America’s Best Vegetarian-Friendly Small Cities in 2006
#1 Asheville, North Carolina
Like your vegetarian fare served with fresh, clean mountain air? Then awesome little Asheville is the place for you. Nestled between two mountain ranges, Asheville is an open-minded mecca for eclectic and artistic people who are active in all creative avenues. Luckily, Asheville is as humane as it is hip, with a huge assortment of vegetarian-friendly restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, and markets.
The Laughing Seed is the perfect place for upscale dining in a relaxed atmosphere. It was voted “Best Vegetarian Restaurant” in Western North Carolina eight years running by readers of both the Asheville Citizen Times and Mountain Xpress. If you’re hankering for heaping helpings of homestyle food, look no further than Rosetta’s Kitchen. With an almost-all-vegan menu, this funky eclectic joint is open ’til 3 a.m., so you’ll never have to go hungry. We’re addicted to Rosetta’s vegan blueberry pancakes, fried peanut-butter tofu, and smashed potatoes. Barley’s Taproom features soy-cheese pizza, jerk-tofu sandwiches, a veggie burger, and an excellent black-bean hummus. For a unique dining experience, take in a movie while you enjoy your beer and nondairy cheese pizza at the Asheville Pizza Company. Or try the Mellow Mushroom, where you’ll find a great selection of beer, soy-cheese pizzas, tempeh, and tofu sandwiches.
If you need a nap after eating so much delicious vegetarian fare, then rest your weary head at the Beaufort House. Voted the number one bed-and-breakfast in Western North Carolina by readers of Mountain Xpress, this beautiful Victorian home is set on 2 acres of lush landscape and is just minutes from downtown Asheville. Owners Jacqueline and Robert Glasgow will gladly whip up a scrumptious vegan breakfast, with prior notice. Because you’d rather meet animals than eat them, visit the Animal Haven, a sanctuary for rescued farmed animals. Call ahead and you’ll be able to greet goats, hang out with hens, and pet a pig or two.
If you scream for nondairy ice cream, at least two ice cream shops—The Hop, near the campus of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and Sweet Heaven on historic Montford Avenue—offer soy ice cream and/or rice ice cream. And for sinfully tasty vegan baked goods, head to City Bakery on Charlotte Street, West End Bakery, or Earth Fare, the bustling health-food supermarket located in the Westgate Shopping Center. Earth Fare also offers vegetarian and vegan hot-food options, as well as the best salad bar around. There are so many great vegetarian options in Asheville, it’s no wonder that Self magazine named Asheville the happiest city in America. For more info on Asheville’s vegetarian scene, visit AshevilleVeg.org.
Top Tip: Want a sweet treat after a day full of Asheville adventures? Then indulge in some Tree Huggin’ Treats, Asheville’s own vegan delights. The chocolate-coconut Peppermint Phatty is dangerously addictive. Won’t be near Asheville in the near future? Don’t fret—Tree Huggin’ Treats are available in stores nationwide, or you can order online.
#2 Eugene, Oregon
Eugene residents are soy happy, because they get to live in a thriving, fun city while enjoying numerous vegetarian-friendly restaurants, health-food stores, and farmers’ markets.
Eugene is America’s vegan-pizza capital, with Cozmic Pizza, Pizza Research Institute, and Sam Bond’s Garage leading the way. If you’re craving Chinese, get out your chopsticks and dive into the food at the all-vegan Lotus Garden, which features Hunan “beef” as well as vegan spring rolls, pot stickers, and wonton soup. Holy Cow Café, located in the University of Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union student center, is always a good bet. Laughing Planet Café was named “Best Veggie-Friendly” hot spot by Eugene Weekly for its healthy-and-tasty burritos, soups, and salads.
Going out to get groceries? Then you’re in luck, because Eugene’s natural-food stores are as big, bright, modern, and plentiful as the chain supermarkets. The Saturday Market, along with several produce stands in the area, will inspire you to eat only the freshest, tastiest produce. One of Eugene’s largest industries is natural-foods manufacturing. Rising Moon, which makes pasta products, Emerald Valley Kitchen, and Golden Temple Granola are all based in Eugene.
For a sweet addition to any visit to Eugene, help yourself to the variety of vegan desserts that abound all around town. Wake up to the vegan pastries at Morning Glory Bakery, or get yourself a slice of the Sweet Life’s high-end vegan cakes and pies.
Top Tip: Check out the Eugene “Vegetarian Survival Guide” for the final word on all things vegetarian in town.
