10 Great Cities for Vegetarian Foodies

A vegitarian buffett in Taipe

Takoradee / Wikimedia Commons

"Location, location, location." The saying is true for real estate, and it could also be true for travelers who eat vegetarian diets. In select destinations in East and South Asia, meatless dishes are widely available because vegetarianism is a tenet of the majority religion. Other major international cities are more vegetarian-friendly than others, though most have a respectable menu of meatless eateries (even notoriously meat-happy Buenos Aires has reportedly increased its vegetarian offerings).

Food-centered travel is a growing trend, but sometimes vegetarians are disappointed after repeatedly being pointed to the salad bar or shown modest "meatless" menu sections.

Still, most metropolises have at least one restaurant doing amazing things without meat. These 10 have distinguished themselves as particularly friendly to vegetarian foodies.

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Portland, Oregon, USA

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Portland is one of America’s most vegetarian-friendly places. A 2017 Wallethub survey of vegetarians and vegans ranked Portland ahead of all other American cities except one, New York City. PETA named the hip Oregon metropolis the “best city for vegans,” with the animal rights organization’s representative pointing out that it not only has vegan restaurants but vegan menus at a punk music venue, a tiki bar and a strip club.

Portland has some of the most impressive farmers markets on the West Coast and a huge food cart and food truck scene. Many of these mobile kitchens offer vegetarian options, and almost all have at least one meatless dish on their menu. Casual venues like Paradox Cafe, which has a vegetarian version of the "greasy spoon breakfast," means that Portland bests New York City in one important metric: affordable vegetarian cuisine.

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Berlin, Germany

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Back in 2015, Berlin made headlines when respected food publication Saveur called it the world’s "new vegetarian capital." How did the capital of a country known mostly for its meat dishes earn this distinction? Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are not novelties in Berlin. According to Saveur, this is “the first major Western city where vegetarianism has achieved complete culinary parity with the traditional carnivore's diet.”

PETA and the Happy Cow have also given a nod to Berlin, with the former pointing out that the city has a vegan grocery store chain (Veganz) and an all-vegan street (Schivelbeiner Strasse) that features not only food but also retail outlets with only plant-based products. Berlin’s vegetarian scene continues to grow, with the Telegraph recently counting 471 restaurants that cater to vegans and vegetarians. The most well known of these is Kopps, a creative eatery that has become one of the world’s best spots for vegetarian fine dining.

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Tokyo, Japan

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Japan is a paradise for pescatarians, but it offers challenges for those who want to go completely meatless. The issue is not the lack of vegetarian dishes. They are plentiful in Japanese cuisine. The problem is that most restaurants do not cater exclusively to vegetarians, so international visitors could run into a language barrier when trying to order meat-free foods. This is especially true with popular dishes like ramen. The widely available soup may come with vegetarian ingredients, but the broth could still be made with meat-based stock. There are, however, vegetarian ramen options if you know where to look.

The growing popularity of macrobiotic cooking also can be an advantage. The idea of avoiding all refined foods and eating only natural "whole foods" actually started in Japan.

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New York City, New York, USA

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The Big Apple was the only city to beat Portland on WalletHub’s "best vegetarian cities in the U.S." survey. Other cities scored higher in the affordability metrics, but New York had outstanding scores for accessibility and diversity. This fits with the city’s melting-pot image: The mixture of authentic ethnic eateries offering meatless dishes and specialty vegetarian restaurants across the price spectrum creates a pretty extensive choice for visiting foodies.

It’s pricey to eat anywhere in the central boroughs of New York, but there are plenty of food cart vegetarian options for the budget-conscious. The veg scene continues to grow, too. One of New York City’s most prolific restaurateurs, Ravi DeRossi, announced that he is turning more than a dozen of his venues into vegan eateries.

