New York, New York
HanGawi is a soft-spoken, vegetarian-only restaurant that cares about what you eat and how you feel. The ssam bap offers a fun DIY experience with a long platter of fillings. Dark leafy lettuce and thin, herbaceous sesame leaves are topped with creamy slices of avocado, crunchy bean sprouts, pickled daikon, carrot, cucumber, radish and three rice options—white, brown and a nutty, purple-tinged multigrain. Topped with miso ssam sauce, each bite is a fresh burst of uplifting textures.
New York, New York
We all know that vegetables are good for us, but Dirt Candy shows us how good they can also taste. Chef Amanda Cohen’s menu never hides the fact that you’re eating vegetarian (and vegan) cuisine, but with her ethical approach and haute techniques, these simple-seeming eats are transformed into artistic bites. Broccoli hot dogs, topped with a warm broccoli kraut and a Carolina mustard sauce, are flavorful and fun, while the carrot slider is as tender and satisfying as a Big Mac. The vegetables aren’t just for dinner either—they also star in desserts like the triple-layer cauliflower cake with white icing, dots of caramel, and a small scoop of caramel ice cream.
New York, NY
Dinner can go in any number of delicious directions at this East Village restaurant, but a MáLà dry pot is really the best option. There are 13 vegetable options—among them bok choy, wakame, and cauliflower—and a further 10 vegetarian options (don't sleep on the five spice firm tofu and the glass noodles). Choose your ingredients and how spicy you want your dry pot, and into a wok they go with a fragrant “secret sauce” and complex spiced oil. Enjoy it all in a warm, brick-walled space filled with greenery.
Los Angeles, CA
Find this tiny sparkler tucked inside the historic Hotel Normandie and helmed by Chef Gary Menes and his talented team. The name, French for “counter,” is a literal description of the space, which seats no more than ten guests before the stainless-steel kitchen. Dining here is a personal experience, emphasized by the fact that the chef is cooking and plating everything right before your eyes. Dishes turned out of this kitchen focus almost entirely on vegetables—protein plays a subsidiary role. Keeping that in mind, anticipate the likes of a savory carrot velouté or morsel of cured squash, both of which are as monumental as the supplemental grass-fed beef. Much of the produce arrives fresh from the chef’s Long Beach garden.
Los Angeles, CA
This plant-based darling set along Melrose Avenue may seem like a pretty place for young'uns, but it should not be underestimated. The space is an open, airy and beguiling combination of serape fabric banquettes, whitewashed walls and lofty ceilings. The patio is an even lovelier destination, surrounded by old shade trees, while a lengthy bar pours an aficionado’s array of some 60 tequilas and 70 mezcals. On the menu, explore Mexican cuisine through vegan items, like young coconut ceviche with house-made chips, pozole and grain bowls. The addictive tacos naturally feature top-quality tortillas, heaped with astoundingly delicious shredded jackfruit, lightly pickled cabbage and a drizzle of cashew crema. The prix-fixe lunch is of prodigious value.
Cross the threshold into this breezy, elegant space—all whitewashed brick, wood-slat windows and lush greenery—and prepare to be transported to the shores of the Adriatic. The menu boasts an array of fresh, wholesome Greek and Middle Eastern dishes, like a pan-roasted Romanesco, smoky charred eggplant spread, tempting cold mezzes like feta and olives, and a variety of kebabs including grilled mushrooms (portobello and maitake with a mushroom vinaigrette and zhoug).
This industrial-chic space is abuzz with locals, who are all here for their haute approach to vegan cuisine. Having said that, they turn out so much more than just that. Flavorful and satisfying are words that come to mind when sampling razor-thin trumpet mushrooms, which are a clever stand-in for pasta, bathed with a silky broth. Rich and spicy dan dan noodles are then tossed with a tahini-based sauce for a glossy and intensely savory bite. This kitchen team keeps you on your toes right through dessert—when hearty chickpea-flour donuts are paired with rhubarb- and sour cherry-gazpacho for a delectable last act.
Hero image: Gracias Madre's Chimichanga. Photo by Talia Dinwiddie, courtesy of Gracias Madre