#3 Salt Lake City, Utah
Ranked one of the healthiest cities in America, it’s no wonder that Salt Lake City is a hotbed for great vegetarian eats. From the delicious vegan cheese pizza at Este to the cold creaminess of peanut butter-banana Tofutti soft serve at Squirrel Brothers Ice Cream, Salt Lake City is a vegan’s paradise.
For a break from the hustle and bustle, chill out at the award-winning Oasis Café. Sit on the pleasant patio while you feast on Middle Eastern and American fare. If you’re hungry for delicious mock meat, you’ll enjoy everything on the menu at Evergreen House Café, an all-vegan Chinese restaurant. We highly recommend the Black Pepper Beef, a combination of succulent strips of vegetable protein, julienned vegetables, and an intensely tangy sauce. If you want to add some spice to your life, book it to Bangkok Thai for a tantalizing lineup, including numerous noodle bowls, curries, and stir-fries. Many foods on the menu are quite spicy, so let your waiter know if you’d prefer a toned-down dish. To spice things up in a completely different way, Salt Lake City-based VeganErotica.com offers an array of adults-only toys, all of which are made without harming a hair on an animal’s back.
For delightful desserts, head on over to Coffee Under the Bridge for vegan cheesecake, muffins, and cookies. For an even bigger selection of sweet treats and vegan eats, visit one of the three Wild Oats stores in town: Not only does this natural-foods marketplace carry tons of vegan versions of ice cream, chocolates, donuts, and cookies, but its vast variety of mock meats and faux cheeses is sure to please. After all this great food, are you itching to spread the word about cruelty-free eating? Hook up with the good folks at the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, and they’ll help you get active.
Top Tip: Want some sage advice? Don’t leave Salt Lake City without trying the Fresh Basil Macadamia Pesto Pasta at one of PETA’s all-time faves, Sage’s Café.
#4 Norfolk, Virginia
OK, we’ll admit that we’re a little prejudiced because this is the home of PETA’s headquarters, but trust us—Norfolk is a vegan paradise. In fact, vegetarian cuisine is so hot in Hampton Roads that there are more than 100 restaurants that serve up excellent meatless meals!
With so much vegan variety, Amalfi is one of our favorites. PETA staffers recommend the scrumptious spaghetti with vegan meatballs, Soy Chicken Marsala, and homemade vegan cheesecake. For good-old-fashioned comfort food, Cora has a faux-chicken sandwich that we can’t crow enough about. Cora also offers an amazing Sunday brunch, with sinfully sweet Hawaiian French toast, toast points with vegan gravy, and tofu scramble. Bella Pizzeria’s sensational soy-cheese pizza will tempt your taste buds. Fans of Indian food must try Rajput’s vegetable samosas and Palak Tofu. Kotobuki’s Vegetarian Sesame Chicken is the star of the restaurant’s fantastic vegan lineup. Like beer? The Taphouse Grill has an enormous selection of beer on tap, plus numerous vegan entrées.
For a quick lunch that packs a punch, try Machismo’s massive, mouthwatering Boca burritos, slathered with nondairy sour cream and cheese. You’d also be wise to try Bangkok Garden’s spring rolls or the Mediterranean cuisine at the very vegetarian-friendly Azar’s Natural Foods Market and Café. Heritage Natural Foods Deli offers a wide array of vegan grocery items and a café that features lots of healthy and humane wraps and sandwiches. And whether you’re just waking up or winding down for the day, you can get your caffeine fix at Elliot’s Fair Grounds. At this funky little place, you can chill out and play a board game or Web surf while you munch on a selection of vegan cookies and jerky.
Top Tip: Our top pick in this vegan mecca is Cora. Its vegan Caesar salad, Chickette sandwich, faux-tuna cakes, and French toast are proving to one Virginian at a time just how good vegan food really is.
#5 Santa Monica, California
A coastal town and a haven for surfers and skaters that’s located in greater Los Angeles, Santa Monica is one of the West Coast’s epicenters for vegetarian fare.
For a super supper, check out the real-good Real Food Daily restaurant. With locations in both Santa Monica and West Hollywood, this all-vegan hot spot offers a fantastic lineup, including Salisbury Seitan, the Supreme Burrito, and the mouthwatering Burger With the Works. Get fresh at Juliano’s Raw Planet, where the gourmet, all-organic creations are served with an innovative flair that will please the eye as well as the palate. If you’d rather stay in, RAWvolution brings pre-made, gourmet vegan foods straight to your door.
