Food & Drink

Detroit's Legitimately Great Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants

Published On 07/21/2016 Published On 07/21/2016
Detroit Vegan Soul

Detroit Vegan Soul

West Village

Over in West Village at the tasty intersection of soul food and whole food, Detroit Vegan Soul is a comfort food-lover's dream. Partners and founders Kirsten Ussery and Erika Boyd were inspired by a personal loss to conjure up a 100% plant-based, healthy take on their family’s favorite grub. The end result is barbecued, heart-conscious contentment on a plate: gooey mac & cheese, collard greens, and tempting tempeh catfish that’s light on fat and cholesterol, but heavy on Southern flavor.

Seva

Midtown

Feast alfresco at Seva, in the resplendent sunshine, while sipping on summery sangria or a tart Michigan cherry-lime rickey, and you’ll be hard-pressed to imagine a life better lived, anywhere, outside of the D. Seva didn’t reinvent the wheel when it opened its Detroit location; the Ann Arbor spot has been thriving since 1973. But old restaurant favorites, such as the General Tso’s cauliflower and the pad Thai, have become new delights to the eager vegetarian crowd in Midtown. Order the TLT, a wrap bursting with chargrilled tempeh, cheddar, guacamole, tomatoes, and shredded romaine, and absolutely add a side of crispy yam fries with spicy mayo.

Brooklyn Street Local | Flickr/Liza Lagman Sperl

Brooklyn Street Local

Corktown

Forgo the passport and unnecessary irrational nervousness at the border -- find Canada’s most well-known gravy-laden spud dish right here, in Corktown. The mushroom gravy poutine can be ordered up any which way you like, including (and especially) vegetarian-style, replete with organic cheese curds, or vegan, topped with Daiya vegan cheese. Brooklyn Street Local is diner fare done fresh, creating a bright palate of plant-based dishes, including a kale quinoa salad and the beloved Ashley’s Veggie Burger, a house-made vegetable and lentil patty, dressed up with pea shoots, red onion, vine-ripe tomato, and aioli.

Cass Cafe

Cass Corridor

Head to Cass Cafe for the moderately priced, vegetarian-friendly food; stay for the unbeatable drink specials ($2 PBRs? Yes, please!). You’ll likely find yourself meandering among paintings from some of Detroit’s up-and coming artists -- Cass Cafe’s gallery-restaurant showcases exhibitions from local studios as a festive backdrop to its eclectic fare. A longtime haven for Wayne State students on a budget, the menu has enough variety to captivate vegetarians and omnivores of all ages and stages. The lentil burger is the house speciality, a flavorful patty blended from lentils, ground walnuts, and zingy Parmesan cheese, slid atop a warm onion roll. At $6.50, it’s an unparalleled deal that you don’t have to be a broke college student to appreciate. If you have a few bucks to spare, grab a pint of Ghettoblaster for a top-notch burger & beer combo.

Courtesy of Mudgie's

Mudgie's

Corktown

It’s a tiny joint, but even if ALL THE PEOPLE are feasting on Mudgie’s expansive sandwich repertoire, you will not have to wait long for a table at this veggie-friendly, only moderately hipster Corktown eatery. Come hungry, in an assemblage of friends with diverse tastes -- there’s a sandwich appropriate for every man, woman, and hippie in Detroit. Free-loving flower children, herbivores, and even non-vegetarians all wax poetic over the Hippie Dippie Sh*t Man whole wheat wrap, a melange of ripe avocado, baby spinach, sunflower sprouts, walnuts, dried cranberries, diced apples, shredded carrots, and cucumber, tossed in raspberry vinaigrette. Far out, man.

Inn Season Cafe

Royal Oak

Expect to wait for a table on a weekend night at Inn Season Cafe, and expect it to be worth it. Inn Season has been serving vegetarian cuisine for so long that it surpasses all similar restaurants in metro Detroit in one crucial domain: consistency. The menu is extensive, so take your time, grab a personal pot of house-made chai tea, and peruse the offerings. Consider an initial foray with the Santorini Plate (enough tabbouli, zesty red pepper hummus, and roasted beets to inspire you to start searching for cheap airfare to Greece) and culminate your meal with the hazelnut and mocha scrumptiousness of the Opera Cake. You’ll be out of your seat, demanding an encore (see what we did there!).

