Houston's 10 Best Vegan-Friendly Restaurants

Best of Houston

When many people hear the word "vegan," their minds immediatelyrush to all the things that arenot a part of a vegan diet, all the things a vegan can't eat. It's all about the negative — the lack of meat, the dearth of dairy, the ­absence of eggs.

If you're one of those people (just admit it) who turn their noses up at veganism as a fad or an unpleasantly restrictive diet, I encourage you to look at it from another perspective: Think of all the things a vegan can eat.

In a recent post about his own dabbles in veganism for Lent, Nicholas Hall wrote:

"When I dabble in faceless food, I always prefer to approach it from a different angle. While there are certainly challenges in moving from an omnivorous diet to a vegan one, I see those challenges as something to embrace. I see it as an opportunity to try new ingredients, ideas and techniques."

So, thankfully, do all these restaurants. They may not all be completely vegan, but they all embrace the lifestyle and keep "faceless food" as interesting and delicious as possible.

10. San San Tofu

San San isn't a dedicated vegan restaurant — it's vegetarian — but the vegan options are just as good as the veggie ones. The cooks were trained by a Buddhist monk to approximate the healthy vegetarian fare of the sort one might be served in a Vietnamese Buddhist temple. I've eaten at a Buddhist temple in Korea, and I must say, San San does a great job of re-creating that simple, healthful vibe while making remarkably flavorful food. Because it's not solely vegan, be sure to inquire about the mock meat, as some of it may contain eggs or dairy.

9. Loving Hut

This grub is 100 percent vegan but only about 80 percent Asian, since the Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese menu is punctuated with a few mock burgers, some spaghetti and some surprisingly good cakes. Yes, as Katharine Shilcutt pointed out in her review of the place, it is an international fast-food chain run by a cult, but the food is solid, if a little predictable. It's all shipped from the factory in Taiwan, and you can buy pre-made, frozen vegan food at the restaurant if you, too, want to "live in peace, love and harmony."

8. Quan Yin

When you're trying really, really hard to go meat-free, but you have a craving you just can't shake, head to Quan Yin for some of the best Vietnamese mock-meat dishes around. Everything is vegan — there's no meat, dairy or eggs in any of the dishes. Yes, there are egg rolls sans eggs. There's bun bo hue without bo (beef). There's chicken-less chicken satay. And it's all good enough to satisfy even most carnivores.

7. Pepper Tree

Pepper Tree is for Chinese what Quan Yin is for Vietnamese, and Pepper Tree is also completely vegan. Check out the weekday buffet featuring nearly 40 dishes for just $10.99. Mock meat is a big deal here, with tofu versions of Peking duck, General Tso's chicken and kung pao chicken, all of which are deceptively delicious. Unlike many of the vegetarian/vegan Asian restaurants in Houston that populate Bellaire Boulevard, Pepper Tree is located on Richmond inside the Loop, close enough to placate those wary of Chinatown traffic.

6. Jenni's Noodle House

Only one item on the menu is specifically labeled "vegan," but inquire about other options, and you'll find a whole host of dishes for your vegan dining pleasure. Nearly every dish is customizable, and many of them can be made gluten-free in addition to meat- and dairy-free. The menu of Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese dishes does contain some meat, but anything that doesn't explicitly list meat is vegetarian, and most of those can be vegan as well. Try the popular Art Car Curry with potatoes, mushrooms, carrots and tofu served over jasmine rice for a super-flavorful look at what vegan food can be.

5. Green Vegetarian Cuisine

Green is an import from San Antonio, and I can personally attest to the fact that it's difficult to get tired of the options here, since I used to eat at Green all the time in college. It's steadfastly vegetarian — not vegan — but any dish not on the breakfast menu (there are a lot of eggs in that section) can be made vegan with simple cheese substitutions. If you frequently crave Mexican food, Green is a great place for light but hearty vegan Mexican-inspired dishes like chalupas, enchiladas and tacos. The veggie and mock-meat burgers are also among the best in town.

4. Green Seed Vegan

What started as a wildly popular food truck is now a brick-and-mortar restaurant with the same massive following. And why not, when the Dirty Burque veggie burger is enough to make you forget your beef craving, if only for a little while. Also try the Big Tex Burger, featuring fresh jalapeños, red onions and avocados with rich faux cheese. If you're craving a smoothie but still aim to be dairy-free, try Green Seed Vegan's creamy smoothies made with vegan ice cream. I sincerely doubt you'll be able to tell the difference.