"Eat clean" is pretty much a meaningless directive -- what, we’ve just been munching on filth all these years? But the case for vegetarianism -- and its more principled older sister, veganism -- is pretty ironclad (cute animals, preservation of our environment, future of humanity, etc.). So, where to get your meatless mangia on? Unsurprisingly for the city that birthed Thoreau -- one of the most famous (and uppity) vegetarians of all time -- Boston is awash in plant-protein dining. Translation: no more subsisting on French fries and scrambled eggs.
Downtown (& other locations)
Even your paleo pals occasionally go vegan for this mini food empire. Initially the food truck brainchild of a graduate of MIT, Clover has gone on to reinvent the city’s fast food scene entirely. With a bottomless commitment to food that is fresh, inventive, and, yup, vegan, every Clover outpost -- now at 16 and counting -- proves that you just don’t need animal protein when classics like barbecue seitan and chickpea fritters are on the menu. And then there’s that addictive lavender lemonade...
The city is now awash in juice bars that also turn out yummy, vegan, gluten-free breakfast and lunch options. But we’ll forever have a soft spot for the ladies behind Mother Juice, if for no other reason than that they have fully committed to the black art of making toast. They seriously offer eight different varietals, including three different avocado takes. Plus, they serve their breakfast bowls all day, and you can order the salads by the half or whole bowl. The clincher? Your lazy ass can order all of it via DoorDash or Favor.
The dinner here proves that "plant-based fine dining" isn’t a contradiction in terms. You might start with a light beet salad before moving on to one of the genuinely exquisite entrees: saffron ravioli made with cashew cheese, a Vietnamese mushroom crepe, or seitan skewers and soba noodles in a shiitake broth. Then there’s brunch, which is awash in waffle and seitan sausage sorcery. Oh, and the restaurant is about to add a bar area, so basically, this is the spot for that celebratory group dinner that maddeningly blends vegans and meat-eaters. Seriously, everyone will be happy.
If you’ve been a vegetarian for any length of time in Boston, you’ve worshipped at the Grasshopper altar. It’s vegan Asian food, for Pete’s sake -- pretty much the most guilt-free guilty pleasure ever. Lots of meatless staples dot the menu, including spring rolls, vegetarian dumplings, and stir-fried greens, but it’s actually the tofu and seitan dishes that give you that true Chinese food fix. Do you still dream of the stir-fried spicy garlic beef dish from your takeout-filled youth? It’s yours for the taking, now in a healthier form.
So is Allston, like, the city’s vegetarian mecca? All we know is that when this latest entry popped up last year, we actually started romanticizing our college-era hellhole of an A-B apartment. Whole Heart is the perfect takeaway spot: reasonably priced, customized bowls of veggies, crunchies, and vegan protein, which you can either order at the counter or build online during the day to pick up after work. And when you quote-unquote let yourself go on the weekends, there’s a Sunday brunch with avocado tacos, pancakes, and patatas bravas.
Suburbanites need plant-centric options too. Walnut Grille is saint and savior for the Mass Pike crowd, a sitdown spot that takes all the usual family restaurant entrees -- chicken piccata, meatloaf, lasagna, pizza -- and recreates them in vegetarian (and often vegan) form. Oh, and they don’t shy away from the adult beverages, including organic beer and wine. A weekend visit to the parents’ place just got a little less painful.
Picture the diner of your dreams, minus the quart of leftover bacon grease coating the grill. All the brekkie basics are here, all sans meat, from Benedicts to egg sandwiches to pancakes. There’s a corned beef seitan hash, too, as well as a vegetarian-gravy poutine, the holy grail of the meat-free community. But it’s during lunch and dinner that things really get interesting: a meatless BLT? Reuben? Shepard’s pie? Your best bet is probably to eat your way through the entire menu to ascertain the success of each reconceived dish.
There are many evil geniuses in the world, and among them are the rapscallions who came up with a vegan taco food truck, thus upticking our taco consumption about a billionfold. Each four-buck concoction gives you a flavorful fix that turns out not to be made of meat at all, but instead, of rich meat substitutes like jackfruit, fried plantain, and a chimichurri tempeh. Also: vegan nachos again! But the kicker may be the vegan torta (your choice of tofu or chorizo seitan), which sounds like an impossibility, but is actually a revelation.
Our mantra: with every yoga studio should come a vegan cafe. But for now, there’s O2, and the attached VO2, dealing in some pretty fine vegan breakfast sandwiches and burritos. Lunch is even more exciting: soups, salads, pressed sandwiches, and vegan nachos. If a yoga studio-approved cafe thinks vegan nachos are a good idea, then we might have to reconsider our current vinyasa boycott.
