Charity Burggraaf

Swap out the tofurkey for a delicious vegetarian meal this Thanksgiving.

Teresa Bergen
November 04, 2015

Vegetarians have historically been relegated to side dishes on Thanksgiving, and expected to be extra grateful if somebody remembered to make them a portion of meatless gravy. But things are changing. Around the country, a growing wave of plant-positive chefs are guaranteeing that vegetarians—and even vegans—can waddle away from the table like everybody else. Here are a few top picks for a plant-based Thanksgiving this year.

Café Flora in Seattle, Washington

An upscale vegetarian mainstay, Café Flora has been feeding Seattleites for nearly 25 years. Chef Janine Doran—who's worked at Flora almost since the beginning—has devised a four-course prix fixe meal with vegetarian, vegan, and special kids offerings. For the main course, diners can choose between wild mushroom and chestnut bread pudding with porcini sauce, or delicate squash medallions with cauliflower walnut pate. Café Flora has a full bar, with cocktails that feature local produce. Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal in Flora's light-filled glass atrium, beside a stone fountain. $65 for adults, $25 for kids, 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Plant Food & Wine in Venice, California

Celebrity chef and plant-based entrepreneur Matthew Kenney has done a lot to raise the profile of vegan food. This November, his Venice, California restaurant Plant Food & Wine will host a special fixed price five-course menu. Thanksgiving highlights include a root vegetable lasagna with sunchoke puree and black truffle, and heirloom cauliflower with green harissa and pomegranate. Opt in for pairinga of organic, bio-dynamic wines. $55 per person, $35 for optional wine pairing, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Green New American Café in Tempe, Arizona

Chef Damon Brasch has loved working with food ever since his grandmother sent him into the woods to pick dandelion greens when he was seven years old. She taught him to cook, and now he's on a mission to bring plant-based comfort foods to the masses—not just vegetarians. His restaurant, Green New American Café, is hosting a Thanksliving celebration that hopes to do just that. The main course will be seitan turkey breast with "giblet" gravy and toasted sundried cranberry walnut stuffing. Side highlights include smoked paprika sweet corn and brown "butter" asparagus. $24.95 for adults, $8.95 for kids (if purchased in advance), 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles, California

Cafe Gratitude

Café Gratitude lives up to its name annually, showing community appreciation by hosting a free vegan dinner. This year's shindig will be at their location in downtown L.A.'s Arts District. Despite the price tag (free), don't expect a soup kitchen experience. The main course in Chef Dreux Ellis' plated feast will be a red lentil butternut squash holiday loaf. Add in raw stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables and pumpkin pie, and you have a vegan holiday dinner that doesn't entirely stray from tradition. Free, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sprig & Vine in New Hope, Pennsylvania

The small town of New Hope, about an hour outside Philadelphia, is home to Sprig & Vine Pure Vegetarian. This casual restaurant locally sources its grains, fruits, vegetables, and herbs from nearby farms. While the restaurant isn't open on November 26, Chef Ross Olchvary will be creating holiday platters for pickup on Tuesday and Wednesday. This is a perfect solution for local vegetarians eager to avoid meatless stuffing. Dishes include balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts, rosemary-black pepper biscuits, and pumpkin cheesecake with ginger snap crust. Dishes priced a la carte.

Wynn Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

After billionaire Steve Wynn adopted a vegan diet in 2010, he mandated that all of the restaurants inside his enormous Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort must offer a full vegan menu, along with the standard menus. This year, the restaurants will offer both their regular a la carte menus as well as Thanksgiving specials. At Allegro, vegetarians can eat a special Thanksgiving risotto with butternut squash, roasted mushrooms, truffle butter, mascarpone, parmesan cheese, and toasted pumpkin seeds. The chef also had the genius idea of topping individual pecan pies with chocolate cream. Another Wynn restaurant, Costa di Mare, is making an apple and quince crostata with almond brittle and cinnamon-almond gelato. Times and costs vary.

The Boarding House, Chicago, Illinois

When the proprietor is also the master sommelier, it's no wonder diners can choose from 450 wines—or that the ceiling of the main dining room features an art installation made from 4,000 wine bottles. Many visitors will recognize Alpana Singh as the host on the award-winning show, "Check, Please!" or from her many appearances on local and national news shows. Singh's The Boarding House features a special holiday menu with both vegetarian as well as traditional offerings. The vegetarian main course is squash risotto with pepitas and sweet cream. Soak up the history of this 1872 building—which was, indeed, a boarding house—while finishing your Thanksgiving meal with a mini pumpkin pie and an apple macaron. Four-course adult menu, $65; 2-course children's menu, $12, $38 for optional wine pairings.

Millennium in Oakland, California

When Millennium opened in the early 1990s, a vegan fine dining restaurant was an unusual concept, even for San Francisco. But the highly-rated restaurant has survived two decades and a move across the bay. This year will be Millennium's first holiday feast in Oakland. Expect roasted kabocha squash, mushroom torte, and desserts like maple-pecan sweet potato pie and chocolate marbled pumpkin pie with bourbon cream and huckleberry compote. $62 for adults, $30 for children under 12 (five-course menu), 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Andina in Portland, Oregon

©Lincoln Barbour - All Rights Reserved
Lincoln Barbour

Peruvian cuisine might not be your first idea for a holiday dinner, but Portland's Andina has a loyal holiday following. Their four-course Thanksgiving menu focuses on modern and traditional Peruvian dishes. Diners can choose between vegetarian and non-vegetarian courses while listening to live Latin music. Try the Inca-inspired quinotto chisaya mama, made with quinoa risotto, Grana Padano cheese, golden beets, local mushrooms, market fresh vegetables, and truffle oil. A visit will clue you in as to why Andina makes so many best-of lists. $75, 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Vegenation in Las Vegas, Nevada

For a different Vegas experience, downtown restaurant Vegenation is hosting a dinner and giving all proceeds to a local garden classroom program. In fact, the restaurant—founded in 2014 and already collecting awards and acclaim—is adopting the garden at a local school and plans to serve food grown there at the restaurant. Chef Donald Lemperle has devised a menu offering choices for each of four courses. Options range from veg versions of traditional holiday food to the more creative tamale pumpkin stuffed with lentil mole and charred tomatillos. $50 for adults, $30 for children 12 and under.

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