Sitting side-by-side on Bardstown Rd, Roots and Heart & Soy are two different restaurants sharing the same motto: "mindful, compassionate cooking." Opened by Louisville restaurant veteran Huong "CoCo" Tran in 2011, Roots is the upscale dining end of the restaurant, a delicious counterpart to Heart & Soy’s predominantly carry-out operation. Both establishments boast entirely vegetarian menus and offer a variety of options for those with food allergies and restrictions. Each restaurant features classic Vietnamese dishes and a long and impressive list of loose leaf teas. They even make their own tofu, with the process on full display in Heart & Soy’s dining area.
Ramsi’s Cafe on the World has long been a Louisville tradition, serving up dishes from around the globe in its eclectic and perfectly unique dining room at the corner of Bardstown Rd and Longest Ave. There is truly something for everyone here, with vegetarian dishes carrying equal weight on the menu to the meat-heavy counterparts. Seitan chilaquiles, Medjool dates stuffed with house-made cashew cheese, and an East Indian paella are just a few of the meat-free highlights, with many of the vegetables coming from the restaurant’s very own Raising Hope Organic Farm, located in eastern Jefferson County.
Ask around, and you’ll likely find that The Grape Leaf makes the cut for many local’s top 10 favorite dining spots in the city. Middle Eastern flavors are central at this cozy Clifton restaurant, and the tree canopy-covered patio is the place to be whenever the weather permits. An order of the house-made hummus is the ideal way to kick off a meal of Indian-inspired vegetarian biryani or moussaka. And if you live in the Highlands and aren’t up for the short drive to Clifton, swing by ZÄD Mediterranean, The Grape Leaf’s more casual sibling, located on Grinstead between Baxter and Bardstown.
Zen Garden is the go-to for meat-free Chinese food in Louisville. Using fresh ingredients and a modern approach, Zen Garden serves up Chinese dishes to Clifton residents and has long established itself as one of the neighborhoods most beloved eateries. Like spice? Then the Singapore noodles are for you.
Around town (food truck)
Whether you’re a devout vegan or a lifelong carnivore, the comfort food turned out by the V-Grits food truck is going to be up your alley. Go for items like the Loaded Mac, made with V-Grits’ own vegan cheese and topped with jackfruit BBQ, or the massive "Where Do You Get Your Protein" burger (hint: it’s not cows). There are always more than a few daily specials to choose from, too.
The addictive quality of injera, the traditional Ethiopian flatbread used in lieu of forks and knives, is beyond measure, and is one of the many reasons Queen of Sheba keeps us coming back again and again. Featuring classic Ethiopian cuisine, Queen of Sheba's dishes are served together on one large platter, encouraging sharing and a sense of community at the table. While there is plenty on offer for meat eaters in the group, the vegetarian options are just as satisfying. If you ask us, the vegetarian combo platter featuring misir wot, atakilt, and gomen wot is the only way to go.
Bombay Grill’s lunch buffet is the single best way to satisfy your Indian food cravings. This all-you-can-eat spot is loaded with fresh naan, tandoori vegetables, and rich, healthful vegetarian favorites like mattar paneer, malai kofta, and dal thadka.
Vietnam Kitchen attained legendary Louisville restaurant status several years ago. Located in a small strip mall on the outskirts of the Iroquois neighborhood, its menu is comprised of classic Vietnamese dishes, with vegetarian favorites like avocado spring rolls, pineapple & tofu curry, and stir-fried mock duck with green beans ready to satisfy even the strongest Vietnamese food craving. This family-run restaurant is low on frills but big on flavor, and we can only hope it will continue to flourish for years to come.
Now in its 13th year, North End Cafe is the gold standard of all-day dining in Louisville, serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner to hungry locals. Quality vegetarian and vegan options abound here, from vegan breakfast tacos to chickpea-quinoa cakes with grilled vegetables, goat cheese, and red pepper coulis (yeah, that one’s kind of a stand-out). The award for our favorite meat-free dish, however, goes to the sesame noodle salad, a cold salad of soba noodles, cabbage, and carrots all tossed in a flavorful sesame ginger dressing.
It’s all about the hot stone bibimbap at Charim, Louisville’s favorite Korean restaurant… OK, it’s also about the kimchee fried rice, of course… and then there’s the soybean paste soup, and, well, you get the picture.
All those living a gluten-, peanut-, soy-, and meat-free life, take note: NOLAFARE is now open in the Highlands! Just over a month old, the NOLA in NOLAFARE stands for non-GMO, organic, life-giving, allergen aware. Owners Adriena Dame and Julia Crittendon aim to make eating out a fun and easy experience for those with food allergies. All items on the menu are free of meat, gluten, soy, and peanuts, and are made with organic, non-GMO ingredients. What NOLAFARE lacks in food allergens it more than makes up for in flavor, with menu items like the sassy kale wrap, sea carrot rolls, and a variety of freshly baked pies.
The family-owned Mt. Everest View restaurant brought authentic Nepalese food to Louisville just last year, opening in the Buechel Station Shopping Center in July of 2015. Although there are several Indian dishes on the menu as well, it’s the classic Nepali recipes like momo (dumplings) and thukpa (pasta soup with spices) that have us coming back time and time again. And nearly every item on the menu is offered with or without meat, ensuring that there will be something to please every one of your friends.
This deli-style establishment features a variety of breakfast and lunch items, all made entirely of meat-free ingredients. Vegan sweet treats are on offer as well, including a variety of donuts and salted chocolate chip cookies.
