Let me preface with I live in a very vegan-friendly city.
Portland, OR provides a magnitude of plant-based options. From the grocery stores to the majority of the restaurants, any vegan will find plant-based food that speaks to their palate here. There’s a reason why Portland, OR is one of the top ten cities in America for vegan food.
Broadening the horizons of my fortunate bubble, I share with you the A-list vegan restaurants to try before you die. Yes, it’s that serious!
I have gone to all of these eateries with meat-loving beings and they raved on about the selection provided. The innovation of dishes these restaurants create made me say — there’s no way! No way, I was about to eat tiramisu for the first time in six years. No way, this orange chicken dish, could not be, well — orange chicken!
Six different restaurants in five different locations on the West Coast of North America. All different in their cuisines making them ideal for the ultimate food adventurer — vegan or not!
Starting from the far north, Vancouver, BC, Canada making our way south to San Diego, California in the US, I give you the ultimate grub locations of the West Coast.
Vancouver, BC — MeeT
Cuisine: Comfort Food
MeeT is changing the game on vegan comfort cuisine. The closest restaurant remotely similar to its kind is Veggie Grill. Personally, they are not even in the same realm as Veggie Grill though.
Veggie grill is more fast-food oriented while MeeT creates a space to have a seat, stay awhile, and devour. There are three different locations in Vancouver and we ended up at the Yaletown location.
It was a quiet, misty early Saturday afternoon. The place wasn’t poppin yet but by the time we finished our three-course meal, it was buzzing. All MeeT locations operate on a walk-in basis so no reservations here. The no reservation rule is a reflection of their casual ambiance but much like all of Vancouver, BC, casual chic!
Although listed as vegetarian and vegan-friendly, I happy to announce everything at MeeT is plant-based. Accommodating many dietary needs, MeeT “takes food allergies very seriously.” They offer gluten-free items by dedicating “two deep fryers exclusively for gluten-free items.” They encourage expressing the severity of your allergy to your server to best accommodate you.
Make the most of your visit and share all the menu items your heart desires. We tried to eat as much as we could without feeling like we had to roll one another out of the restaurant.
Menu recommendation: get the cauliflower wings! The wings, the most raved about
Seattle, WA — Cafe Flora
Please note, this spot is a vegetarian restaurant so not all things are created vegan but items can be customized with a plethora of options on deck. This place is perfect for your dynamic palate of friends who may want more of the traditional brunch while the “weird vegan friend”, probably you, can enjoy too.
Although they serve up breakfast and dinner, I highly recommend the weekend brunch menu.
Cafe Flora has people waiting out the door so either go early or with a small party. Big groups can expect to wait a hot minute(the big groups were there before us and we sat before them). My friend and I walked up about 10:30 am, prime brunch time, and waited for about 30–40 minutes for a table.
You know the grub is good when you have people willing to wait.
When you enter, they have natural lighting throughout the restaurant. If you are lucky, you will be seated in the indoor garden creating a sophisticated setting to go with your rosemary lemonade mimosa.
Once a laundry mat, Cafe Flora has created a space that “utilizes local, organic and sustainable produce and herbs” by “building strong, direct relationships with Washington farms.”
Menu recommendation: the biscuits and gravy and splitting the cinnamon roll. If you are too full for the cinnamon roll, take it to go!
Portland, OR — Vtopia & Back to Eden
Cuisine: Cheese Deli & Dessert Shop
Okay, okay, I couldn’t pick which restaurant I should tell you about so I am telling you about two spots. I live here so I am able to give you the low-down with my pandering time here.
Starting with Vtopia, a haven of cheesy options to choose from a cheese plate to mac-n-cheese to a caprese or caesar salad etc. It a casual, deli-bistro spot with a display case of all cashew-based cheese.
We are talking herb-de-Provence (a personal favorite), brie, sriracha cheddar — yes, L
Its quaint, intimate setting is delightful for any introvert looking for a European, slow-it-down lunch or dinner. A place to sip on their house-made juice of the day (definitely get one) with a cheese plate and a book for company. If you are stuck on what cheeses to go with, you can sample to make sure you get what you like.
Vtopia offers made-from-scratch cashew cheese in a variety of menu options— need I say more?
Menu recommendation: a cheese platter to your liking and their infamous mac-n-cheese. Don’t be thrown off by the mac-n-cheese price, they hook it up on the large serving!
For my sweet tooth friends, you have to hit-up Back to Eden on Alberta street when in Portland, OR. This place is 100% vegan and gluten-free with desserts, pastries, floats, sundaes, and shakes. Although, I cannot speak for their bakery cafe, which I am sure is dank, their desserts put them on the map.
It’s a small shop with just enough room to sit down and enjoy your treat as you keep exploring Alberta street and it’s quirkiness.
Dedicated to the highest quality gluten-free, vegan desserts in town — everything is homemade! They “have always prioritized organic and sustainably grown ingredients over profit margins.” You can count on “non-GMO ingredients.” They also “do not use any artificial flavors, food dyes, fondant, gum paste or glitters in our cakes, desserts or any menu items.”
Menu recommendation: It’s tough because you to want to order everything but you can’t go wrong with a chocolate lavender shake.
Los Angeles, California — Shojin
Cuisine: Japanese & Macrobiotic
Leaving Oregon and heading south to Cali, I knew I was bound to find a place that would have the wow factor in Los Angeles. Enter Shojin. Shojin has two locations, one in downtown LA (where we went), and another in Culver City.
Shojin downtown LA is located in Little Tokyo shopping center. Once you get past “where are we going?” to find the spot, it is well worth it.
We ended up showing up 45 minutes before they closed. I know, I hate being those people but it was our only chance to make it happen on the trip. When I do it all over again, I would like to take the time for their special tasting menu to get my time and stomachs worth.
For ease of ordering, they rank their menu with best, new, and special items.
They are dedicated to providing meals that are gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, with vegetables and ingredients that are all organic when possible. With the promise of “no chemical preservatives, no artificial color, and no chemical seasonings” this place is a must for any food conscious being.
Menu recommendation: Highly recommend in getting the sweet orange chicken appetizer especially if you haven’t had orange chicken in a minute!
San Diego, California — Civico 1845
Moving further south to San Diego, a capital for healthy, vegan restaurants, one stood out from the rest. Civico 1845, Italian fare which has its own vegan menu! I repeat its own vegan menu! This is perfect for friends and family that have different diet requirements.
The place is large enough for family style or dinner for two. Whether seated at the bar or dining area, you’ll be sitting on reclaimed, natural materials.
Their menu states “fresh, locally grown ingredients with an emphasis on natural flavors,” they make “healthy, light and 100% vegan versions of Italian classics.” They even have nutritional yeast to sprinkle on top of your dish!
Menu recommendation: do yourself a favor and do a three-course experience with mushroom calamari, lasagna, and tiramisu. These guys are the real deal here!
This is where our journey ends for now. Until next time, support the businesses who are putting out good-vibes for them to stay alive and thrive. Your stomach will thank you.
Side note: my sincerest apologies San Francisco. I have yet to visit your awesome city but know y’all have some bomb dishes waiting at bay.
Coming for you next!