Make a Resolution to Be a Vegetarian? Visit any of these 5 Cities in 2019

By Jeff Seehorsch

So, you made the call. 2019 is the year you switch to a plant-based diet. Your timing is perfect – there are more vegetarian and vegan restaurant options across the country than ever. In fact, there are so many eateries springing up in certain major cities that it’s enough of a reason to plan a trip for the food alone. But before we get to our must-visit towns, let’s define the term vegetarian and clarify the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan for the purpose of our list.

What Does It Mean to Be Vegetarian or Vegan?

According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian diet consists of grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, fungi, algae, yeast and/or some other non-animal based food. Basically, a vegetarian does not eat anything created from any part of the body of an animal.

There are varying degrees of vegetarianism. One of the most popular is veganism, which excludes eating dairy products, eggs or any other animal-based product. There are several vegan restaurants and dishes mentioned throughout our list of top vegetarian cities, but not all fall under the strictly vegan designation. Now on to our list of the best cities in the U.S.A. for vegetarian food!

1.    Portland, OR

Portland has long been one of the best vegetarian cities in the U.S. But when Food Fight! Vegan Grocery opened in 2003, a sub-culture took root that has come to define Portland’s eclectic plant-based identity. Not only did the grocery spur a unique vegan mini-mall that has become a global tourist attraction – it sparked a vibrant vegan scene that inspired many local chefs to open restaurants throughout the city.

Whether you indulge in fruit-and-veggie packed smoothies and walnut flapjacks at Harlow, savor a Calabrese pizza made with artisanal nut-based cheeses at Virtuous Pie, or kick back with a cool coconut mojito and some beer battered avocado tacos at No bones Beach Club, you’ll enjoy some of the most innovative (and diverse) vegetarian cuisine the world has to offer.

If you have a sweet tooth, no trip to Portland is complete without a stop at Doe Donuts. The city’s first vegan doughnut shop offers a wide range of inventive flavors like sour blue raspberry and salted vanilla bean with each treat completely free of animal products.

2.    Los Angeles, CA

It’s no accident that Los Angeles has become synonymous with the vegetarian lifestyle over the last few decades. With no shortage of celebrities concerned about eating well and taking care of themselves, countless skilled chefs and eager investors have been willing to accommodate their plant-based tastes. Today, the city remains a must-visit for anyone seeking the finest vegetarian cuisine.

At PYT – launched by famed restauranteur Josef Centeno – you’ll find simple, locally farmed fare transformed into flavorful masterpieces. The restaurant’s baked turnip, for example, features a shell of kosher salt and egg white adorned with nettle chimichurri, feta cheese, pomegranate molasses and shaved walnuts. Their turnip is so tasty that it earned “dish of the year” honors from Los Angeles Magazine.

For Mediterranean-inspired cuisine as popular with non-vegetarians as it is with vegetarians, make a reservation at the serene Crossroads Kitchen in West Hollywood. Their chefs prefer small dishes to keep your taste buds firing, and they succeed with standouts like artichoke oysters with kelp caviar, almond cheese-filled tortelloni and Scaloppini with marsala-glazed morel mushrooms.

If you’re a sushi-lover, Los Angeles has you covered on that front too. Shojin Organic and Natural, the first all-vegan Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo and Los Angeles, replaces tuna with spicy tofu to mouth-watering effect. From dynamite rolls to pumpkin croquette, Shojin offers the type of one-of-a-kind menu that makes L.A. one of the best cities for vegetarians.

3.    New York City, NY

New York has always been a culinary capital, so it’s no surprise that the city is a top vegetarian destination. With beloved plant-based standbys like Caravan of Dreams and Candle Café delighting guests since the early 90s, New York has long been ahead of the curve of foodie trends. Today, it fosters one of the world’s most diverse vegetarian communities. In 2018, WalletHub named the New York “Best City for Vegans and Vegetarians” thanks to the city’s diversity and accessibility when it comes to vegetarian eats.

