1. Los Angeles, CA
Load up on napkins and take a seat at Doomie’s Home Cookin’ for their legendary secret menu Big Mac, and their deep fried oreos and creme brulee. You’d be hard pressed to find a place that’s quite this diner-esque with some of the most talked about vegan dishes in the entire city.
Of course, LA’s variety of vegan options is in no short order. They’ve also got the healthful and swanky Plant Food and Wine; epic burgers and vegan chicken patty sandwiches at Organix (which is also a small grocery store); Shojin is home to some of the most creative sushi rolls in the entire country (don’t let the unsettling entryway fool you; once inside it’s a dream and some of the most attentive service you’ll ever find); you won’t want to miss the vegan chick’n and waffles meal at Flore; or the raw, gluten-free, and mostly-made-from scratch meals — plus juices, smoothies, and kombucha — at Suncafe. Adorable, bright, and kitschy Kitchen Mouse has a fantastic TLT (tempeh, lettuce, tomato) sandwich and some awesome vegan breakfasts.
Plan for a mind-blowing Vietnamese- and Chinese-inspired meals at Au Lac (interesting fact: head Chef Ito hasn’t spoken a word in over 15 years, for religious reasons. Though he still communicates with customers by way of welcoming body language; often found rubbing essential oils on the wrists of customers and staff). You could also check Crossroads — owned by Ellen Degeneres’s personal chef, Tal Ronnen — for some fine dining and celebrity spotting; or grab a vegan taco (or five) from Trejo’s Tacos, a newly established restaurant owned by famed actor, Danny Trejo.
Oh and you can thank me later for mandating a stop by Donut Friend: LA’s all-vegan donut shop featuring incredibly unique and custom donuts, like their maple glazed coconut-bacon donut, or the chocolate cake donut topped with chocolate glaze, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and chocolate shavings. How about a traditional donut filled with whipped cream, fresh strawberries, and topped with chocolate glaze? Or the stuffed with peanut butter and dotted with Sriracha donut?
2. New York, NY
New York is perhaps the most historically vegan-friendly city in the country. For the best cakes, cupcakes, cronuts, and other sweets stop by one of two Peacefood Cafe locations. Be sure to also try their chickpea fries or mocha breakfast smoothie. Peacefood Cafe is casual, which makes it perfect for families.
For gigantic and filling Rosemary Seitan Salads and healthful, freshly-pressed juices and smoothies, swing by Jivamuktea Cafe in Union Square. You could also pop in a bit earlier to take a yoga class next door (at the studio with the same name). Later, slip off your shoes and sit at ground level for some vegan Korean dishes at Hangawi; or grab some sushi to-go at one of three Beyond Sushi restaurants.
There’s also the romantic, candle-lit route at Blossom on Carmine, with its organic seitan scallopini dinner. (You can’t leave without trying their fabulous vegan tiramisu, though.)
But if you just want a hearty burger, award-winning Superiority Burger will satisfy all your needs. Later, you can jump on the L train and head to the Montrose stop in Brooklyn for some jelly-filled, glazed-top donuts and organic coffee at Dun-Well Doughnuts. Take a stroll around East Williamsburg to digest and then make room for a hearty, classic, diner-style meal at Champs Diner, just around the corner. (Biscuits and gravy, mac ‘n’ cheese, tofu benedict, or how about country fried seitan or an ice cream float?)
If you’re headed to or through Penn Station be sure to stop by what once was a vegan food truck now turned fast-casual eatery inside the Pennsy building: Cinnamon Snail. Known for their spicy burgers, bowls, as well as savory and sweet treats — this is a must-stop, for sure.
3. Chicago, IL
Chicago is arguably the most vegan-friendly city in the midwest. “Meat free since ‘83,” The Chicago Diner is probably the most loved and well-known vegan-friendly eatery in the entire city. Try the fully-loaded, Canadian-style, waffle fries Poutine dish along with the seitan chorizo nachos, the corned beef seitan Radical Reuben, and, of course, an award-winning vegan cookie dough peanut butter milkshake for dessert. They offer a separate gluten-free menu as well.
Kitchen 17 is cozy and they have a multi-vegan-cheese deep dish pizza pie, so, yeah. Swing by Upton’s Breakroom for a Bahn Mi sandwich or the breakfast tacos, and stay for a soft serve swirly cone. For some classic Thai cuisine, check out one of the two locations for Urban Vegan — the rice paper wrapped Fresh Rolls and Pad Thai are not to be missed.
