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North America’s Most Vegetarian-Friendly Cities in 2006!

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As the popularity of animal-friendly eating continues to grow, more and more restaurants are offering great-tasting vegetarian options. We’ve searched the United States and Canada for the best vegetarian-friendly cities in 2006, and we’ve compiled our picks here. If your town didn’t make the list, don’t fear—these days, any restaurant worth its salt offers vegetarian meals, and online guides such as VegGuide.org, VegDining.com and HappyCow.net can help you find the best places to dine in your area.

Plus, many of the top chain restaurants and fast-food establishments are offering terrific vegetarian selections, so you can enjoy cruelty-free foods anywhere you go.

#2 Seattle, Washington

The Emerald City shines once again in PETA’s survey of the most vegetarian-friendly cities in North America. Seattle is such a hotbed of vegetarian goodness that it even has a Web site called VegSeattle.com. Because there are so many people there who are opting for a healthy vegetarian diet, it’s no surprise that Seattle was named “America’s Fittest City” in 2005 by Men’s Fitness magazine. If you’re in Seattle at the right time of year, be sure to attend the massive VegFest, which is hosted by Vegetarians of Washington, one of the largest vegetarian organizations in North America.

Seattle’s vegetarian food options are as numerous as they are unique. Start the day off at Mighty O Vegan Donut Shop. It’s one of the only all-vegan donut shops in the world. We suggest the Don King—a chocolate-covered chocolate donut topped with shredded coconut. You’ll find more fun food at Cyber-Dogs, the all-vegetarian hot dog shop and ultra-funky Internet café in the downtown core, named “Best Healthy Hot Dog Vendor” by Seattle Weekly. Choose from creatively named and garnished “hot dogs,” such as the DoggiLama and the Spudni. Vegan Chinese restaurant Bamboo Garden serves more than 100 different dishes.

Visit Hillside Quickies for a taste of “hip-hop vegan”—the Jamaican Spice Tempeh Sub and the Mama Africa Burger get rave reviews. Seattle’s University District, one of the most vegetarian-friendly neighborhoods in America, is also home to the city’s best vegetarian sandwiches, including the Wayward Café’s Philly Seitan and the Spicy Thai Grinder that’s available at the Chaco Canyon Café. You’ll be “on top of the world” when you dine in the Space Needle; just request a vegan meal when you make your reservation. If you’re looking for high-class ambience or the perfect date spot, try the very popular Café Flora, or check out cozy Carmelita and its wonderful wine list.

If you’re cooking at home, be sure to try Field Roast’s “artisan meats,” made in Seattle by Chef David Lee. The high-quality, grain-based deli slices and sausages are available at many Whole Foods and Wild Oats stores throughout the country. Seattle is also home to Puget Consumers Cooperative (PCC), the nation’s largest natural-foods cooperative chain; there are eight locations in the Seattle area. PCC has tons of vegetarian and vegan grocery items, delicious baked goods, and some great deli selections.

Top Tip: The best worst-kept secret in Seattle is the daily, awe-inspiring, all-vegan Thai lunch buffet at Araya’s, where you can eat spring rolls, tofu with fried rice, and pad Thai to your heart’s content.

#3 San Francisco, California

The City by the Bay is so vegetarian-friendly, it has multiple organizations and handy Web resources devoted to herbivores, including Bay Area Vegetarians, the San Francisco Vegetarian Society, and VegSF.com. San Francisco is also home to both the Giants’ SBC Park, which has the best meatless stadium fare in baseball, and our friends at VegNews Magazine.

To see that vegetarians are turning the tide and have meat on the retreat, one need look no further than Geranium—this vegetarian-comfort-food joint is located in a former butcher shop. Also, tickle your taste buds at the gourmet restaurant Millennium. Bring in a flesh-eating friend for the monthly “Convert a Carnivore” night—you’ll get a discount and will spare an animal’s life. Here’s the dirt on the Bay Area’s best vegan ice cream—Maggie Mudd is an independently owned and operated ice creamery with store locations in San Francisco. Try your favorite vegan flavor in a sundae, split, or float.

The caramelized “chicken” at Golden Era comes highly recommended. Herbivore is a trendy, all-vegan restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the too-good-to-be-true category, Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers has nine vegetarian burgers on its menu. And be sure not to forget about the long-time San Francisco vegetarian mainstays Shangri-La and Bok Choy Garden, which have both been around for more than two decades. The Rainbow Vegetarian Grocery Co-Op is the future of grocery stores with its breathtaking, all-vegetarian selection of unique foods.

San Francisco has so many vegetarian-friendly options that we’re starting to run out of space, so check out Bay Area Vegetarians’ restaurant guide for more info. On a side note—if you’re looking to improve your own vegetarian-cooking skills, be sure to check out “Vegetarian Cooking With Compassionate Cooks,” an engaging DVD presentation hosted by PETA’s own Alka Chandna and San Francisco’s Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, who hosts regular cooking classes in the Bay Area.

