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The movement to eat less meat in one’s diet has taken foot in Boston, with many restaurants offering plant-based dishes. There are a number of benefits to consuming fewer animals products, from environmental reasons, to health and ethical ones. With November being World Vegan Month, we wanted to find the vegan or plant-based dishes Boston.com readers most enjoy.
There has been global interest in plant-based diets, with WGBH reporting this past January that the movement is “having a moment,” with more plant-based options available at grocery stores, restaurants, and fast-food chains. Ayr Muir, founder and CEO of Clover Food Lab, said that he attributes this growth to heightened awareness, as well as the availability of delicious food options.
“Have we made the kind of shift that would benefit us all? Not yet,” Muir said. “We’re pretty far from it. But it’s a pretty potent moment. There’s a sense that there is a lot of change happening, and a lot more people who are used to a meat and potatoes diet are getting excited about trying different things and maybe learning about a vegetable they didn’t know the name of.”
There are several ways to eat a plant-based diet, which we defined as having a focus on foods that come primarily from plants. This type of diet is the least restrictive meaning it does not necessarily eliminate eating animal products altogether. Vegetarian diets can be a spectrum, but typically involve forgoing meat, poultry, and fish, and may allow for consuming other animal products like dairy and eggs. A vegan diet is made up of only plant-based foods, and excludes eating anything derived from animals.
We asked readers where they go for their favorite vegan or plant-based dishes, and received nearly 300 responses. Clover Food Lab was the top reader pick, earning 19% of the vote.
Below, find a reader-recommended guide to restaurants that offer the best plant-based dishes, including a full list and map of all recommendations.
A 🏆 means that a restaurant was among the top 5 in both 2021 and 2022. Top restaurants are also marked for how each defines themselves as serving vegetarian (🌱), or vegan (🌱🌱) dishes.
This “plant-forward” cafe chain offers vibrant meals, smoothies, and juices that are intended to restore guests and nurture their love of life. While the meals are all vegetarian, Anna Tou, vice president of marketing at Life Alive, said the restaurant aims to entice everyone, even meat eaters. Breakfast items, grains, ramen, acai bowls, and cold-pressed juices are all on the menu. Readers said that they come for the spicy peanut noodles and dishes like the Adventurer Bowl, which is served with red beets, broccoli, and kale. Tilda from Arlington said she enjoys the “Green Goddess Bowl—it has everything to love: greens, warm lemon garlic brown rice, avocado, and a delicious ginger tamari soy sauce dressing. The presentation is delightful, eat in or take out. This bowl makes me happy to be alive.” Life Alive took 8.4% of the vote.
A classic American diner in Central Square, Veggie Galaxy, which claimed 11% of the vote, puts a twist on traditional comfort food: everything on the menu is vegetarian, and can even be made vegan (🌱🌱). Readers say they enjoy the waffles, while also digging into Reuben sandwiches, and mac and cheese bites. The nachos and vegan mozzarella sticks were also recommended, as was the “Blue Plate Special,” which is currently a Moistmaker Sandwich, made with Thanksgiving leftovers. Mitch from Dorchester said, “I typically order the Great Galaxy Sandwich, buffalo tenders, and club sandwich, not all at the same time (but maybe sometimes all at the same time). Veggie Galaxy has a way of making truly indulgent diner food that is vegan friendly: everything has a ton of flavor, [is] sometimes messy, and [is] affordable and approachable.”
450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
Offering fully vegan culinary options, Lulu Green uses organic and fresh ingredients to produce baked goods, breakfast and lunch items, and juices. They took 11.4% of the vote for their healthy offerings. Readers praised the shawarma sandwich, made of seitan, pickled turnips, and lemony tahini on a housemade pita. They also pointed to the avocado toast and yuca fries. Smoothies include the Namaste on Vacay, which has tropical flavors from Thai coconut and pineapple, and the Over Achiever, made with kale, spinach, mango, strawberry, and more. Reader Brian S. from South Boston said, “It’s all about the brunch! They have the best ‘brunch sandwich,’ cinnamon buns, vegan omelette, and espresso drinks with housemade syrups. The baristas also said that cocktails are coming soon. We love this spot!”