If Mexican is on your mind, promptly head over to Quesadilla La Reina del Sur for their Super Burrito, deep fried Flautas, and the Pollo de Soya Tortas. If you find yourself near North Side by the river, grab a rich Acai Bowl from Hi-Vibe Superfoods & Juicery (pro-tip: If Nick is there ask him to make it. He’s a master bowl maker and the owner of the business).
Hands down, the best brunch in the city is the biscuits and gravy dish, with a side of collard greens, and a rich almond milk mocha latte, at Handlebar (they’ve also got a fierce beer selection and are open late). Finally, if you’re in need of a trim or some color, check out the cities only cruelty-free salon: Starship Salon in Humboldt Park.
4. Portland, OR
Ask any vegan food enthusiast where their top destination for food-spotting is and chances are high they’ll say Portland, Oregon. What differentiates Portland from other vegan-friendly cities throughout the US is the quality and variety of the food. This city is packed with vegan options around every corner — including the dozens of fully-vegan establishments, plus the countless places that offer vegan options.
Portland has everything from the fine dining, reservation-only Farm Spirit, to soul food from the Homegrown Smoker food cart. You can choose from Italian options at Portobello Vegan Trattoria, epic classic brunch options at the classy Harvest at The Bindery, or you can grab a vegan latte, scone, muffin or cupcake from Sweetpea Baking Company or Back to Eden. Visit the all-vegan cheese shop, Vtopia Cheese Shop & Deli! Heck, you even have three fully-vegan bars to choose from (Black Water, Bye & Bye, & Sweet Hereafter), a vegan owned tattoo shop (Scapegoat Tattoo), a vegan clothing store (Herbivore Clothing), and a vegan grocery store (Food Fight!).
There’s even a vegan owned and operated bed and breakfast called Cherokee Rose Inn (run by the sweetest woman). And if that’s not enough you could also visit Casa Diablo, the world’s first and only vegan strip club (the owner is vegan as is all the food they serve).
5. Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia is quickly becoming one of the country’s most talked about vegan-friendly cities, with new and varied vegan restaurants opening every year. You’ll find freshly pressed juices, healthy raw foods, and some of the friendliest staff at P.S.&Co. You can try an award-winning vegan Philly Cheesesteak, or a slice of nacho pizza, from Blackbird Pizzeria.
Filled with the coolest hipster types and grindcore music blasting in the lounge area — you’ll find organic coffee and lattes, homemade vegan cream cheese, locally made donuts and sweets, and free wifi at Grindcore House. If you’re seeking a fine dining experience that includes some of the best yet simple dishes made from whole vegetables, along with unique cocktails, Vedge is the place to be. There’s also the vintage, retro-country, communal farmhouse table dining experience at Miss Rachels’ Pantry. Or you can just grab a burger and strawberry milkshake to-go from one of two HipCityVeg locations, or even go full-on swanky, NYC-style, Prohibition-era, at Charlie Was a Sinner where you may enjoy chartreuse-infused wheat grass shots alongside your Maryland Style vegan ‘Crab’ Cakes.
6. San Francisco, CA
If you’re looking for the country’s best vegan sushi and Japanese small plates, Shizen is where it’s at. Get the Surprise Ending roll, the spicy garlic miso ramen noodle soup, and the Candlestick roll.
For spot-on organic Mexican fare and a fantastic sangria head on over to Gracias Madre (they’ve also got a location in Los Angeles). Cha-Ya will satisfy any other Japanese food cravings you might have (try the miso soup); and round out your food-filled day with a vegan ice cream cookie sandwich from Cookies Rule Everything Around Me (CREAM).
It’d be well worth your time to pop over to the East Bay to check out three of what many consider “the best of the best” in their respective foodie categories: indulge in a gigantic, artisan, warm cinnamon bun, with toppings of your choice, from Cinnaholic. (Try the one with Cinnaholic’s homemade cookie dough on top. Oh and the caramel frosting.) Head over to the all vegan owned and operated coffeehouse in Oakland, Timeless Coffee, for small-batch roasted brews and weekend brunches. They also offer tons of sweet and savory treats — and not too shabby barista eye candy too (if you like the tattooed bearded types).
For some excellent soul food platters at great prices, visit Souley Vegan. Close out an evening in the East Bay with a glass of organic wine and an exquisite meal at Encuentro. The vegan cheese plate will change your world as will the fourteen carrot and sweet yam gnocchi. Bask in the petite, brightly lit and minimalist decoration, Sanctuary Bistro for a great weekend brunch or warm weeknight dinner (try the beet tartare and turnip ceviche).
