Veg Out! 5 Vegan Cafes to Try Today
Hip vegan restaurants and cafes are sprouting up all over the country. Perhaps the reason eateries are leaning meat- and dairy-free is because a plant-based diet is getting much-deserved press. Or maybe it's simply because these restaurants serve up tasty, scrumptious food that happens to fit the vegan mold.
If you've not yet jumped into the vegan swimming pool, know this: Today's restaurants are not about veggie burgers and tofu alone. Chefs are elevating the fare by applying a vegan lens to ethnic cuisines, local flavors, farm-to-table trends and even baked goods that end up creative, craveable and quite delicious. Get a glimpse of the scene with these vegan tables worth taking a seat at:
A popular mini-restaurant empire in California, Café Gratitude recently spawned Gracias Madre, a vegan Mexican restaurant (where they also serve mean cocktails with an emphasis on small-batch mezcals and tequilas). The menu showcases whole, consciously sourced ingredients and produce from both local markets and Be Love Farm in Vacaville, which is owned by Café Gratitude founders Matthew and Terces Engelhart. Plates include starters like shareable gorditas, and potato-masa cakes topped with warm salsa verde, avocado and cashew crema; and entrees such as stone-ground heirloom masa tamal filled with sauteed butternut squash, poblano and onions. You’ll never miss those pork-filled Tacos al Pastor at this superb Mexican spot.
Down in NOLA, the newly opened Seed takes the flavors of the Big Easy and gives them a vegan spin. Gumbo starts with a traditional roux and okra, green and red peppers, collard greens and earthy mushrooms. Instead of traditional sausage you can opt to add their seitan. They even serve vegan beignets — the New Orleans signature sweet.
If you've not yet started your clean living for 2015, Peace Food Café is a good place to get started. The lively restaurant's menu rounds the bases of Mexican, Asian and Italian cuisines and houses a vegan bakery. Customizable veggie bowls — with a choice of roasted Japanese pumpkin, Chinese eggplant, sauteed kale, baby bok choy, roasted Brussels sprouts and more — rank high on the list of diners' favorites. An eggless and dairy-free Caesar salad is prepared with smoked tempeh and their “secret” sauce. Drinks are not an afterthought at the café, where they serve housemade beverages such as their refreshing and spicy gingerade. When you’re craving french fries, go for their famous chickpea fries — blended with Indian spices, packed with protein and oh-so-good. You won't leave Peace Food Café hungry.
Organic Avenue has been known for their juices, but now they've set their sights on becoming the leading grab-and-go eatery for organic, plant-based meals and snacks. Their flagship location opened last April in Bryant Park in New York City, offering in-store dining and takeout. What’s on the menu? Salads, hot and cold wraps, grain bowls, soups, oatmeal and smoothies. In early December they launched their sandwich menu, which includes the Lunchbox Sandwich, Organic Avenue’s take on the staple "tuna salad sandwich"; the Deli Salad Sandwich, sans egg, and the Avocado Smash Sandwich. In some locations you'll find a plant wall, a vertical garden that is not just great decor but also improves air quality, keeps the store cooler and improves the acoustics by absorbing noise.
Since opening in 1994, Palm Springs' Native Foods Café has crossed state lines to enter Colorado, Illinois, Oregon and, with their most recent outpost, Washington, D.C. The menu includes classic favorites like the Scorpion Burger, a meat-free sandwich of housemade tempeh, creamy chipotle sauce, romaine, carrots, avocado and shaved red onion, all nestled on a whole-wheat bun.
Kiri Tannenbaum is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris and holds an M.A. in food studies from New York University where she is currently an adjunct professor. When her schedule allows, she leads culinary walking tours in New York City and is currently at work on her first book.