246 W Broadway, Boston
A high-end fine dining establishment in Somerville’s Teele Square, True Bistro, which claimed 18% of the vote, offers vegan cuisine inspired by different parts of the world. Chef and co-owner Stuart Reiter has lived abroad in many countries, and the food draws influences from Africa, Latin America, and parts of Europe, among other places, according to general manager Carlos Camarena. While the menu frequently changes, Camarena said that the red red black eyed peas and the Thai red curry and rice cake are popular items. “Every single person [working] in the restaurant is vegan,” he said. “It’s easier to work around these people, so we can all ‘save the planet’ and fight for animal rights. Even customers know about these ideas, and they love it.”
Lilly from Somerville said, “A favorite of mine from the dinner menu is the crispy oyster mushrooms appetizer—they’re absolutely delicious and complement any main course. For brunch, I love to order the tofu scramble and a scone for dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth (the scones have varying flavors across different months but consistent perfection). Something special about True Bistro is that there is a dish on the menu for everyone, whether you have been vegan for decades or are new to the idea of plant-based food.”
1153 Broadway, Somerville
Vegetarian empire Clover has 15 restaurants around the Boston area, aiming to get customers dreaming about meat-free dishes and hoping to one day be as big as McDonald’s, according to their website. Guests visit for the ever-popular chickpea fritter, the brussels sprout sandwich, and the sweet potato breakfast sandwich. The local chain, which earned 19% of the vote, recently opened an Assembly Row location which has the business’ first ever grocery store, selling goods like hummus, coffee beans, and meal boxes. Founder and CEO Ayr Muir told Boston.com that his hope is not necessarily to target people who are already vegetarian or vegan, but to reach meat eaters and encourage them to explore a different diet.
“Nine out of ten of the customers that eat at Clover are not vegetarian or vegan—they eat meat,” Muir said. “When I feed somebody who’s already vegan a meal at Clover, I’m not having any environmental impact, because they wouldn’t be eating meat anyway. But if I’m feeding somebody who loves eating meat, and they walked past a Chipotle or Sweetgreen and didn’t get a chicken salad … I’m creating a really big environmental impact.” He added, “I think we’re going to get to a place in the future where I could run a vegan-only menu and have the same stat, but today, I don’t think that would be the case.”
Reader Alyssa from the South End said, “The chickpea fritter pita sandwich is one of the only dishes I can repeat on end and never get tired [of]. It is dynamic, with different flavors of pickled veggies, crispy fritters, creamy hummus, and tahini. I couldn’t ask for more!”
Littleburg: This Somerville spot, which started as a pop-up, serves Mediterranean, vegan cuisine, inspired by the flavors of Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Israel, and beyond. Readers clamored for the gyros, made with seitan or oyster and portobello mushrooms, as well as the pide, a stuffed flatbread. 5 Sanborn Ct., Somerville 🌱🌱
Readers say: “Their yuba breakfast sandwich is the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. Period. The yuba has a texture similar to scrambled egg, but with some grilled char on it, then there’s a thinly sliced roasted potato on there, some sort of heavenly creamy sauce, fresh herbs, and it comes on a homemade black sesame bun. You’ll want one every single day.” -Amory S., Quincy
Taco Party: A playful place serving meatless Mexican food, including a creative selection of veggie tacos, this eatery promises a good time. Try the jackfruit tinga taco, topped with avocado and chipotle mayo, or the chimichurri tempeh, coming with cashew crema. 711 Broadway, Somerville vegan 🌱🌱
Readers say: “If you’re looking for an affordable plant-based meal, I can’t recommend this spot enough. The cashew cheese on their nachos is creamy and fabulous; I highly recommend that you try them the first time you visit. For tacos, my favorite is their crispy fried tofu and lentils al pastor tacos.” -Brittani H.
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