu at Seva, which has weekly specials in addition to its usual menu offerings. The yam fries are a must-try, and the nachos satisfy any late-night or next-day hangover craving. About half of the menu items may be ordered vegan (another 25 percent of the menu is already vegan), though the vegan buckwheat banana-pecan pancakes with Michigan maple syrup would make anyone happy.
Where: 314 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104
What: Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or eating raw, Sage’s can suit your dietary needs. Its 90 percent organic menu includes breakfast, salads, sandwiches, smoothies, shakes, raw foods and even a “sensitivity menu,” for those who have allergies/aversions to soy, sugar, wheat, onions, nuts and gluten. Standouts are the breakfast tacos, basil pesto crepes and Picadillo Vegetariano, and most breakfast and lunch options at Sage’s can be made vegan or vegetarian.
Where: 473 East Broadway, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
What: Named for its hot sandwiches, Melt also serves soups, salads, breakfast and Sunday brunch. For lunch, devour the veggie cheesesteak, made with house-made seasoned seitan, roasted onions and peppers and provolone cheese; the vegan melt, with dairy-free rinotta and baked tofu on multigrain bread; or the mock tuna sandwich, an interesting combination of chickpeas, nori, red onion and celery, tossed in a lime cilantro vinaigrette. At brunch, you can’t miss the Carolina Grits, vegan golden hominy with red bell peppers, green onions, basil, vegan butter and hot pepper sauce.
Where: 4165 Hamilton Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45223
Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Silberkorn