Go [vegan] grocery shopping in Berkeley at Animal Place’s Vegan Republic, where the proceeds go to benefit Animal Place Farm Sanctuary.
Take the short drive up to Rohnert Park to visit America’s first vegetarian and vegan fast food drive thru (complete with creamy milkshakes, salty fries, and hearty burgers) at Amy’s Drive Thru. On your way back make it a point to stop for High Tea at one of the most unique establishments in the country: Muir’s Tea Room. Inspired by author and conservationist, John Muir — this tea room serves up layered tea racks of sorted jams, petit desserts, scones, pastries, and offers endless pots of tea. The decor is something to marvel as well, as if stepping into a cozy parlor from entirely different era.
7. Boston, MA
One of New England’s best cities for vegan food-spotting, yet often overlooked, is the Boston area.
For a romantic, low-lit, dinner featuring cornmeal-crusted oyster mushrooms and phyllo purse enclosed brandy braised tempeh, go to True Bistro. All-day vegan brunch at classic diner-style Veggie Galaxy (think vegan chicken ‘n’ waffles, stuffed French Toast, and bottomless coffee) will have you coming back for thirds. If you’re craving more healthful options check out the organic, hearty bowls — featuring their signature Ginger Nama Shoyu Sauce — and fresh juices and smoothies at Life Alive. For the latte drinkers out there: Life Alive’s dandelion mocha soy lattes are particularly special. Keep things light and healthy with O2 Vegan Cafe’s sandwiches, soups, salads, and decadent smoothies.
A trip to Boston wouldn’t be complete without visiting what’s being called the “vegan corner” of the city: Allston. Within a few feet of one another are Grasshopper (Asian-fusion vegan cuisine and one of the longest standing vegan eateries in the city), Whole Heart Provisions (newly opened “street food style,” fast casual, bowls and plates), and FoMu (vegan ice cream shop and coffee bar). Fun fact: FoMu is the only ice cream shop in the country to make and stock full-sized vegan ice cream cakes.
8. Asheville, NC
Asheville is home to one of the best vegan restaurants in the country: Plant. Founded by a passionately vegan couple and equally passionate and talented chef, Plant is perfect for everything from casual singleton dining, to weekend brunch with friends, to a romantic dinner for two. Try the Peppercorn Crusted Seitan and the Blackout Mousse Pie.
For a unique book browsing and/or cafe lounging experience head on over to Firestorm: an employee-run bookstore and vegan cafe featuring herbal teas, espresso, coffee, and snacks and sweets. Head over to Nectar in the West Village Market for organic and locally sourced goodies that make up their delicious sandwiches, salads, cold pressed juices, nachos, mac ‘n’ cheese, and more. From BBQ to Buffalo fingers, burgers, and breakfast items, Bean Vegan Cuisine has got your covered in the comfort food department. THE BLOCK off biltmore (a social justice bar) has a rotating menu that alternates between West African and Caribbean dinners to cooking demos and classes, and offers a wide selection of beer, wine, kombucha, and coffee, plus live music. Check out Elements Real Food for raw whole food meals and freshly pressed juices.
If beer is your thing then definitely visit Sanctuary Brewing (an animal-advocacy brewery, offering vegan food items) located in Hendersonville, just outside of Asheville.
9. Seattle, WA
Start your day with some Belgian-style waffles, some French Toast, or how about the Country Bumpkin (a warm herb biscuit open-faced and topped with scrambled tofu and ladled with country-style sausage gravy, and a side of garlic steamed greens), from Seattle’s longstanding vegan diner, Wayward Cafe. One of the city’s most loved vegan eateries is Plum Bistro: perfect for a fine dining, romantic excursion (be sure to try their award-winning, secret family recipe, Spicy Cajun Mac ‘n’ Yease).
For fully gluten-free and vegan sweets, breads, and treats, great coffee, lattes, and light lunch meals, swing by Flying Apron Bakery.
Stop by Highline Vegan Bar for live shows, a vast beer selection, and vegan bar food (think fried pickles, vegan fish ‘n’ chips, poutine, and corn dogs). Seattle’s own fully-vegan pizza shop, Pizza Pi not only makes great pies but also fun appetizers like calzone poppers, chicken tenders, French onion soup, and cheesy bread sticks. Pop across the street to Vegan Haven, a vegan grocery store, where proceeds benefit Pigs Peace Sanctuary.