GreenSpace Cafe

GreenSpace Café

Ferndale

A regularly changing menu and meticulous attention to service are the cherry on top of the vegan cake at GreenSpace, which opened in November of 2015. The tamale pie features warm layers of organic white masa intermingling with black beans, red bell peppers, zesty enchilada sauce, and fresh corn, topped with ripe avocado and a dollop of the pièce de résistance: cashew sour cream. Pair it with a craft cocktail (the Michigan Beet is un-beet-lievable (we're sorry)) constructed from Drought juice next door, and then veg out in the ambiance of one of Ferndale’s finest new eateries.

Russell Street Deli

Eastern Market

If you’ve gone down to Eastern Market on any sunny Saturday morning to nab a few fresh-from the-farm leeks or imbibe one of the meal-in-a-glass Bloody Marys at Vivio’s, you’ve probably seen the line of people snaking out from Russell Street Deli and wondered just what the hubbub was all about. Russell Street whips up soups and sandwiches ideal for for the masses: hearty portions in a busy, neighborly setting. The avocado sandwich, with its simple sprouts, imported Swiss, crisp veggie mix, and house-made ranch on whole wheat bread, is a notable delight, but the vegetarian soups, which rotate daily, are the real standouts. Check the online menu the night before and meander down to the Deli for the most extraordinary selections, including crushed lentil, cream of spinach, black bean, and the savory curried yellow split pea soup.

NeeHee's

Neehee’s

Canton

Neehee’s in Canton has crafted up a menu that will tempt a duality of audiences: those in search of authentic, Indian street food, and vegetarians (or the veggie-curious) who simply crave flavor, texture, and spice. The prices are modest, and though the lines are frequently long, it will give you ample time to strategize your selections from the extensive menu. The Gobi Manchurian (deep fried cauliflower in chili sauce) is a swirling, heady blend of Indo-Chinese seasonings, and the fresh-squeezed cane juice is the perfect balance of just-right sweetness and quench-your-thirstiness.

Chive Kitchen

Farmington

Two James spirits, suds from the Farmington Brewing Company just a block away, and locally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients meld in the parfait menage a trois of community flare at Farmington’s Chive Kitchen. Don’t be fooled by its strip-mall locale -- once you enter the scene, you’ll be whisked away to a Portuguese bistro, where the fare is all vegan, and your paleo boyfriend, with his pint of Griffin Claw brew firmly in his mitts, will barely notice that his coney dog is actually a phony dog. As for you, you're getting the corned beef seitan Reuben and a North Peak Diabolical IPA.

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1. Detroit Vegan Soul 8029 Agnes St, Detroit, MI 48214 (West Village)

Marrying vegan cuisine with soul food flair, this cozy West Village spot serves up some serious flavor. You’d think it’s impossible to create authentic Southern barbecue fare using 100% plant-based, organic ingredients devoid of trans-fat, but Detroit Vegan Soul executes it perfectly -- for example, take the signature “Catfish” tofu sandwich, a gluten-free option with cornmeal-battered tofu, broccoli-corn slaw, redskin potatoes, and onions. Combined with the cute, contemporary digs and friendly staff, it’s a neighborhood staple.

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2. Seva 66 E. Forest St., Detroit, MI 48201 (Midtown)

Seva provides a haven of flavor for hungry vegetarians in Midtown. The restaurant’s original Ann Arbor location has been serving up quality vegetarian and vegan fare since 1973, and its younger Detroit spot doesn’t disappoint. Menu highlights range from small plates like yam fries with spicy mayo and vegan barbecue sauce to entrees like the TLT, a wheat wrap made with tempeh, cheddar, guacamole, tomatoes and greens. There’s fresh squeezed juices for diners on a detox and floral, fruit-forward cocktails for those who prefer to sip and savor. The space itself is bright and open, making it a decent lunch option for groups.

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3. Brooklyn Street Local 1266 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48226 (Corktown)

Founded in 2012 by a Canadian couple, Brooklyn Street Local is a homey Corktown lunch destination for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Ingredients are sourced fresh from Detroit's urban farms and are used to create an array of flavorful favorites, such as The BSL, traditional poutine made with organic cheese curds and beef gravy (can be adapted to vegan appetites), The Works, a thick, organic beef patty topped with cheddar, bacon, and a fried egg, the Vegan Reuben served on rye, and rich banana walnut pancakes. The interior has all the marks of an American diner (banquette seating, warm hanging lamps, framed photographs on the walls), but the stylish outdoor patio calls to mind the industrial cityscape of Bushwick, Brooklyn.