If you’re in the mood for exotic eats, Chandni North Indian restaurant has several vegan items. Toi on Wilshire, featuring “Bangkok homestyle cooking,” is a tasty choice with a super-funky atmosphere. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, a national chain of Chinese restaurants with four attractive locations in the Los Angeles area, has a very solid vegetarian section on its menu. The Ma Po Tofu, Coconut Curry Vegetables, and Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps make for a delightful lunch or dinner.
For more ways to get friendly with vegetarian fare, check out L.A.’s definitive vegetarian resource at VegParadise.com. And when in SoCal, check out one of the Southern California Vegetarians’ many delicious potlucks, educational events, and group restaurant outings.
Top Tip: Fill up with an RFD Burger and a big slice of chocolate-raspberry cake at Real Food Daily, and then walk it off with a stroll on the Santa Monica Pier.
#6 Santa Cruz, California
Along with San Francisco, Santa Cruz helps make Northern California one of the best areas in the country for vegetarian food. This ocean-side haven boasts beautiful beaches and an offbeat personality, along with a large number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants.
If you’re hankering for a helping of humane huevos rancheros but don’t dig the cruelty of the egg industry [link: http://issues.peta.org/eggs], head over to visit the folks at Walnut Avenue Café. They will hook you up with delicious vegan versions of a variety of classic egg dishes, made with tofu and avocado. Walnut’s veggie burgers and vegan French toast are also primo choices. If you’re passionate about pizza, enjoy soy-cheese pizza and quality beer at Engfer Pizza Works. And if you find yourself on the Santa Cruz campus of the University of California, eat up! Its cafeteria offers a large, ever-changing selection of vegan entrées, including fajitas, vegetable lo mein, and seitan wraps.
For Asian cuisine, Mobo Sushi has the best vegan sushi in the area, with 14 tempting vegan rolls on the menu. Meanwhile, the all-vegan Asian Rose is our pick for delicious stir-fries. For a super-funky dining experience with terrific all-American cuisine, head over to Saturn Café, where you can feast on a variety of veggie burgers and sandwiches. We recommend ordering the Fakin’ Bakin Cheeseburger with a side of fries, followed by Dutch Apple Pie or chocolate cake. For more hot spots in Santa Cruz, check out the Bay Area Vegetarians’ Web site.
Top Tip: Malabar should be at the top of your “to do” list while you’re seeing the sights of Santa Cruz. Start off with the incredible avocado appetizer, which consists of two avocado halves stuffed with a mixture of tofu and vegetables and then drizzled with a sweet sauce and topped with bean sprouts.
#7 Boulder, Colorado
You’ll get a “Rocky Mountain high” off all the great food found in beautiful, breathtaking Boulder.
This gorgeous small town in the foothills of the Rockies has three excellent all-vegetarian restaurants. Karma Cuisine is an eco-conscious establishment with great-tasting food in a peaceful atmosphere. For Indian food, Masalaa is a great choice—the peanut masala is delicious. To enjoy casual dining in an earthy setting, head to Café Prasad in the pedestrians-only Pearl Street Mall. Try the black-bean tempeh burger and the Eggless Egg Salad. When you’ve finished your meal, wander next door to the Boulder Co-op, a huge all-vegetarian community market.
Jalino’s Pizza offers delicious soy-cheese pizza, and Mountain Sun Brewery and Pub is the place to get cheap, mouthwatering vegan food and microbrew masterpieces to wash it down. Known as one of the best and healthiest places to eat in town, Naropa Café, located on the Arapahoe campus of the Naropa Institute, has a rotating menu featuring veggie burgers, pad Thai, savory lentils, hummus, and Szechwan tofu. For delicious food that comes with a view, try Ras Kassa’s Ethiopian Restaurant, right on Boulder Creek. Sunflower Natural Fine Dining is a good pick for gourmet cuisine in an elegant setting.
With all the hiking and biking that can be done in and around Boulder, chances are that you’ll need to eat on the run. March into Mustard’s Last Stand for a delicious veggie dog, tempeh burger, or veggie Reuben. Almost all the bagels at City Street Bagels are vegan, and it also carries an array of healthy, tasty sandwiches. And for all your grocery needs, check out the original Wild Oats Market at the corner of Baseline and Broadway. Or visit the brand-new, all-vegan Three Little Figs market, where you can purchase everything from “chicken” nuggets and breaded eggplant cutlets to vegan cheesecake and nondairy ice cream.
Top Tip: For even more vegetarian-friendly Boulder restaurants, visit the Vegetarian Society of Colorado Web site.