Top Tip: It’s somewhat pricey, but if you can afford to splurge, make reservations at Millennium.

#4 New York, New York

The Big Apple is a veritable vegetable mecca, with enough vegetarian-friendly eateries to last a lifetime of New York minutes. If you’re really obsessed with good food, visit them all—they’re just a train ride away!

There are so many vegetarian options in New York City that it’s impossible to pick the best one. FineTuning.com hails Red Bamboo, Gobo , and Hangawi, while New York magazine praises Sukhadia’s Gokul’s Bombay Pav Vada (deep-fried potato turnover) as the city’s best vegetarian sandwich. We think that the Big Mack Daddy Veggie Burger at Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop is one of the nation’s best meatless creations. Angelica Kitchen has a highly acclaimed all-vegan menu. We at PETA are also fond of Pure Food and Wine and its chef Matthew Kenney.

New York is home to two of the best organic vegan restaurants in America—Candle Café and Candle 79. Seitan fans, rejoice, because the fiery folks at these restaurants have “wheat meat” perfected—try the Seitan Piccata at Candle 79. Once you have practiced spelling “seitan,” you’ll be ready to join the Vegetarian Scrabble Club.

In New York City, many nonvegetarian restaurants also dish up delicious cruelty-free options. Atlas Café now has vegan dessert crêpes, sandwiches, and an excellent Moroccan Vegan Chicken Crêpe, which is filled with soy chicken, onions, and peppers and covered with a spicy sun-dried tomato sauce. Two Boots offers some delicious vegan pizzas on its menu.

Plug in at Soy Luck Club if you have work to do. Its signature Green Tea Soy Latté (along with several vegan snacks) will refresh you, and the complimentary high-speed Internet access will keep you connected. The place to see and be seen is Teany, a café-style restaurant run by vegan music superstar Moby. And every fashionable, animal-friendly shopper should stop by Moo Shoes for a new pair of über-stylish pedal pushers or pavement pounders.

Top Tip: For the best late-night munchies in New York City, try Food Swings in Brooklyn. This vegan fast-food-style hangout has its own cult following (its “drumsticks” and vegan milkshakes are legendary). Its whole menu is mouthwatering!

#5 Atlanta, Georgia

Life is peachy for vegetarians in Atlanta. From soul food to sweet treats to authentic global cuisine, Atlanta and its surrounding towns have a terrific variety of vegan food options.

You won’t want to miss the all-vegetarian Green Sprout, which our sources say has some of the best soups they’ve ever tasted. Several people also told us that when they want a taste of the sea without hurting Nemo, they order Green Sprout’s delicious “Fish” Filets With Crispy Bean-Curd Skin. For a lazy evening, use its free home-delivery service for an order of Empire “Chicken” and some Pan-Seared Veg Pancakes, which are made with spinach, mushrooms, and onions. The faux shrimp at Harmony look and taste like the real thing, and the Indian food at Udipi is tantalizing, though you should wear loose pants if you are trying the buffet! Lush Café, where you can sit on a patio in the middle of a gorgeous garden, offers upscale vegetarian cuisine. Need an energy boost from fresh fruits and vegetables after your meal? Arden’s Garden, which makes fresh vegetarian juices and smoothies, has four locations in the Atlanta area.

Soul food is a must below the Mason-Dixon line. For cooking that’s better than your mama’s, nobody is better than Soul Vegetarian, which has two Atlanta locations. Gather your crew for vegan chocolate milkshakes and a heap of onion rings. Café Sunflower, one of USA Today‘s “10 Great Places to Eat With an Easy Conscience,” has two locations in Atlanta. The vegetarian-friendly menu includes Italian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, and American dishes (leave room for the vegan chocolate cake). The Flying Biscuit Café also has two locations and serves several animal-friendly options, including the Vegan Southern-Style Burrito, which is loaded with barbecued tofu, collard greens, and mushrooms folded into a sun-dried tomato tortilla that’s topped with salsa verde.

Top Tip: No bones about it, Harmony makes the best vegan sesame chicken anywhere. The chunks of “chicken” are dipped in a sesame batter, fried, and served with a thick-and-sweet sesame sauce.

#6 Washington, D.C.

Republican, Democrat, Whig—who cares? We all need to eat, and nothing hits the spot better than a healthy, hearty, humane meal—just ask vegetarian “first niece” and model Lauren Bush, who takes her Texas toast with soy sausage or fakin’ bacon. It’s no surprise that the nation’s capital is packed with vegetarians—it’s the home of the first American group for plant-eaters, the Vegetarian Society of the District of Columbia, which was founded in 1927.