Be sure to check out one of the three Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes for freshly pressed green juices, raw foods, and their sliding scale (pay what you can) “community bowl.” For excellent vegan Thai food options, visit Araya’s Place (they’ve got three locations).
Let’s not forget dessert. Seattle Cookie Counter is an all-vegan ice cream cookie sandwich company. They started as a mobile food truck in June 2014 and will open their first retail location in April 2016. Finally, no visit to Seattle would be complete without stopping by Mighty-O Donuts, an all-vegan organic donut shop. Pick up a cinnamon glazed or sugar Twist, and an apple fritter for the road.
And if you’re looking for some solitude, you’ll definitely want to book a few nights at Someday Farm Vegan Bed & Breakfast in Freeland, WA — just a ferry ride away. Prepare for a quiet and stunning setting, nestled in a small farm animal sanctuary.
10. Louisville, KY
It may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think, “vegan” but with their diverse and community-driven neighborhoods, Louisville, Kentucky is definitely becoming a vegan’s paradise.
Get your southern-style vegan eats on with the V-Grits food truck, known for their Loaded Mac & Cheese with BBQ Jackfruit and Coconut Bacon, and the “Where Do You Get Your Protein?” Burger (a double patty monster sandwich). They also offer a “v-box” home delivery food service that includes recipes and the ingredients needed to make them.
Enjoy a Black Eyed Pea Burger, Garden Salad Summer Rolls, Coffee Date Almond Smoothie, or Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake from the fully-vegan Half Peach Bakery & Cafe. Or how about one of many vegan taco options at Migo? Sit and indulge in a $3 endless cup of coffee while browsing the eclectic (and often hard to find) book collection at McQuixote Books & Coffee; where you’ll also be able to have vegan ice cream and their unique cashew beer cheese, pickled sweet potatoes, slice apples, spinach, red onion vegan sandwich. Grab an affordable vegan chili dog, brats, or soft serve ice cream from Dairy Kastle. Check out the vegan queso with nachos, or the house-made Italian focaccia flatbread at Ramsi’s Cafe on the World; for delicious Asian-fusion cuisine pop over to Zen Garden on Frankfort Ave. Side-by-side eateries: Roots and Heart and Soy both offer many vegan options, including fantastic Pho, Green Papaya Salad, and Pad Thai, respectively.
Lastly, check out Annie May’s, a completely gluten-, nut- and soy-free establishment offering many vegan options for their cupcakes, cookies, cookie sandwiches, and cakes.
11. Maui, Hawaii
Okay so we’re covering an entire island here instead of a single city, but you don’t mind, do you? One could, after all, drive around the entire island in just about a full day. Of course, each of the Hawaiian islands come with a bit of vegan charm but Maui is up there as one of the best in terms of variety and quantity of dining out options.
At the top of the list is Choice Health Bar. Incredible Acai Bowls, filling salads, smoothies, and juices — this place is definitely one of the most healthful and cleansing vegan spots on the island. If you want to stock up on some groceries check out one of the country’s only vegetarian grocers: Down to Earth. You’d be hard pressed to find a hotbar quite as vegan-friendly as theirs. Another fantastic and super vegan-friendly grocer is Mana Foods (located in the popular town of Paia), which features tons of fresh produce from local farmers, a smashing hotbar and prepared sandwiches bar, and many packaged vegan products. Packed from floor to ceiling, including a dynamic supplements area, it’s cool just to go check it out, if not to actually buy anything.
If kombucha is your jam then you’ll want to visit Maui Kombucha. A small but rich place with raw and cooked vegan menu items like flatbreads, wraps, and salads—not to mention being Maui’s largest kombucha brewery — this place is a must-visit. In the same parking lot you’ll find another vegan eatery: Veg Out. They’ve got a little bit of everything (Mexican, Italian, a variety of salads, wraps, and burgers).
Back to Paia — you’ll find a few vegan options at Flatbread Pizza Company as well as Ono Gelato (get the dark chocolate one). Likewise, check out Thai Spice — just a few doors down from Ono Gelato — for a few vegan options (be sure to ask as they don’t clearly label the vegan options).
Taking the Road to Hana? Be sure to earmark mile marker 27 ½ so you don’t miss the all-vegan ice cream stand, Coconut Glens. If you’ve got some extra time schedule a tour of Leilani Farm Animal Sanctuary for a truly memorable experience with rescued critters of all types.