A field guide to 16 essential vegetarian restaurants

From vegetarian poutine to vegan fine dining, here’s how to eat meat-free in Boston.

Crispy brussels at Whole Heart Provisions
Crispy Brussels sprouts at Whole Heart Provisions. –Brian Samuels

Finding a plant-based meal in Boston hasn’t always been easy. But that has changed recently, as a new generation of meat-free options has sprung up to complement long-standing vegetarian and vegan favorites. That’s great news for a lot of us, whether you’ve decided to go sans-meat yourself or are just looking to do 2019 on a new foot. Here are 16 places to start.

1. Clover Food Lab
Clover Food Lab has been carrying the torch for local, sustainable vegetarian fare since 2008, and the fast-casual chain now has 12 locations scattered throughout Greater Boston and beyond. Constant tinkering has been a part of Clover’s DNA since day one, and mainstays like the chickpea fritters and barbecue seitan are constantly joined by seasonal specials and new creations. Almost all can be ordered as sandwiches on homemade whole-wheat pita or as platters. (27 School St., Boston; 160 Federal St., Boston; 360 Longwood Ave., Boston; 496 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 1075 Cambridge St., Cambridge; 5 Cambridge Center, Cambridge; 1326 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 1 Oxford St., Cambridge)

2. Cuong’s Vegan
This humble Chinatown shop is a godsend to budget-bound vegans, serving up hefty French roll sandwiches stuffed with deep-fried tofu or curry-slathered meat substitutes. Also available are Thai mango salads, spring rolls, and thick slices of vegan cake. (5 Beach St., Boston)

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3. Grasshopper
Allston is chock-full of student-friendly Chinese fare, but Grasshopper stands outs for its vegan emphasis. The menu is a mix of traditionally meatless dishes, such as vegetable tempura and vegetarian spring rolls, plus a wide range of dishes prepared with meat substitutes like a spicy tofu “steak” filet and veggie-beef lo mein. (1 N. Beacon St., Boston)

Bowls from Life Alive Cafe. —Abigail Connor, courtesy of Life Alive Cafe

4. Life Alive Cafe
With locations in Brookline and Cambridge and further afield (Lowell and Salem), Life Alive’s earthy vibe and healthy fare have earned it a mini-empire. Its comprehensive menu stretches from warm grain bowls and grilled wraps to small snacks like deviled eggs, plus a wide assortment of juices, smoothies, and shots. (888 Commonwealth Ave., Brookline; 765 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

5. My Thai Vegan Cafe
Located in a plant-filled second story room at the corner of Beach and Washington Streets, this Chinatown mainstay has an extensive menu stocked with vegan-approved Thai curries, soups, and rice noodle dishes. For dessert, it serves vegan cakes as well as traditional Asian desserts like sweet sticky rice and mango. My Thai also has earned a following for its selection of bubble teas. (3 Beach St., Boston)

6. Pressed
True to its name, Pressed (not to be confused with national chain Pressed Juicery) offers cold-pressed juices at its airy Beacon Hill and South End locations. But it’s not just juice here — Pressed also serves prepared vegan foods with a creative flourish, like seven-grain toasts topped with pistachio dukkah and cashew ricotta, and superfood sushi made with sweet potato, black rice, and more healthy ingredients along with a miso-ginger dipping sauce. (120 Charles St., Boston; 643 Tremont St., Boston)

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7. Pure Cold Press
Pure Cold Press stands out from an increasingly crowded field by virtue of its kosher certification. In addition to juices, Pure Cold Press provides vegetarian fare ranging from acai bowls to heavier dishes like vegan shawarma on Israeli pita and beet Reubens with mozzarella cheese. (326 Harvard St., Brookline)

8. Red Lentil
Watertown’s Red Lentil caters to vegetarians and vegans, so you can expect to see jack cheese-topped grande nachos sharing menu space next to tempeh Reubens made with vegan Russian dressing. Many of the dishes are also gluten-free or soy-free, meaning it’s one of the area’s most accommodating options for a sit-down meal. (600 Mount Auburn St., Watertown)