#8 Madison, Wisconsin
Madison is a vegan oasis in the land of dairy. Between the city’s gorgeous parks and its great vegetarian-friendly restaurants, it’s no wonder that Madison has become such a popular place to live.
A great place to start is the Blue Plate Diner, which offers a terrific selection of animal-friendly fare, including Meatless Meatloaf, Vegan BBQ Pork, and vegetarian chili. If you’re cruising the campus of the University of Wisconsin, duck into the Elizabeth Waters Dining Hall to try something off the fabulous daily vegetarian lunch menu, or help yourself to the giant salad bar. For a taste of Jamaica, try the delightful Mango Rundown Tofu, BBQ Tofu, and Jerk Tofu at Jamerica.
King of Falafel offers a great falafel sandwich and a delicious vegetarian platter. If you’re more inclined toward Indian cuisine, then check out the spectacular food at India Darbar Restaurant, or snag some samosas and dhal at Himal Chuli. If you have a sweet tooth, you must head over to Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream for its delicious, all-natural vegan ice cream. Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse serves tasty vegan pastries, muffins, scones, and cookies. With the Dane County Farmers’ Market held on Madison’s Capitol Square every Saturday during the warmer months, there’s always plenty of fresh produce to go around. Madison also boasts five natural-food stores, co-ops, and markets, all loaded with vegetarian fare.
Top Tip: VegMadison.com provides the lowdown on eating to your heart’s content on the isthmus.
#9 Athens, Georgia
This gorgeous Southern town has a thriving vegetarian scene, anchored by The Grit. This restaurant is so popular that it has its own vegetarian cookbook. Mouthwatering menu must-haves include the Golden Bowl (The Grit’s famous tofu cubes over brown rice), the enormous Big Daddy Burger, and the Mondo Burrito. The Bluebird Café is another great place for lunch, with sandwiches, stir-fries, and other tasty dishes. The Bluebird also offers vegetarian selections at breakfast. Although Rooster’s BBQ primarily peddles flesh, it also offers a veggie burger and a great vegan Brunswick stew. The Mellow Mushroom’s tofu hoagie, sans the cheese and mayo, is a good bet. Definitely try Barberito’s vegan burrito, which is bursting with rice, beans, tofu, salsa, lettuce, and guacamole.
If you find yourself on the University of Georgia campus, the school’s dining service offers a huge variety of delicious vegan options, including Indonesian Sweet and Sour Tempeh, Harvest Burgers, Thai Seitan, veggie dogs, and classic red beans and rice. For a hip hangout that plays cool music, head to Transmetropolitan, where you can enjoy terrific vegan pizzas, tofu panini, and vegan calzones. Farm 255 provides friendly service and tasty food infused with fresh local produce, and Bombay Café’s Northern Indian lunch buffet can’t be beat. If you’re bar-hopping, head to The Globe Bar for veggie burgers, fries, chili, and soups.
Top Tip: Vegetarian Bulldogs at the University of Georgia eat very well, thanks to the extensive vegetarian-friendly menus in the dining halls. With these healthy dining options, the university not only provides delicious food, it also sets students up for a lifetime of good health.
#10 Ann Arbor, Michigan
There are three things that Ann Arbor has an abundance of: college students, trees, and great vegetarian food. This beautiful city is home to the University of Michigan Wolverines. The school’s large vegetarian population enjoys no shortage of delicious options, thanks both to the university’s dining service and Ann Arbor’s numerous vegetarian-friendly restaurants.
With its pleasant ambience and tasty offerings (including a chocolate torte with raspberry sauce and almond “cream”), Seva Restaurant is a popular choice. Mysore Woodlands serves satisfying and inexpensive South Indian food. For great takeout, Earthen Jar offers a delicious pay-by-weight Indian buffet that is almost all vegan. Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant, also has an extensive buffet. If mock meats make your mouth water, then Chia Shiang Chinese restaurant is a great pick, with an entire vegetarian menu.
Amer’s Deli has tasty vegan sandwiches, such as the Lindsey’s True Grazer, which comes with heaps of hummus, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, and lettuce and is served on whole-wheat bread. For vegan groceries, try Whole Foods or People’s Food Co-op, which also has a fair-trade coffee shop offering vegan pastries. Speaking of pastries, you won’t want to miss Big City Small World Bakery and its absolutely delicious vegan ding-dongs, cakes, and cookies.
Top Tip: Looking for cheap eats? Jerusalem Garden’s falafel and hummus sandwich and Big Ten Burrito’s $3 vegan plate, which is loaded with black beans, pinto beans, rice, guacamole, and fresh salsa, are great choices that will keep both your stomach and your wallet full.