One of the best examples of accessibility is Avant Garden, which caters to anyone scared by phrases like “low-carb” and “low-fat.” You’ll find plenty of hearty, salty – and even greasy – options to savor, with delicious toasts loaded up with puree or spaghetti pomodoro with a rich sauce of fresh crushed tomatoes. For other delicious meat substitutes, stop by Superiority Burger in the East Village and enjoy a Sloppy Dave (tofu stewed with spices in a tomato base) or check out Narcissa for some carrots Wellington and the restaurant’s staple, rotisserie-crisped beets.

While New York’s vegetarian options are heavy on both quality and quantity, most can also be pricey. For a delicious meal on a budget, Govinda’s in Brooklyn treats customers to $12 lunch boxes with soup, salad and tasty entrees like eggplant parm, potato and cauliflower stew or spinach daal. At Peacefood Café, order a tempeh avocado sandwich or roasted potato pizza and you can fill up on some of Manhattan’s best vegetarian cuisine for under $15.

4.    Austin, TX

Vegetarianism might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of “Cattle Country”, but Austin’s burgeoning restaurant scene outgrew stereotypes years ago. Whether you head out to this year’s South by Southwest show, the Austin Food and Wine Festival or any of the exciting events that have made Austin their home, make it a point to experience the city and some of the hottest vegan and vegetarian cuisine anywhere.

Think fine-dining and food trucks don’t mix? Bistro Vonish begs to differ. Described as “elevated vegan cuisine,” the menu’s sophisticated offerings include southern-fried oyster mushrooms, sweet potato arepas and mousseline chocolate pie with pecan-raisin crust. Arlo’s – another food truck in East Austin – leans more toward late night comfort food but doesn’t skimp on flavor. Choose from tacos and burgers made with house-made, plant-based patties and sides like mouth-watering tater tots or fries. If you can’t decide, go with the fan-favorite Bac’n Cheeze Burger loaded up with seitan bac’n.

If you want to bring the family to a proper restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with Citizen Eatery. Their Citizen Scramble breakfast features a heavenly blend of scrambled eggs and farm fresh ingredients, while highlights like parsnip waffles and vegan Bolognese round out a broad menu of delicious organic fare. Want a cold one to go with your meal? Hit the Beer Plant – Austin’s first vegan gastropub – and you can enjoy tasty craft beer with some buffalo cauliflower wings, chicken-fried seitan or Hop’s n’ Chips (beer-battered hearts of palm).

5.    San Francisco, CA

With so much of California’s bay area dedicated to farming year-round, San Francisco offers an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and organic food. The city endorses farm-to-table eating perhaps more than any other major U.S. city, and that commitment is clear when you browse their plant-based eatery options. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants span every ethnicity, mood and palette, making San Francisco one of the most adventurous and satisfying destinations for any vegan or vegetarian.

Start with Greens, which has been an icon of vegetarian cuisine for over 30 years. The charming waterfront restaurant specializes in hearty dishes like shepherd’s pie stuffed with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and parsnips, or crepes overflowing with butternut squash and smoked cheddar. At another famous plant-based restaurant, the Nourish Café, you’ll find filling entrees just as satisfying. The menu emphasizes exotic “bowls” like the Warrior Bowl loaded up with zucchini, carrots, spinach and “Nourish Burger” or the Chimichurri-based Mission Bowl that blends brown rice, yams, avocado and tomatoes.

For an upscale dining experience, try Shizen – a zen sushi bar that produces egg-free noodles, savory broths and inventive rolls filled with rich tofu and imitation fish eggs made of tapioca. Millennium, featured as one of the Huffington Post’s “Top 25 Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in the World,” offers delectable entrees like seared sweet potato cassava and several renowned dessert options like chocolate bourbon pecan torte and pumpkin spice crumble.

How to Feel at Home with a Vegetarian Lifestyle

Taking a trip to a vegetarian’s paradise is a fun way to immerse yourself in a plant-based lifestyle. To really stick with it, though, it helps to make veggies a part of your day-to-day environment. If you haven’t already, try starting up a proper garden and creating a sustainable yard so you can whip up your own vegetarian concoctions. Check out the benefits that extend beyond a satisfying source of fresh food in our blog, Conservation Tips for a Sustainable Backyard.

If you’re looking for a change of scenery to go with your new lifestyle, browse homes for sale in our top vegetarian cities or anywhere else in the country today!