Allston (& other locations)
When Tom Brady starts hankering for his infamous avocado ice cream, he no longer needs to summon the private chef. FoMu has spent years now making its successful case for vegan ice cream made from either a nut or coconut base. The flavors may give you diabetic palpitations -- chocolate pudding? Salted caramel? Melted cookie dough? -- but they’re all made with local and/or organic ingredients, and are much lower in calories than traditional ice cream. We’re starting to think this Brady fellow might know a thing or two...
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1. Clover Food Lab DTX27 School St, Boston
2. Mother Juice100 Hanover St, Boston
3. True Bistro1153 Broadway, Somerville
4. Grasshopper1 North Beacon St, Allston
5. Whole Heart Provisions487 Cambridge St, Boston
6. Walnut Grille1203 Walnut St, Newton
7. Veggie Galaxy450 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
8. Taco Party711 Broadway, Somerville
9. VO2 Vegan Café1001 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
10. FoMu481 Cambridge St, Allston
With more than a dozen outposts and counting, Clover Food Lab has gone from the food truck brainchild of an MIT grad to a mini-chain that's redefining how Boston thinks of (and of course, eats) fast food. The company doesn't even have a damn freezer -- at any of its locations. That's how seriously they take their organic, creative, and fresh vegan dishes. Expect dishes like barbecue seitan and chickpea fritters, which, like just about every item on the menu, pair wonderfully with Clover's heavenly lavender lemonade.
Of all the juice bars brimming in Boston, Mother Juice is among the best. It boasts refreshing kale- and beet-based juices and smoothies, like the Unicorn Blood (beet, carrot, celery, watermelon, and pineapple), plus vegan and gluten-free breakfast bowls and salads. The best part? There are eight different kinds of toast on the menu, including three avocado varieties.
True Bistro is vegan fine dining at its, well, finest. This sleek Somerville restaurant sports white tablecloths and white brick walls, adding to the kind of clean, contemporary look that complements a plant-based eatery so well. Consider starting with a light beet salad before moving on to one of the delectable entrees, like saffron ravioli made with cashew cheese or a Vietnamese mushroom crepe. True Bistro also has a weekend brunch for the ages, featuring next-level waffles, tofu scrambles, and seitan burgers.
Boston's vegetarians and vegans rejoice over the offerings at Grasshopper, a meat-free Asian restaurant proving that carnivores aren't the only ones with serious Chinese food cravings. Stir-fried greens and fried vegetarian spring rolls and dumplings are some of the stars of the menu, and there are flavorful tofu and seitan options as well, as counterintuitive as that may seem. Say goodbye to that lingering shame you usually feel after scarfing down heaps of Chinese takeout.
Allston is a bonafide vegetarian’s paradise with a roster of restaurants that includes this tasty takeaway spot whose menu revolves around meat-free bowls. A favorite is the Mission bowl, tossed with toppings like shaved Brussels sprouts, Japanese eggplant, smashed cucumber, and tahini sauce, but there’s also the option to build your own (you can do so online, too). Copper tables, gray banquettes, and reclaimed wooden planks create an interior that's as fresh and stylish as the dishes themselves.
Walnut Grille is a gift sent from above for vegetarian suburbanites and all those heroes traveling the Mass Pike. This Newton Highlands sit-down spot turns classic American comfort dishes like BLTs, meatloaf, and lasagna into creative meat-free plates laden with seitan, tofu, and vegetables. The plant-based menu is full of vegan and gluten-free options too, proving that dining out with a restrictive diet isn't a bland affair.
Vegetarians, behold: this is the meatless diner you've only dreamed about. With all the decor of a classic American diner, Veggie Galaxy offers an all-day menu that takes vegetarianism to new heights. Expect tofu omelets, BBQ jackfruit sandwiches, and black bean veggie burgers in lieu of their meat-centric counterparts. In true diner fashion, desserts like lemon meringue pie and chocolate strawberry cheesecake are displayed in a rotating glass case.
Taco Party delivers exactly that: a party of tacos, albeit a meatless one. All of the tortillas at this Somerville counter-serve are filled with untraditional plant-based fillings like jackfruit (which oddly tastes like pulled pork), fried plantains, and chimichurri tempeh. There are also vegan nachos that you should probably -- no, definitely -- try, and tortas made with tofu or chorizo seitan.
VO2 is a bright, wood-laden vegan cafe attached to its sister yoga studio, O2, and the two form a brilliant partnership as far as we're concerned. This Central Square spot is serving up meatless breakfast sandwiches and burritos in the morning, plus soups, salads, pressed sandwiches, and nachos for lunch. No meat or cheese? Talk about a guilt-free meal, especially if you're practicing yoga beforehand.
FoMu is the place to go for quality vegan ice cream. All of the dairy-free treats here are made with a coconut milk base and sweetened with all-natural, minimally-processed sugar. The ice cream is way more exciting than just unprocessed sugar, though -- FoMu boasts untraditional flavors like chocolate pudding, cardamom pistachio, cherry amaretto, salted caramel, and brownie malted stout. You know what they say: once you go vegan, you never stop eating ice cream...right?