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4. Cass Café 4620 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 (Midtown)

Cass Café is perhaps best described as an art bar: a contemporary eatery to which art-savvy vegetarians and hole-pocketed hipsters flock on the weekends. The spot regularly hosts exhibitions from local and global artists, with canvases mounted throughout the white-walled space. Gourmet sandwiches, most notably the lentil, Parmesan, and walnut burger are a further lure, as is the full bar.

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5. Mudgie's 1300 Porter, Detroit, MI 48226 (Corktown)

This artisanal deli is a source of pride for Detroit natives, and it should be: nearly all the meats are roasted in-house and everything from soups, salad dressings, and ketchup is made from scratch. What isn't homemade is sourced from local vendors, and the result is hearty sandwiches like a Reuben on onion bread and the multi-meat Gutty packed with salami, pastrami, corned beef, bacon, and beef brisket. A formidable selection of craft beer, including local and imported bottles, makes Mudgie's a veritable Corktown hot spot for locals on the lunch prowl.

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6. Inn Season Cafe 500 E 4th St, Royal Oak, MI 48067 (Royal Oak)

Inn Season started serving market-driven vegetarian fare back in 1981, before vegetarianism itself was common -- which is why, to this day, they sit atop the food chain of Detroit’s vegan dining scene. The food is ingredient-forward, the flavors robust in their simplicity; regulars opt for favorite dishes like the Budapest soup, and finish off their meal with a decadent slice of hazelnut and mocha Opera cake. The ambience is what you’d expect of a neighborhood staple: quaint and homey, with pastel yellow walls and oak furniture; bare-bones enough to keep older locals coming back for more despite the frequent droves of hipsters.

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7. GreenSpace Café 215 W Nine Mile Rd, Ferndale, MI 48203 (Ferndale)

Marrying health-conscious cuisine with elegant presentation, this Ferndale spot attracts vegans and omnivores alike. Regulars rave about the Tamale Pie, a layered slice of masa, black beans, red bell peppers, finished with enchilada sauce, corn, avocado and a dollop of their signature cashew sour cream. The wellness kick carries over into the cocktail offerings, as specialty libations often include fresh-squeezed juices and eclectic liquors (house-infused cardamom and birch bark rum, anyone?). The ambience is hip, but the impeccable service makes for a lack of pretention; combined with the unfinished wood interior and the glow of hanging bulbs, it’s an ideal setting for a convivial dinner amongst friends.

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8. Russell Street Deli 2465 Russell St, Detroit, MI 48207 (Eastern Market)

You'd expect a favorite Motor City deli to serve a tasty meaty sandwich -- and Russel Street Deli, partnered with local vendors in Eastern Market, certainly does -- but their vegetarian sandwiches and soup options truly set them apart. The weekend lines are indication enough. Look no further than the standout potato-leek soup or Avocado Sandwich, on whole wheat with Swiss cheese, organic spouts, mixed greens, and house Ranch dressing, Swiss cheese, organic sprouts, mixed greens, and house-made Ranch dressing. We suggest you grab-and-go, but you’ll likely make a new friend or two if you linger at one of the buzzy, communal tables.

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9. NeeHee's 45490 Ford Rd, Canton, MI 48187

Neehee's focus is very particular: Indian vegetarian street food. The fast-casual menu features authentic chaat snacks, fried pakoda fritters, and sandwiches stacked with meat-free fillings like boiled potatos, beets, chutney, mushrooms, and peppers. There's also a selection of Chinese fusion plates that make up for the lack of meat with starchy (and cruciferous) fixins like curry and Sichuan cauliflower and chili-tossed potatoes. The Canton restaurant is more than a fast-food restaurant but less than a full-service spot, and there are plenty of large family-size tables.

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10. Chive Kitchen 33043 Grand River Ave, Farmington, MI 48336

This Farmington vegan spot offers a meat-free menu meant to appeal to vegans and meat-lovers alike, using fresh, local ingredients like McClure’s pickles and whole wheat flour from Westwind Milling. The space is small, but a clean design, and an attractive collection of house cocktails (like the Boozy Blush prepared with housemade Michigan cherry syrup, rhubarb bitters, and orange juice) keeps the place busy on the weekends.

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