We picked our favorite vegetarian restaurant in vegetarian-friendly cities
Cities with large Hindu and Buddhist populations tend to have more variety
Even Glasgow, Scotland -- renowned for unhealthy dietary habits -- is getting in on the veggie act
“No! Not bacon!”
It was the collective cry heard around the planet this week when the World Health Organization released its latest report on the carcinogenicity of processed and red meats.
With the group saying that processed meat such as bacon, sausage and ham may cause cancer and unprocessed meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” many people may now be debating whether to adopt a more veggie-inclusive diet.
From a traveler’s perspective, it’s easier than ever to go meat-free. From the world’s only city with an all-vegan strip mall to those with large Hindu and Buddhist populations and a huge variety of options, the following vegetarian-friendly destinations have imaginative restaurants with cult-like followings.
Some of the cities on this list are obvious choices, while others such as Glasgow, Scotland, have only recently forayed in any significant way into vegetarian cuisine.
Here are our top 11 choices for herbivores who travel:
1. Portland (Oregon)
From vegetarian/vegan-friendly bed-and-breakfasts to the world’s only all-vegan strip mall, compassionate choices rule many establishments in this city.
We recommend: Natural Selection, the brainchild of California Culinary Academy graduate Aaron Woo.
With European-style decor and fare derived from France, Italy and Spain, this excellent restaurant serves dishes such as chard and mushroom gnocchi and caramelized cauliflower with polenta, using local vegetables and fruits at their seasonal peak.
The menu changes weekly.
2. New York
The chance of blindly stumbling into a vegetarian restaurant is probably higher in New York than any other U.S. city.
While there’s seemingly no end of diversity, from raw restaurants like Pure Food & Wine to farm-to-table Candle Cafe, our favorite is the amazingly creative Dirt Candy.
Yes, there’s a wait to get a reservation – the restaurant has only nine tables – but we love the thoughtful, complex dishes and emphasis on a star ingredient per dish.
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3. Chennai (India)
As the ancient birthplace of vegetarianism, South India is largely meat-free.
The states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu offer extremely spicy rice-based dishes and curries, while tiffin items like dosas, tamarind and lemon rice are common.
Vegetarian thalis (platters with a few curries, rice dishes and breads) cost less than a Starbucks latte.
We recommend: Madras restaurant in Chennai’s Raintree Hotel for delicious South Indian home-style cooking.
4. Chiang Mai (Thailand)
Catering to its large Buddhist population, Chiang Mai has more than 80 vegetarian restaurants.
Even those that aren’t vegetarian-specific offer meatless tom yum soup, pad thai, salads and coconut-milk based curries.
We recommend: Pun Pun, which sources organic vegetables from its own farm. Curries are served on banana leaves.
Pun Pun has three locations in the city: Wat Suan Dok temple, near the Night Safari and near Airport Plaza on Hang Dong Road.
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5. Glasgow (Scotland)
It may come as a surprise to many that PETA named Glasgow the best city for vegans in the United Kingdom in 2013.
The growing number of vegan restaurants is part of the city’s effort to improve the health of its residents and the result of its vibrant youth culture.
We recommend: Mono Cafe Bar in the Merchant City area.
The bar brews its own beer and offers a home-style meatless menu including refried bean burritos.
Music from folk singers, songwriters and the operatic crowd is a plus.
PETA ranked London the most vegetarian-friendly city in the world in 2009. It’s still a top site for meat-free eaters.
With more than 130 vegetarian-centric restaurants, spicy vegetarian curry houses are as plentiful as pubs offering fish and chips. Nowadays, even pubs are serving meatless cuisine and raw food.
We recommend: Arguably London’s most well known vegetarian restaurant, Food for Thought in Covent Garden serves everything from Mexican to Indian dishes, cheese and dill scones to quiches.
The carefully chosen menu is inexpensive and satisfying.
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7. Seoul (South Korea)
While it’s best to double check with the server if there’s any meat in the bibimbap, vegetarian dishes are common on Korean menus.
There’s kimchi, of course (though it contains fish sauce or fish paste) and a wide variety of veggie pancakes and side dishes, good news for any vegetarian visitor who may get dragged to a barbecue restaurant.
We recommend: Traditional Korean vegetarian restaurant Hangwachae in Seoul serves house-made condiments from chili paste to soy bean paste.
Even the rice is made with 20 different Asian herbs.
8. Vancouver, British Columbia
Over the last few years, Vancouver has seen notable restaurants including the Heirloom, The Parker and The Acorn open to meet rising vegetarian demand.
We recommend: The Acorn, which received a Top Ten Best New Restaurants mention in En Route Magazine in 2014, the first vegetarian restaurant ever to snag the honor.
Vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free and raw junkies can sample a seasonal menu created with fruits and legumes from apples to Hen of the Woods.
The artfully composed dishes look like they belong in a museum.
Vancouver: Insider Travel Guide
It’s so easy to find vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Jordan where mezze dishes such as tabouleh, hummus, falafel and gourmet Arabic flatbreads abound.
From Beit Sitti (it means “my grandmother’s kitchen” in Arabic), located in the heart of Amman, to Petra’s Kitchen, there are good options at nearly every bend of the country.
We recommend: Feynan, an ecolodge in the heart of the mountainous Dana Biosphere Reserve.
In a candle-lit environment, visitors feast on flat breads baked by Bedouins, vegetarian stews, hibiscus juices, falafel, hummus and sticky knafeh for dessert.
10. Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
A melting pot of cultures from China to India, Kuala Lumpur has more than 100 vegetarian-specific restaurants according to online healthy eating guide HappyCow.
Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines are common.
We recommend: The inexpensive Gopala Vegetarian Restaurant, which features a potpourri of cultural cuisines from Thai to Indian.
The vegetarian satay and vegetarian fried rice earn raves.
Gopala Vegetarian Restaurant, No. 59, Jalan Thambipillai, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; +60 3 2274 1959
Kuala Lumpur: Insider Travel Guide
According to New York-based Saveur magazine’s 2015 Good Taste Awards, Berlin is the hottest city on the planet for vegetarians right now.
The popular foodie bible named it the world’s “New Vegetarian Capital.”
“Berlin is the first major Western city where vegetarianism has achieved complete culinary parity with the traditional carnivore’s diet, and the city’s new vegetarian cooking is intersecting with the growth of an increasingly popular locavore food scene to create a unique, and often brilliant, meat-free Mittel European-accented cuisine,” says Saveur.
We recommend: Upscale vegan restaurant Kopps, which serves creative takes on traditional German cuisine featuring only the freshest organic produce.
This feature was originally published in June 2014, updated October 2015.
Charu Suri is a freelance writer originally from India now based in New York. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Huffington Post, AFAR and other publications.