The Gangsta Wrap at Rhythm ’n’ Wraps. —Rhythm ’n’ Wraps

9. Rhythm ’n’ Wraps
Meatless food truck Rhythm ’n’ Wraps found a permanent space for itself in Allston, where it continues to cater to vegetarians and vegans. Fans of the food truck will find favorites like the vegan sausage wraps, chickpea vegetable curry, and fried tofu tacos, plus 10-inch and 16-inch vegan pizzas made with Daiya cheese. (1096 Commonwealth Ave., Boston)

10. Saus Somerville
Saus, the Faneuil Hall-adjacent frite shack best known for its poutine, fried chicken sandwiches, and frik (beef and pork sausages), decided to go vegetarian for its second location at Somerville’s Bow Market, where the chicken and frik have been replaced by crispy tofu sandwiches, a Barbecue Impossible Burger, and Beyond Sausages, and the poutine is made with a miso-mushroom gravy. All dishes are vegetarian, but can be made vegan as well. (1 Bow Market Way #12, Somerville)

Tacos from Taco Party. —Tina Picz

11. Taco Party
Another food truck gone brick-and-mortar, Taco Party inhabits a colorful, retro-inspired space in Somerville and serves tacos without an animal product in sight. Its offerings include a chorizo seitan and the jackfruit tinga. The non-taco front includes grilled chorizo tortas and nachos with cashew crema. (711 Broadway, Somerville)

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12. True Bistro
True Bistro elegantly fills the fine dining-shaped hole in Greater Boston’s vegan scene. White tablecloths and candlelight serve as a backdrop to cornmeal-crusted oyster mushrooms and a house-made pappardelle bolognese prepared with mushroom ragu and cashew cheese shards. It also has one of the few vegan brunches in town, where diners can expect fruit-filled crepes, tofu Benedict, and waffles with buttermilk fried tofu. (1153 Broadway, Somerville)

13. Veggie Crust
Pizza has long been a carb-y refuge for vegetarians, and Veggie Crust takes that appeal further by catering exclusively to vegetarians and vegans. Most offerings — like a cheese marinara with vegan mozzarella and a curry leaf pesto portobello — check both boxes. Rounding out the Italian-inspired experience are panini on homemade bread and pastas like vegan bolognese penne. (8 Cypress St., Brookline; 445 Somerville Ave., Somerville)

New York-style cheesecake at Veggie Galaxy. —Brian Samuels

14. Veggie Galaxy
Veggie Galaxy reinterprets the retro diner experience through a meat-free lens, with tempeh bacon breakfast sandwiches, portobello patty melts, and seitan cutlets prepared in various ways each week. For dessert, its on-site vegan bakery turns out delights like Boston cream pie, New York-style cheesecake, and doughnuts. (450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

15. VO2 Vegan Cafe
VO2 Vegan Cafe — which shares its space with a yoga studio — offers the sort of plant-based fare that feels natural after an evening of downward dogs. Expect tofu breakfast sandwiches with tempeh bacon, “chuna” (chickpea, pickle, and onion) melts, and protein-rich smoothies. (1001 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

16. Whole Heart Provisions
The current trend toward fast-casual bowls is heartily embraced by Whole Heart Provisions, which prepares theirs without the use of animal products. Global flavors abound, ranging from the Korean-inspired Seoul (with bulgogi beets, kimchi, Korean black beans, and gochujang) to the Middle Eastern stylings of the Levant (falafel, crispy chickpeas, tahini, and creamy harissa). Bowls are served over beds of marinated kale, arugula, jasmine rice, or a combination of brown rice and quinoa pilaf, and can be complemented with street food-inspired sides like seared avocado and street corn. (487 Cambridge St., Boston; 298 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 1350 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge)

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