It used to be there was one simple rule for going out to eat as a vegan in this town: don’t.
Occasionally, there was a salad you could order without the cheese and bacon bits, or maybe a vegetable soup made with actual vegetables. If you were lucky you could find a good Indian place with some options (more on that later).
But in the last couple of years, vegan options have bloomed all over town, and we have the promise of even more brick-and-mortar restaurants coming soon.
If you’re a committed vegan, welcome back to eating out. And for the vegan-curious, come over and try it out. You’d be surprised how tasty it’s gotten.
Below are some of Louisville’s top vegan restaurants. (Please note, I’m gonna use words like “cheese,” as well as “chicken,” or even “roast beef.” It’s all vegan, but for Pete’s sake, don’t make me modify every single food item with the word “vegan.”
1004 Barret Ave.
There’s nothing better on a Sunday morning than waking up and going out for a nice breakfast. It’s a meal that is generally stuffed with eggs, meat, and eggy bread-based items like pancakes and waffles.
Flora Kitchenette quietly opened its doors several months back with a small menu of about six items, bolstered by Flora’s donuts and pastries, sweet bites that have graced the shelves and counters of the best local coffee shops for a while.
The opening menu featured biscuits and gravy, sausage, skillet potatoes, and avocado toast among a few others, but my personal favorite is the breakfast burrito.
They’ve slowly added other items including pancakes, waffles, and some more sides.
The food is reasonably priced, and to top it all off, owner Isabelle Forbes started out in the craft coffee business, so her java is some of the best —if not the best— at any breakfast spot in town.
619 Baxter Avenue
Vegan food is often synonymous with healthy food, due to the vegetables and whatnot. But even a hardcore veggie freak deserves some junk food.
That’s where Morel’s comes in.
The menu is a mix of cold sandwiches, game-day dips, a grill-able take-out sausage, egg-and-cheese biscuit, and a limited but growing hot menu full of roast beef sandwiches, pepperoni pizza pockets, and buffalo wings.
In addition to the in-house eats, Morel’s has a deli counter that will happily sell you vegan meats, cheeses, and dips to take home. And before you scoff, make sure you taste the cashew based cheeses Morel’s is bringing to town.
Yes, cashews. That’s the big thing in vegan cheese these days, as boutique fromageries experiment with using live cultures that happily eat up the fat in the world’s most sumptuous nut, turning what’s left into something as tasty as the “real thing.”
And we haven’t even talked about the buffalo dip! Seriously, folks I love every restaurant on this list, but I go to Morel’s once a week.
4121 Oechsli Avenue
Going to the mall is a dreaded experience I avoid right up until I realize I have a ton of last minute Christmas shopping, or I have to go to the Apple Store to get my computer fixed.
But if I have to venture past Trader Joe’s, it’s nice to stop first and get my vegan nosh on at Half Peach Bakery.
Tucked away behind the Old Sears Building, this is a delightful little bakery and restaurant.
This spot has some more traditional vegan items, while still offering some stick-to-your-ribs type options.
There is a nice range of salads, pasta and veggie-based dishes, as well as black-eyed pea burgers, and a variety of chicken dishes.
They’ll also sell you some items to take home —like a luscious cheese sauce— but there’s a touch of sticker shock on some of the items.
What makes this restaurant special is the daily hot-bar, which features an ever-changing array of options, which you can pile into a container for a flat price.
Half Peach will also take call-in orders, and have your food ready and waiting when you get there. It’s perfect for that working vegan parent trying to have it all, on the run from downtown back to the East End Burbs.
Don’t lie, you love a summer picnic at your local Catholic church. Or maybe you just kick it at the variety of summer activities on the Waterfront or other awesome summertime spots in town, with all that tasty beer, and the ever-present food trucks.
The only bummer is, if you’re vegan there isn’t much food for you, is there?
Until —like a golden chariot from Olympus—the V-Grits food truck arrives. V-Grits offers a great variety of food, with a special menu for every festival, picnic, or event at which they appear.
Some of my favorite menu items have included a fried chicken sandwich, a fried green tomatoes sandwich, chili mac n cheese, and jackfruit barbecue.
V-Grits is also working on a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Portland. It looked like we’d have it sooner than later, but that location fell through, so we’ll have to wait a while longer.
So, the good people of Portland will have to wait for their own vegan destination.
Best Vegan Options at Non-Vegan Restaurants
983 Goss Ave.
Back when I was a meatitarian Eiderdown was my favorite restaurant in town. But their meat-centric menu left me out in the cold when I became a vegen. Thankfully, their most recent menu overhaul included this gem-the Vegan Wurst. Two white bean and seitan links spiced with the complexity and verve I’d expect from Eiderdown, with your choice of housemade mustards on the side and a couple of sides to boot. Now if they’d just put a vegan dessert on the menu…
4742 Bardstown Rd.
Pretty much any Indian restaurant is going to have a bunch of vegetarian and vegan options because they have this crazy idea in their culture that you don’t have to have a huge serving of meat with every. Single. Meal. I know, crazy, right? But the best Indian spot in town is Dakshin. You have to journey out past the Buechel bypass, but the journey is worth it. I start with the chili cauliflower appetizer, followed by chana masala. True story: I’m actually eating leftovers from Dakshin while I write this.