1. LIFE ALIVE
This organic, vegetarian cafe with locations in Salem, Lowell, and Boston is known for its bowls and wraps. Each starts with a base of whole grains (choose brown rice or quinoa) and adds a colorful tumble of freshly steamed vegetables and legumes and then a flavor-filled sauce. Among the best combinations: The Green Goddess (pictured), with garlic, avocado, and a ginger nama shoyu.
> 281 Essex Street, Salem; 978-594-4644; and other locations; lifealive.com
2. GARDEN GRILLE
You can go around the world, or at least visit several parts of it, in a single meal at the Garden Grille. Green tomatoes are fried with cornmeal and served with basil aioli; sweet potatoes are spiced with garam masala and seared; risotto cakes are made with root vegetables. The pizza topped with roasted pear, smoked onion, sage, cheeses, and red wine gastrique is another fall-to-winter winner. Pictured: Roasted Autumn Squash Salad.
> 727 East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island; 401-726-2826; gardengrillecafe.com
3. RITU KI RASOI
This is where locals from India go for vegetarian (and vegan) home-style Indian food. The menu includes chana bhatura, fried flatbread with chickpea masala; vada pav, buns stuffed with a mashed vegetable cutlet and chutneys, burger style; and pav bhaji, grilled buns with a hot and spicy vegetable hash (pictured) — all authentic vegetarian street foods.
> 207E Cambridge Street, Burlington; 781-229-8349; www.ritukirasoi.com
4. FRIENDLY TOAST
Thanks to a “vegetarianish’’ owner, every item on Friendly Toast’s menu has been created with vegetarians in mind. But everybody comes for the excellent comfort food: eggs Benedict with roasted vegetables (pictured), a vegetarian bacon or sausage, and hollandaise sauce that’s made fresh each morning, and the Mister Haegar sandwich, grilled cheddar with pickles, horseradish mayonnaise, Dijon, and plum tomatoes on bread baked in-house.
> 1 Hampshire Street, Cambridge; 617-621-1200; and 113 Congress Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire; 603-430-2154; thefriendlytoast.com
5. RED LENTIL VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN RESTAURANT
This all-vegetarian restaurant is bringing back a popular special from last winter: sweet, earthy Moroccan tagine with garbanzos, butternut squash, walnuts, apricots, carrots, and celery simmered in a tomato base. Other winter dishes include pumpkin bisque and roasted beet and walnut arugula salad (pictured).
> 600 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown; 617-972-9188; theredlentil.com
6. VEGGIE GALAXY
At this all-vegetarian diner in Central Square, choose from bean or chickpea burgers, baked mac-and-cheese with eggplant and roasted leeks, or the new blue-plate special: tempura-fried locally harvested baby Brussels sprouts, roasted delicata squash puree, and shallot and balsamic vinegar marmalade, all made in-house.
> 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; 617-497-1513; veggiegalaxy.com
SHOWN: Cambridge Street Omelet
7. OLE MEXICAN GRILL
Besides the substantial chiles rellenos and Mexican lasagna layered with Swiss chard and squash, mushrooms, black beans, and poblanos, there’s Legumbres en Pipian Oaxaqueno (pictured) — a stew of potatoes, carrots, squash, and more, all simmered in pumpkin seed sauce.
> 11 Springfield Street, Cambridge; 617-492-4495; olerestaurantgroup.com/ole
8. TRUE BISTRO
At this modern, minimalist-styled vegan bistro, begin with the leek tart (pictured). Served on a richly textured herbed chickpea crust, it will probably stay on the menu until spring, as leeks are available over the colder months. The blackened seitan entree is served with creamy grits and “melted’’ collards made with smoked onions and chili vinegar.
> 1153 Broadway, Somerville; 617-627-9000; truebistroboston.com
9. CLOVER FOOD LAB
When Ayr Muir opened his first vegetarian food truck on a side street by MIT’s medical center in 2008, he was counting on word-of-mouth to bring in customers. The smell of cooking rosemary fries (pictured), an early menu hit, emanating from the Clover truck took care of that, and the lines started. The menu is limited, but there are new specials added based on what’s available, like a local-turnip soup this fall, plus hot popovers and apple cider.
> 7 Holyoke Street and 1075 Cambridge Street, Cambridge; for truck locations see cloverfoodlab.com
10. CHINESE MIRCH
This small East Coast franchise serves Chinese food with an Indian twist. So the vegetable fried rice, for example, is made with Indian basmati. Spicy tofu stir-fry, baby eggplant in garlic sauce, Manchow soup, and Mumbai gobi (a cauliflower dish that’s straight-up Indian) are all hearty choices. Inspired by their successful debut at the company’s New York City food trucks, Tibetan vegetable dumplings known as momos and a Tibetan noodle soup are being added to the winter menu.
SHOWN: Gobi Manchurian Appetizer
Top it all off with a tangy, foamy soda — either a “Masala Coke’’ or India’s Thums Up — spiced with cumin, mango powder, black salt, asafetida, and mint.
> 140 Worcester Road, Framingham; 508-875-0607; chinesemirch.com
SHOWN: Masala Coke and Mumbai Gobi