Texas probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when it comes to vegan and vegetarian fare. But in cities like Houston, meat-free, plant-based vegan and vegetarian options are popping up all over the city. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite, dessert, or the warm comforts of a home cooked meal, here are 9 of the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants to check out in Houston, in no particular order:
1. Green Seed Vegan
($) (vegan) (bistro)
This little green seed sprouted as a mom-n-pop vegan food truck and grew into a thriving bricks-and-mortar eatery in 2012. While the setting is different, the favourites remain the same. The Green Seed Vegan’s veggie burgers get a lot of rave reviews for easily competing with any meat-based burger. The Big Tex – aptly named for requiring both hands to eat – is a whole wheat bun sandwiched with a buckwheat quinoa patty, zucchini ‘bacon,’ avocado, vegan cheese, jalapeño, red onions, tomato and vegan mayo. Served with cauliflower nuggets. The menu is 100% vegan, soy-free, and offers a number of gluten-free options. Order up from a colourful selection of sandwiches, wraps, cold-pressed raw juices, and gluten-free vegan brownies and cupcakes. Plus, just about everything on the menu is under $10.
($$) (veg/non-veg) (Indian)
You are what you eat. Pondicheri’s India-inspired menu is designed with its mantras in mind. Each mantra is a practice in self care – and it all starts with how you nourish your body. Dishes are authentic yet reinvented to showcase the spices, flavours, and delicacies from all over subcontinental India, including Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Goa, and even further out to Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While the menu isn’t strictly vegetarian or vegan, it includes a variety of options for every diet, including gluten-free options. Every week, Pondicheri does Meatless Mondays and offers an entirely separate all-vegetarian menu in addition to the veg-friendly dishes from the weekly menu in an ongoing effort to lessen their impact on the environment and promote healthier living. Sit, sip, and savour.
3. Pepper Tree Veggie Cuisine
($$) (vegan) (Asian)
Egg rolls. General Tso’s chicken. Kung Pao beef. 100% vegan. Pepper Tree Veggie Cuisine, owned by a husband-and-wife duo, dishes up homestyle Asian favourites in a modest cafe setting. The pair approaches cooking for their patrons the way they approach cooking for their children. Dishes are made with fresh plant-based ingredients, simple delicious recipes, and with light salt. Vegans will enjoy having an entire menu to pick and choose from and non-vegans will be able to enjoy a guilt-free take on all-time classics.
4. True Food Kitchen
($$) (vegan/veg/non-veg) (bistro)
Based on nutritional science and research, True Food Kitchen approaches the casual sit-down dining experience with healthy, fresh, seasonal, nutrient-rich ingredients. With the help of renowned physician Dr. Andrew Weil, True Food Kitchen’s menu is designed around the Anti-Inflammatory Diet as a means to prevent heart disease, cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease and other preventable diseases. Naturally, vegetarian and vegan options run the menu with dishes rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The vegan-friendly butternut squash pizza is made with smoked onion, organic kale, vegan almond ricotta, and dried cranberry. The gluten-free quinoa burger is packed with protein-rich hummus and the healthy fats of an avocado. Non-vegetarians can indulge in the carefully crafted menu with options that include lean proteins like the turkey burger, poke bowls, and grilled fish tacos.
($$) (veg/non-veg) (Mexican)
Mexico City-born chef Hugo Ortega is the co-owner of four of Houston’s top restaurants – Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Xochi, and Caracol. His menus are inspired by traditional Mexican cooking and culture with each establishment specializing in its own cuisine. Caracol specializes in coastal Mexican seafood. They may be known for their ceviche and chipotle-butter-smothered-Gulf-oysters, but the James Beard Foundation award-winning chef doesn’t skimp on creativity or ingredients when it comes to Caracol’s generous vegetarian menu. There’s a delicious assortment of veg-friendly entremeses (appetizers) and platos fuertes (entrees). Some of the dishes on the vegetarian menu are a meat-free alternative to the non-vegetarian versions, like the calabaza rellena, a roasted mini pumpkin stuffed with black rice instead of short ribs, as well as wild mushrooms, and raisins. While not strictly, or specializing in, vegetarian cuisine, seafood lovers and vegetarians can equally enjoy a dining experience at Caracol.
6. Baba Yega Cafe
($$) (veg/non-veg) (brunch/bistro)
Named after a Slavic witch, Baba Yega is a long-time beloved brunch spot in Montrose. Baba Yega Cafe isn’t strictly vegetarian, but they are locally known for their vegetarian options – as well as their fresh ingredients, gluten-free alternatives, fair trade organic coffee, and beer and wine selections. The cafe was originally converted from a bungalow in 1975 and maintains a cozy indoor dining space. The backyard is an airy, private outdoor dining area surrounded by a lush green garden, waterfalls, fish pond and an old oak tree. Baba Yega repeatedly wins awards from neighbourhood publications for best brunch, best vegetarian, best sandwich, and best burger.
7. Pat Greer’s Kitchen
($) (vegan/veg) (raw)
Healthy, raw, delicious food to-go. Chef Patricia Greer is the creative mind behind the plant-based menu. The menu changes every week to include a lot of rich seasonal offerings with fresh takes on entrees, soups, salads, kombuchas, pies, and cakes. The ingredient lists are short. The names are playful and worth ordering just to say them out loud, like the Caulen Youuuu Bowl which is piled high with cauliflower, collards, lentils, fresh veg and ‘tahini sauce made with loving thoughts.’ Garden burgers are made with sprouted lentils, fresh veg, onion, sunflower seeds, herbs (and love). Don’t forget dessert. Strawberry Geez Cake, anyone?
8. Brasil Cafe
($$) (veg/non-veg) (coffee/bistro)
Open day and night, the Brasil originally opened as a specialty cafe in 1992. The coffee menu game is strong and carries enough espresso to keep you up all night until the DJs and live music take over the stage. The food menu will appeal to non-vegetarians and vegetarians. Word on the street is the black bean burger is one of the best in the city. Sit back and snack on small plates of goat cheese fritters, or a cheese board during movie night. Relax in the laid-back atmosphere while fellow Houstonian Wes Anderson’s hits, classic ‘80s film favourites, and some of the latest blockbusters take over the big screen.
($$) (veg/non-veg) (Indian)
Fresh aromatic spices and ingredients are prepared fresh at Govinda’s. The whole menu is a buffet of veg-friendly dishes like chana masala which is also gluten-free, made with chickpeas, as well as the saag paneer made with paneer cheese in spinach and a creamy sauce. There are also plenty of vegetarian sides to choose from to go with the selection of entrees, like homemade flatbreads, vegetable pakoras, and of course – dessert.
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