The D.C.-metro area boasts numerous vegetarian-friendly restaurants and 11 extra-vegetarian-friendly grocery stores. Right in the heart of D.C., Java Green is completely vegan and completely delicious. We recommend the “Turkey” Club Panini, the Chili-”Chicken” Wrap, or any dish to which you can add Java Green’s dreamy vegan whipped cream. Head to The Vegetable Garden in Bethesda for a huge array of vegetarian cuisine. Both The Vegetable Garden and Java Green hold regular fundraisers in support of the terrific local animal-advocacy group Compassion Over Killing. For more unique dishes, try the Peking “Duck” at Yuan Fu or the Sunflower Satisfaction (a delightful combination of gourmet mushrooms, snow peas, and chickpeas in a zesty orange sauce) at Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant.

The U.S. government just declared the all-vegan Sticky Fingers Bakery a national landmark. Well, not really, but just one bite of a Sticky Fingers cinnamon bun will put you in a good mood for the rest of your visit to the nation’s capital. If you’re more of a partier than a sightseer, hole up at Asylum Bar and Lounge, where the waffle fries swimming in melted soy cheese are the perfect companion for your spirit of choice. It also serves a great vegan brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. that’s worth getting out of bed for. Try the Chili-”Cheese” Tofu Scramble or the super-popular French Toast.

Top Tip: Want a run-down of the city’s soy-cheese pizza selections or tasty mock meats? Check out VegDC.com, the definitive source on the vegetarian scene in the District of Columbia and outlying areas.

#7 Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, the home of vegan rock star Prince, offers hungry Midwesterners more than 200 vegetarian-friendly restaurants and grocery stores and 16 health-food stores and natural-foods co-ops.

Pizza Lucé, which has three locations in the Twin Cities, offers vegan cheese, sausage, and pepperoni, along with an awesome variety of vegetarian sandwiches, including its Special Spicy Mock Sausage Hoagie. The all-vegan Ecopolitan sells upscale raw and organic foods and cruelty-free, nontoxic home and body products. For something with a bit more edge, visit Triple Rock, a grungy, greasy-spoon punk bar that welcomes everyone while offering vegan White Russians, sloppy joes, and chili fries, plus fantastic vegan pancakes and French toast on weekend mornings.

Café Brenda serves up the unique taste of mock duck in the Southwestern Mock Duck Taco and Ginger-Glazed Mock Duck Salad. You can also opt for the savory and good-for-you Brenda Burger, which is made with brown rice, vegetables, and nuts. Loaf around at the French Meadow Bakery and Café, where the bread is completely vegan and fresh-baked daily. Try the Grilled Tempeh Reuben or the Winter Casserole With Alfredo Sauce. You won’t be able to resist its vegan cookies, muffins, and scones, and kids will love the Vegan Brown-Rice Crispy. And for some amazing Indian food, head to the all-vegetarian, award-winning Udupi Café in Columbia Heights.

For students who are interested in cruelty-free eating, Compassionate Action for Animals, the University of Minnesota’s vegetarian-advocacy organization, has created ExploreVeg.org, a comprehensive resource for those who are looking for vegetarian options on campus. EarthSave Twin Cities also provides resources on local vegetarian eating and hosts regular outreach and dining events.

Top Tip: Calling itself “The ultimate restaurant and shopping guide for vegetarians and vegans,” Minneapolis-based VegGuide.org really does have it all. In addition to having more than 250 restaurant listings for the Twin Cities alone, the site allows visitors to search more than 1,500 entries for vegetarian-friendly eateries, hotels, and shops all over the world!

#8 Austin, Texas

State capital Austin might be University of Texas Longhorn country, but many folks in this vegetarian-friendly oasis would rather meet cows than eat them. And whether you’re a long-time devotee of vegan eating or are just curious, meet up with Vegans Rock Austin, which provides a great way for animal-friendly folks to socialize and come together to do what vegans do best—eat!

In Austin’s world of cafés, there are many great choices. Bouldin Creek Café offers scrumptious vegan chocolate triangles—a variation of chocolate cake drizzled with chocolate sauce. It also serves up the city’s best scrambled tofu and will substitute it for any scrambled-egg dish. Everyone raves about the NuAge Café’s Shiitake Taro Bowl, a savory dish made of tender soy cutlets mixed with sautéed shiitake mushrooms and vegetables in a slightly crisp taro bowl. Don’t leave until you try its excellent vegan desserts, including cake and an array of fruit sorbets. Mother’s Café is perhaps the city’s most popular all-vegetarian establishment, catering to a wide-and-loyal customer base. It’s easy to understand why when you try the Spicy Tempeh Enchiladas, which come drenched in a to-die-for creamy chipotle sauce.

