15 Superbly Satisfying Restaurants For Traveling Vegans
Head to Paris with a vegan, and they’re likely to subsist off nothing more than French fries and salads—at least, that was the case for Angela Lowe, co-founder of red-hot Brooklyn vegan pop-up series Culinary Collective, when she went to the land of cheese and pastry. Her business partner, Jay Astafa, says the same about visits to his family in Montenegro: “They just don’t understand quite what it means to be vegan there. I always end up going to the farmers’ markets and cooking for myself instead.”
Indeed, vegans and vegetarians deal with some serious challenges on the road. But there are places you can go that are truly amazing—if you know where to look. Luckily, the globetrotting chefs have a tip or two up their sleeve. Not least is Lowe’s own Clinton Hill, Brooklyn brownstone, where the duo dishes out intimate tasting dinners for the lucky few that can buy tickets for their sought-after, one-night-only events (they plan to open a true brick-and-mortar pop up in the East Village this July). Consider their worldwide list one worth bookmarking—and sharing with every roaming vegetarian you know.
Narcissa in NYC
John Fraser was an early pioneer of Meatless Mondays at his Upper West Side spot, Dovetail—and Narcissa, a stunner of a space set within the Standard Hotel in the East Village, takes things a good step further. “They offer a full vegan tasting menu that’s absolutely delicious,” says Astafa. “You get a solid four or five dishes, with big flavors and amazing quality of ingredients. The drinks are great too, and there’s a photo booth downstairs that is also really fun.”
Dirt Candy in NYC
“Amanda is one of the originators of vegetable-focused cuisine—she’s been doing this since before it was trendy. I was a regular at her first spot,” says Lowe, “but the new location still feels approachable for all sorts of people who want to eat good food. You don’t have to be vegan to love this spot.”
Per Se in NYC
“They ask you on the spot what you do or don’t eat, and build a menu around that,” says Lowe of the Thomas Keller classic. Per Se’s Tasting of Vegetables menu—which is mostly vegan—is really just a starting point, which you can customize to your specific dietary needs. “Perfection.”
Blue Hill Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York
“Eating here is a total experience,” says Lowe. “The staff brings you in to the kitchen for one of the courses, where you can watch the chefs cook and move around like they’re in a well-orchestrated ballet. It’s not just a meal—it’s an education.”
The Springs in Los Angeles
This new spot is like a megaplex devoted to holistic living—it includes a wellness center, yoga studio, juice bar, biodynamic wine bar, and organic raw food restaurant. There’s even a horticulturalist that comes to sing to the fig trees on property. But The Springs’ food is “very creative and modern, and the chef [Michael Falso] is very inventive odd ingredients.” What to order: the spanakopita, with coconut phyllo dough and almond feta, or the spaghetti carbonara, made with kelp and zucchini noodles and smoked coconut bacon.
The Bazaar by Jose Andres in Los Angeles
“I never knew that there was a vegan menu at this modernist icon,” says Astafa, “but last year I found out that you can ask for one when you book. Unsurprisingly, the food was delicious. I loved the caipirinha cocktail—they make it tableside using liquid nitrogen. And the dishes are all riffs on the tapas on the regular menu, so you feel like you’re getting a comparable experience to the meat eaters nearby.”
Plant in Cape Town
“This isn’t a sophisticated spot, per se,” says Lowe. In fact, it’s pretty casual. But that’s part of what makes Plant so easy to love. Lowe recalls eating there multiple times on her most recent trip (there are two locations in the city—a destination she says “is not the easiest for vegans”). Her recommendations: BLTs made with tempeh bacon and rave-worthy vegan burgers.
The Herbivores in Hong Kong
Ramen, dumplings, and other iconic Hong Kong dishes get a vegan spin at this fun spot—which Lowe and Astafa call modern, unique, and inventive. Also on The Herbivores’ menu: global dishes like pumpkin carbonara, an excellent mango risotto, and even quesadillas. “A bit of a splurge,” says Lowe, “but very worth it.”
Nanuchka in Tel Aviv
A city driven by salads, spreads, and chickpeas is a natural fit for vegans and vegetarians, but Nanuchka manages to stand out. “The menu has a Georgian flair to it—lots of vegetables prepared very simply, stuffed bulgur dishes, and amazing pickled things,” says Lowe. “It doesn’t hurt that the place itself—a light and airy dining room—has a great energy to it.”
Bestro in Dubai
It may come as a surprise, but Dubai is a city that can be challenging for vegans. But this gem of a restaurant puts a spotlight on raw foods and great desserts—it’s all vegan, and basically the only game in town. No website; located in the Galeries Lafayette Dubai mall.
Gro in Stockholm
Named for the Swedish word for “green things,” this vegetarian stunner has an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work. “Stockholm’s restaurant scene is so modern that there are plenty of great options, but this is my favorite,” Lowe says. A year ago, they were only serving dinner once a week, but the place has gotten so popular that they’re now open most nights—with “vegi-vore” and “omni-vore” menu options that change daily.
Roca Moo in Barcelona
From the team that brought you El Celler de San Roca comes this intimate, chef’s counter-style Catalan restaurant in the Hotel Omm. And just as you’d expect from its three-Michelin-starred cousin in Girona, the food here is inventive, elegant, and hyper-modern. Order the tasting menu and sit at the bar—it’s one of the best dining experiences you can have in town.
Vedge in Philadelphia
“Everything here is amazing,” says Astafa, who recalled ordering Vedge’s whole menu of small plates and not finding a single thing to complain about. “It’s one of the standouts on the entire east coast, as far as vegetable-driven cuisine goes.” Don’t miss the items featured on the cleverly-named “Dirt List,” like scrambled ramp pancakes topped with pickled ramp hot sauce, an heirloom mushroom fazzoletti, and grilled Brussels sprouts with smoked mustard.
Gracias Madre in San Francisco and Los Angeles
Finding traditional Mexican food as a vegan is all but impossible. The one exception is this fun spot, with locations in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. “They have amazing tamales, burritos, and tacos filled with seasonal vegetables,” says Astafa.
White Lotus in Miami
Matthew Kenney—founder of the world’s first raw foods academy—has just opened this Miami Beach hotspot. Say Astafa and Lowe, “We haven’t eaten there yet, but we saw some of the things that he was doing at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, and we were very impressed. It’s next on our global list.”