1. Heart and Soy / Roots1216 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
2. Ramsi's Cafe on the World1293 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
3. The Grape Leaf2217 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
4. Zen Garden Vegetarian Restaurant2240 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
5. Queen of Sheba2804 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville
6. Bombay Grill216 N Hurstbourne Pkwy, Louisville
7. Vietnam Kitchen5339 Mitscher Ave, Louisville
8. North End Cafe1722 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
9. Charim Korean Restaurant4123 Oechsli Ave, Louisville
10. NOLAFARE2009 Highland Ave, Louisville
11. Mt. Everest View Restaurant & Bar4109 Bardstown Rd #103, Louisville
12. Half-Peach Bakery & Cafe4121 Oechsli Ave, Louisville
Sitting side-by-side, Heart and Soy and Roots offer two similar dining experiences, both of which rally around a vegetarian ethos. Roots is the sit-down operation of the two, serving a globally-inspired menu that includes tofu fajitas, pan-seared ravioli stuffed with blue and boursin cheeses, and sun-dried tomato paté. Heart and Soy, meanwhile, focuses on Chinese and Thai take-out with quick fixes like spring rolls and spicy curry rice.
Ramsi's Cafe on the World is just that -- a trip around the globe from the comfort of the Highlands. Mix-and-match decor and art collected over the years from a slew of countries you'd only ever dreamed of visiting transport everyone who walks through to door, from those lined up against the bar for a an imported draft beer to the diners in the back perusing the equally diverse menu for a plate of house-made tortellini or falafel with veggie sides taken straight from Ramsi's own organic garden.
Much like the red umbrellas and lush greenery that line this Clifton eatery's popular back patio, the bright colors in The Grape Leaf's flavorful Mediterranean fare jump right out at you, from the bright white of the feta and yogurt sauce that cover every plate of hummus and gyro, to the pink pop of the pomegranate seeds on top of the balsamic chicken and kale walnut salads. The wafting scents coming from all around during the busy lunch rush, however, won't leave you wanting to admire for very long.
At times, ordering Chinese foods becomes routine, and you find yourself ordering the same orange chicken combo plate every time. Enter Crescent Hill's Zen Garden, an entirely vegetarian operation modernizing Asian fare. Even the most frequent of meat eaters find themselves in this little blue, two-story house on the hunt for the light crunch of soybean-filled spring rolls and dumplings, the spice of bbq soy sandwiches, or the comforting warmth of a tofu-centric noodle bowl.
Two things are certain at Kingsley's Queen of Sheba -- you're probably going to share, and you're probably going to get your hands a little dirty. Sticking to it's traditional Ethiopian roots, this restaurant serves its specializes in large stews and thick soups, all eaten by an entire table of diners armed with flaps of flatbread they'll hungrily dip into the pot like a kid scooping jelly beans in a candy store. The long marination process makes for hearty and bold flavor that culminates in house staples like beef-based Gored-Gored and Lega Sega with other meat and veggie offerings.
The colossal size of this Indian eatery in far east Louisville is only matched by the size of the tower you'll have on your plate by the time you reach the end of the buffet, which is ripe for the picking with tandoori vegetables and meats like chicken and lamb that you can top to your heart's desire with yogurts, chutney, papadums, and pickles. You'll have to come at lunch time, though, otherwise you'll be left to pick from a full menu of other dishes like chicken tikka or lamb kebabs (ok, so that's not so bad, either).
Tucked in between a laundromat and a dive bar in Louisville's Iroquois neighborhood lies Vietnam Kitchen, a true hidden gem. Within its four bright, baby-blue walls, you'll find ample seating that's constantly full of diners looking to try authentic Vietnamese cuisine like the ever-popular Hủ tiếu Saté, a spicy rice noodle with sate sauce, bean sprouts, broccoli, peanuts, and lemon grass, with your choice of beef, chicken, or pork.
The North End Cafe, aka the brunch spot of your dreams, dishes out modern American and Mexican dishes for breakfast all day long in a minimal, industrial space. Aside from morning staples like corned beef hash and biscuits and gravy, North End serves a solid selection of lunch and dinner offerings like goat cheese quesadillas, reuben sandwiches (vegans, there's a version for you, too), and smoked pork loin.
Three words: Hot stone Bibimbap. It's the signature dish at Charim, Louisville's favorite Korean joint hidden away in a Richlawn strip mall. Its contents (one choice of meat with rice, vegetables, and sauce in a hot stone bowl) are self-explanatory, but that doesn't make it any less flavorful. Veterans of this spot will at times opt to venture out into the bulgogi bowls, colorful creations of noodles, veggies, meats, and a fried egg, all separated to satiate the organizational freak in all of us.
You won't find any meat, gluten, or GMO-products at NOLAFARE, a restaurant run by two nutritionally-conscious women that doles out dishes with real health credentials, like quinoa-packed salads, fresh-pressed juices, and wraps, breads, and baked goods made with organic grains, seeds, and oats. As for ambience, the restaurant puts a high emphasis on peacefulness and spirituality, and has been known to host a meditation workshop every now and then.
While its name doesn't match this place's minimal signage and undecorated, deep-red interior, its food sure does. Mt. Everest views serves up authentic Nepali food to West Buechel. There's a solid selection of Indian offerings, combo plates, and even kid's specials, but they're only second best to the dumplings, chow meins, soups, and kebabs that sit pretty at the top of the menu. Added bonus for the vegetarians: just about everything has a meatless option.
This airy little shop full of sweet treats and vegetarian fare lives up to its adorable name with sleek, birch furnishing and small plants abound. Everything here's made from scratch with ingredients they grew themselves, and they stray from animal products -- basically, the only guilt you'll feel when you bite into one of their maple drizzled donuts or veggie burgers is guilt for not stopping by earlier than you did.