It's becoming easier than ever to go vegan in Houston, with local restaurants filling nearly every niche possible: You can get vegan baked goods from Sinfull Bakery, wedding cakes from Jodycakes or all-raw falafels at Pat Greer's Kitchen. There are food trucks like Bare Bowls, which makes exquisite vegan meals with vegetables fresh from Urban Harvest's farmers markets.
Snap Kitchen carries its own take-out vegan meals -- even if it doesn't always mark them as such. I like its oatmeals or mueslis for breakfast and its red-and-green salad or a vegan green curry for lunch. You can even get a cauliflower "steak" or spicy sambal tofu for dinner.
And there are plenty of restaurants, too, from an all-vegan Mexican taqueria to an upscale vegan wine bar (with attached juice bar for the mornings). You can get vegan pizza, vegan Chinese, vegan sushi, vegan Indian, vegan Vietnamese -- you name it, and Houston's got it.
In celebration of World Vegan Day (yes, that's today!), here are 10 of our current favorites for vegan meals, although be warned: Not all of these restaurants are entirely vegan. A few are simply standard restaurants (great for eating with a mixed group of veg and carnivorous friends) that offer great vegan options.
10. Doshi House
This newish coffee house in the Third Ward started out as just an art gallery, but has grown over time to offer everything from smoothies and fresh juices to vegan soups, paninis and dinner dishes. (Beware: The paninis come with cheese, so just ask Doshi to leave it off.) Oh My Pocket Pies is also selling its wares at Doshi, and all of the pies are vegetarian if not vegan. And although the pastries from area bakers La Unica and Ashcraft aren't vegan, owner Deepak Doshi is currently looking for vegan bakers to fill out his pastry case.
9. Quan Yin
This vegetarian/vegan restaurant is the perfect option for people craving their favorite meat dishes but unwilling to give up their meat-free lifestyle. Not only is the entire menu free of all animal products, seafood and eggs, but Quan Yin actually uses soy products and wheat gluten to recreate traditional meat products. For example, summer rolls have fake "bbq pork," and their faux chicken is the house specialty. Omnivores will get a kick out of testing the authenticity of the menu items, while vegans and vegetarians will enjoy not being relegated to limited dining options.
Field of Green's meat-free menu (there is some fish) has a wide range of dishes, including a raw vegetable rainbow plate, green bean hummus wrap and six different kinds of veggie burgers. The knowledgeable staff makes ordering easy and will happily explain the difference between tempeh and tofu or make substitutions to accommodate those with additional dietary restrictions. Carnivorous companions will be pleasantly surprised by the meatless BBQ chicken salad or hearty eggplant parmesan.
One of the few pizza places in town to offer both vegan and gluten-free options -- it's a California-based chain, after all -- ZPizza always manages to impress with its regular, run-of-the-mill pizzas, too. The Bissonnet location is more geared toward delivery and takeout, but has a cheerful if basic dining room. You can order its most popular options by the slice or build your own with a huge selection of sauces, cheeses and toppings, including the surprisingly creamy vegan cheese, Daiya, which is so good you won't miss the dairy-based stuff. You can also BYOB here -- and there's even a Spec's right across the street.
6. Roots Bistro
Vegan but still like an upscale dining experience or a thoughtful wine list? Roots Bistro in Montrose was almost custom-built for you. Although vegan chef German Mosquera recently left, new exec Chandler Rothbard is set to keep the menu interesting and modern -- while very vegetable-friendly at the same time. Try the charred okra with maple syrup to start or the "squashta" made with seasonal squash, topped with squash blossoms and vegetables in a tangy tahini dressing. For dessert, there's a wickedly good raw chocolate chai ganache with persimmon puree.
5. Pepper Tree
Pepper Tree is best known for its $9.99 buffet, which features vegetarian Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine as well as a few Western dishes. Anything normally made with meat is reimagined here with textured vegetable protein and more: Tofu versions of Peking duck, General Tso's chicken and kung pao chicken all come out tasting delicious. The modern, calming decor, the spotless interior and the friendly, knowledgeable staff make this the place for the novice or the experienced vegan. The wonderful owners, Happy and Mike Tsai, even serve de-chlorinated, triple-distilled alkaline clustered water in an ultimate health-conscious display.
4. Loving Hut
Yes, Loving Hut is run by a cult. But that cult makes damn good vegan food, so I'm willing to overlook it. (Anyway, it's not like these are Scientologists we're talking about.) The menu at this far-flung West Houston restaurant is primarily Asian-focused, with Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese-influenced dishes, but there are also more Americanized dishes like the Loving Hut Burger (with a soy patty and Vegenaise) and the Savory Spaghetti made with tofu. Half restaurant, half cafe serving fresh-squeezed juices, Loving Hut offers something for everyone -- as long as they don't eat meat. You can even grab some its more popular items, pre-packed, from the freezer to take home.
3. Cafe TH
This adorable EaDo banh mi shop doesn't bill itself as vegetarian or vegan, but offers excellent vegan Vietnamese food nevertheless thanks to conscientious owners Minh Nguyen, who's always looking to accommodate his loyal customers. Its coconut milk-thickened vegan curry has swayed every carnivore I've introduced to the stuff, and even landed on my list of 100 Favorite Dishes (as did the vegan fried avocado taco from Radical Eats). Cafe TH also offers vegan pho, vegan bun, vegan com dia, vegan bo luc lac (all made with tofu) and vegan eggrolls.
The original vegan food truck has expanded into a brick-and-mortar operation, although it's kept its base in the Third Ward -- a neighborhood that's underserved by restaurants with healthy options. Green Seed's location on Almeda serves all of the food truck's popular items -- and more. Juices and "elixirs" made with wheatgrass, fruits and veggies are made to order. All of the menu items, including the juices, are vegan -- and many are entirely raw. But your best bets are the tempting Dirty Burque, which is good enough to stand up against any meat-based burger, and the spicy Tosh panino with maple-jerk tempeh made in-house with garbanzo beans instead of soy.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. Radical Eats
Vegan Mexican food? Why not? Lard makes a lot of things better, but its use is rendered moot here at Staci Davis's all-veggie paradise. Instead, she's perfected a tortilla recipe that features no lard at all -- nor are her tamales, enchiladas or tacos laced with the fatty stuff. Instead, she batters and fries avocados and stuffs them into tacos with a creamy, spicy slaw and makes spinach-and-corn tamales that are just as good as the "real" thing, especially paired with cold aguas frescas. Most of her food comes from the garden out back or local farmers, and the cooking is mostly done by volunteers. Sunday brunches are lavish affairs, but are also first-come, first-served, so get there early.