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Tel Aviv, Israel

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With more than 400 restaurants catering to vegans and vegetarians, Tel Aviv is one of the great cities of the world for meatless dining. This isn’t really surprising when you consider that Israel has the largest population of vegans, per capita, of any country in the world. Even international chains have jumped on board; an Israeli Domino's Pizza franchise was the first of its brand to offer vegan pies.

The sunny climate here is ideal for growing produce, so a lot of what is served and sold is locally grown. It is easy to self-cater while staying in Tel Aviv by just walking to the local street market and buying produce. Shakes, salads, vegan pizzas and pastas and that Middle Eastern favorite, hummus, are all among the vegetarian-friendly offerings in this Mediterranean city.

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Taipei, Taiwan

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You will find plenty of meat-based foods in Taiwan’s night markets, but tofu is also a staple. "Mock" meats are on many restaurants’ menus and "stinky" tofu is a popular street food. Strict vegans should understand that some bean curd dishes, though not all, use dairy or meat products in marinades. Nonetheless, this is one of the most diverse vegetarian cities in Asia. Both Taoist and Buddhist restaurants offer vegetarian cuisine, and the Taiwanese capital has vegetarian buffets and fine dining restaurants that have multi-course meatless meals.

Freshness is prized in Taipei, so if you choose, you can skip the prepared foods and purchase raw ingredients. Fruit stalls are a common sight all over the city, and there are plenty of produce varieties that are unavailable or unusual in the West.

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Los Angeles, California, USA

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Los Angeles and San Francisco both earned top five spots on WalletHub’s survey. However, the southernmost of this California pair proves much more affordable for vegetarians. L.A. is a city that doesn’t blink when a new vegan restaurant or an organic juice bar opens. Like New York City and Berlin, chefs in the City of Angels want to create vegetarian food that is on par with meat dishes in terms of quality and creativity.

In a sense, L.A. is at the forefront of normalizing vegan cuisine. According to LA Weekly, one of the top vegan chefs in town, Tal Ronnen, does not even use the word vegan because he feels that it conjures up a certain outdated image. Instead, he calls the meatless menus that he has made of career of creating “plant based” cuisine.

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London, England, United Kingdom

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London has a long history of vegetarianism. The world’s first vegetarian society was formed in 1847, and today a plethora of creative eateries makes this one of Europe’s top destinations for meatless eating and plant-based cuisine.

Options in England’s capital range from vegan small plates to Indian fine dining restaurants to casual curry shops to haute cuisine to vegan burger joints. One particular carnivore-catering venue, Roast, has an entire separate menu for non-meat-eaters, and other similar places have embraced the idea of offering vegetarian alternatives to English classics as well.

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Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

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Vegetarianism is widely practiced in India, but perhaps not as widely as many people believe. A recent survey by the Indian government found that about three out of every 10 Indians are practicing vegetarians. This number varies significantly from place to place. Approximately 75 percent of the people in the state of Rajasthan are vegetarians, and 60 percent in Gujarat. The latter is a stronghold of Jainism, a religion whose practices include a vegetarian diet. Thalis, large circular platters filled with many small dishes, are popular here, so you can try different vegetarian flavors at the same meal.

Being vegan in India is another story. On the plus side, English is widely spoken in India, and while veganism is almost unheard of, most restaurant workers are familiar with vegetarian practices, so they'll be able to share information about which dishes fit your dietary needs.

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Singapore is another "melting pot." Local people are particularly obsessive when it comes to good food, so the city-state has become a foodie destination. Like any major international city, you can find restaurants that put diet-focused adjectives in front of their food options: local, sustainable, raw, organic, vegan, gluten-free and so on.

Singapore is not cheap — it has one of the world’s highest per capita GDPs after all — but street food, sold in organized food courts known as hawker centers (or centres), offers a reasonable meal for a reasonable price. Chinese-style vegetarian dishes are widely available in such places, and Indian vegetarian dishes, particular from Southern India, are commonplace. The ability to try these different cuisines in one easily navigated place makes Singapore a great option for meatless foodies.