In my life, throughout my travels and time periods lived in foreign countries and in the USA, I have found hidden gems as well as better-known and/or popular vegan restaurants, food carts, etc. I would like to share these establishments with fellow and prospective vegans, as well as anyone who might be interested in broadening their culinary/dietary/foodie horizons. One stand-out restaurant is mentioned per category.
Gracias Madre – San Francisco, CA
100% vegan, local and organic. Committed to their love for food, the earth and the divine feminine, as well as consciousness-raising on the planet. The brainchild of Cafe Gratitude.
Kriol & Garifuna
Gomier’s Restaurant – Punta Gorda, Belize
Prepared with conscience, compassion and love, the dishes Gomier prepares are hidden gems amongst the questionably vegetarian rice and beans with chopped cucumber, tomato, and iceberg lettuce salad that define the diet of any vegan travelling in Belize. During my interview with Gomier I came to the understanding that he does eat fish, but his diet is otherwise free of animal protein (no dairy, no eggs, no poultry or cow or pig). He also makes a wickedly delicious vegan ice cream. Sometimes that’s all he eats in a day, he once told me.
Van Hanh Vegetarian Restaurant – SE Portland, OR
Van Hanh Vegetarian Restaurant is operated by Buddhist monks (all female), and they’re not what a normal American patron might consider polite. They are eager to take your order, and not amused by the banter between you and your dining partner(s). Also, don’t try to banter with them. They mean business. And I love them all the more for it. The food is delicious.
Govinda’s – Quito, Ecuador
Arriving at a capital city in South America can often result in a sigh of relief. If you’re vegan and you’re lucky, you can sometimes find an all-vegan establishment. Which is more than I can say about a few capital cities in the states. In Quito, Ecuador for example, you can eat a hearty vegan lunch for less than $2 US– with juice included (I’m pretty sure it was Tang, but nonetheless I was impressed). A potential downside for the vegan-paleo inclined is that Govinda’s serves a non-negotiable, substitution-free lunch that does include a side of rice along with the protein. However, having eaten nothing but a head of cabbage picked up at the 10 minute stop during a 12-hour bus ride (in which we nearly fell off a cliff) I was so shaky and tense that I did not care. It tasted great, remedied my hypoglycaemic moment, and balanced out my experience in Quito (my friend and I were assaulted later that week on the street next to a fried chicken franchise).
Chinitas – Panajachel, Guatemala
While there are at least 3 restaurants now in Panajachel that intentionally cater to vegans, Chinitas is the longest standing and my favorite by far. I know the owner personally, but that only happened because she recognized me when I dined there during my most recent visits to Pana– and inquired about a Kaqchikel (the local indigenous language) teacher in the area.
Classic American Diner
Cornbread Cafe – Eugene, OR
Cornbread Cafe serves a lot of things I don’t prefer to eat, such as bread. Yet the restaurant pulls at my heartstrings in such a way that I could not cease to be impressed by it. I have been there three times and always ordered a salad, but watched my friend eat the “Eugene-wich” with carrot-bacon and was very impressed by the concept. Carrot bacon…hmm…I’ve always hated on the phrase “everything tastes better with bacon”, but when it consists of carrots I think we should re-phrase it “everything tastes better fried”. That’s the reason why deep-fried Twinkies became popular at county fairs, am I right?
American-Latin-Asian-Raw-New Age fusion
Slice of Life – Sebastapol, CA
Slice of Life is the first vegan-friendly restaurant I ever experienced. My mom and some of her friends loved it, and suggested we go there a few weeks after I stopped eating meat. She ate fish at the time, and still does to my knowledge, but was always stoked to eat there. Mom, you are a closeted vegan. It’s time to come out. Anyway, their sampler plates were always great when I was obsessed with tempeh and tofu, but what I really love and miss is the salad that’s topped with steamed vegetables and seeds with lemon tahini dressing. Vegan, Paleo, and undeniably amazing.
Juice Bars & Cafes
Juicy Jones – Barcelona, Spain
Juicy Jones was a godsend when my friends from band/orchestra and I were drenched because of the rain and needed a place to chill. They had delicious smoothies and snacks, and even though my friends were not vegan– they were either raised by vegetarians or had several other vegan friends and were familiar with the concept (I transferred to an Arts High School my junior year so being vegan was no big deal). This place is the best vegan-friendly joint in Spain, hands down. Great atmosphere, great food, great people.
Millenium Restaurant – San Francisco, CA
Millenium is absolutely fabulous. 100% vegan, with multiple courses of small plates that that remind patrons of the undeniable fact that beets are much prettier than duck breasts. Or steaks or foie gras. So beautiful. When I die I need for Millennium to cater my funeral.
Vanilla Jill’s – Eugene, OR
Vanilla Jill’s is an anomaly. Every other frozen yogurt / ice cream venue I’ve been to offers sorbet as their only vegan option. Now that I received a Nutri-Bullet from from my Nana for Christmas I no longer am on a quest for vegan soft-serve, yet I always appreciated Vanilla Jill’s for the coffee-flavored xylitol-sweetened vegan yogurt and peanut butter soft serve.