There’s a nice array of vegetarian-friendly Mexican and Southwestern restaurants in these parts. Leading the way is Mr. Natural, where the whole menu of traditional favorites is meatless and the cakes and pies are irresistible. At the organic vegan restaurant Casa de Luz, a set meal with a different theme is offered each night. The Kerbey Lane Café, with four locations, has an extensive vegetarian selection and is open 24 hours a day.

Shanghai River, an unheralded Austin gem, has a sizeable animal-free selection on its daily lunch buffet and delectable, made-from-scratch soy soft serve. Thundercloud Subs, another city highlight with more than 20 locations, serves up lots of vegetarian options, including its Nada “Chicken” and Veggie Burger sandwiches. And for those who aspire to go to Veggie Heaven, you can. It’s an all-vegetarian Chinese restaurant located right next to the University of Texas campus.

Top Tip: Austin is the home of the first Whole Foods store and is also the home of its vegan founder, animal welfare advocate John Mackey. Whole Foods’ massive flagship store in Central Austin is a must-visit, with tons of great food and an entire “beer alley.” But don’t forget the little guy—Wheatsville Co-Op has a very vegan-friendly deli.

#9 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Ah, Philadelphia—the City of Brotherly Love and home of the Philly cheesesteak. Vegetarians, rejoice, for we, too, can be part of the “cheesy” embrace without supporting the cruel dairy industry. Indulge in the tastes-so-heavenly goodness of the vegan Philly cheesesteaks at Gianna’s Grille and Basic Four. Gianna’s, known by vegetarians nationwide, is also popular for its vegan pizza and its piled-high mock-meat hoagies.

If you’re up for a taste of the Far East, then you’re in luck—Philadelphia has several all-vegetarian Asian restaurants. Kingdom of Vegetarians, New Harmony, Singapore, and 1010 Cherry are all definitely worth visiting. Or fill yourself with Philly falafel at Maoz Vegetarian, where you can create your own meal one ingredient at a time. For night owls, Maoz serves food into the early morning.

Heading to a Phillies game? Citizens Bank Park serves veggie dogs and other meat-free ballpark snacks, earning it a spot on PETA’s “Top 10 Vegetarian-Friendly Ballparks.” If you’re in Philly or State College (the home of Penn State), check out Mad Mex for tofu and bean burritos or quesadillas made with soy cheese and vegan sour cream. Govinda’s offers a wide variety of tasty cuisine, including an Indian buffet and terrific desserts. The highly regarded, upscale Horizon’s Café rocks even the most hardcore meat-eater’s world. For more information on the best vegetarian eating in town, check out VegPhilly.com, which includes restaurant reviews and information on local vegetarian-friendly events.

Top Tip: A visit to Philly just wouldn’t be complete without stopping at Gianna’s Grille for the GG Special—the restaurant’s vegan version of the Philly cheesesteak.

#10 Chicago, Illinois

Sure, Chicago was built on the slaughter industry, but we try not to let sordid pasts get in the way of bright futures. After all, the Windy City has come a long way since Upton Sinclair’s bloody butcherfest, The Jungle. These days, Chi-town boasts more than 20 vegetarian restaurants, including the famous “Meat-Free Since ’83″ Chicago Diner, perhaps the best homestyle-vegetarian restaurant in North America. You’ll have to go there more than once, because there’s no way you can miss the Bayou Tofish, BBQ Seitan Wings, or Lentil-Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie.

For vegetables gone ultra-gourmet, we hear that Charlie Trotter’s $115-a-person vegetarian menu is a tantalizing experience—if you can handle the price tag. The Green Zebra was rated one of Chicago’s best new restaurants and called “the hottest reservation in town” by The New York Times. If you’re looking for something that’s lighter on the pocketbook, Irazu’s is the best place for a $5 lunch Costa Rican-style—try the veggie burrito or vegetarian plate, which changes daily, with a side of tostones. The thick, rich chocolate soy milkshake at Earwax Café is delicious, as are the vegan sloppy joes, Reubens, and cakes.

Soul Vegetarian East features super-savory choices, such as barbecued seitan, veggie burgers, vegan gyros, and a fantastic macaroni and “cheese.” Try the breaded, fried seitan with corn and mashed potatoes and gravy. Karyn’s Raw offers an exotic array of upscale, uncooked dishes. Its sister restaurant, Karyn’s Cooked, offers jerk tofu, seitan steak, and the very popular “Slab of Ribs,” which is 100 percent pig-free but doesn’t taste like it. Although many mock meats are made with soy or wheat protein, Karyn’s tasty “meatball” sandwich is made using lentils, one of the healthiest foods around.

For the full scoop on vegetarian eating in Chicago, grab a copy of Veg Out! Vegetarian Guide to Chicago. If you prefer to stick to the Internet, visit VegGuide.org or VegChicago.com.

Top Tip: It’s worth taking a road trip to the Windy City just for the Chicago Diner. And if you have some spare time, buy some extra Diner food and drive it down to PETA’s office in Virginia!

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