My non-vegan friends are always asking me, “Where can we eat together, with you being a vegan?” Because of this, I decided to take it upon myself to make a definitive list of the best vegan-friendly restaurants that also serve non-vegan food, and can be found almost anywhere in the U.S. I am also splitting the list into fast-food and sit-down places. This list is for fellow vegans, and also for friends of vegans who are interested in finding out about restaurants where you guys can ~C0ExisT~.
Subway is quite O.K. Some locations offer the veggie patty, which is a vegan meat replacement that actually tastes pretty good. A lot of the breads are vegan, and there are a lot of veggies that you can load on your sandwich. Some of the sauces and chips are vegan, too.
#4. Waffle House
There are not a whole lot of vegan options here, but the few available are good. Options include hash-browns with various toppings, no-butter grits, no-butter toast with jelly, and salad. What’s good about Waffle House is that it is always open and reliable, which makes it a great option after a night out. I always order triple hash-browns with peppers, and a side of no-butter toast with jelly.
#3. Seasons of Japan
The only reason that Seasons isn’t more high up on the list is because most local non-chain Japanese restaurants have more and better quality vegan options. Seasons is still pretty good, though. They have a couple of sushi options that can be vegan once customized, and they have an amazing tofu-steak meal with fried rice and veggies, which requires no customizing. The cold sweetened and unsweetened green teas at the serving station are pretty great, as well.
#2. Taco Bell
This restaurant was almost #1 for me. It was a close call, honestly. Taco Bell is a vegan fast-food staple, as most items on the menu can be made vegan. For most items, you can sub the meat for beans for no extra charge, and the cheese and sour cream can be swapped with pico de gallo as well, otherwise known as ordering something “fresco style.” The guacamole is also vegan, but it does cost extra. Taco Bell is open late, the food is great, and the price point is as cheap as they come. Another aspect that sets this place apart from other restaurants is that a vegan dessert option is available, a.k.a. those dope little cinnamon twists.
#1. Barbaritos Southwestern Gille & Cantina
Barbaritos is top-tier fast food. No hate, please, but Barbaritos is a much better option than both Moe’s and Chipotle. From a vegan perspective, the tofu is way better at Barbaritos than it is at Moe’s, and from a price perspective, the cost of Chipotle is not justified for the quality of their food. Yes, vegans, I know about sofritas from Chipotle, and yes, I know it’s good. Call me a traditional, but I much prefer the seasoned, no-nonsense tofu at Barbaritos than the E. Coli infested meat substitute at Chipotle. Apart from the tofu at Barbaritos, there are beans, rice, lots of veggies, vegan guacamole, and hot sauce to put on your burrito. Barbaritos also has great chips and salsa, as well. I frequent my local Barbaritos at least once every week, sometimes more, because this place is honestly just that good.
It’s a debate whether this place is even considered a sit-down place, but let’s not get into the semantics of it all. Panera is O.K. You have to customize whatever you order to make it vegan, and it takes a bit of research to even know what can be customized to be vegan, but once you figure it out, the food is good. The baguettes are vegan as well, so that’s nice.
#4. Wild Wing Cafe
Although Wild Wing Cafe does not have a lot of vegan options, the ones available are really good. For an entree, you can get a veggie burger, and it’s a really good quality one, too. There are also lots of vegan burger toppings available, as well as really good vegan sides, and I don’t just mean fries. They have really tasty veggie skewers, steamed broccoli, and mixed veggies as sides as well. If you are vegan and haven’t eaten here because it seemed like there wouldn’t be anything for you to eat, give it a try. I avoided this place at first for the same reason, but when a friend wanted to eat here for their Birthday, I came here, not expecting much, and ended up pleasantly surprised.
#3. Olive Garden
Like the last entry on the list, there aren’t a whole lot of vegan options available, but the few here are great. At Olive Garden, you can order any pasta with marinara or kid’s tomato sauce, and you can also add veggies if you’d like. You can even have an appetizer of either Minestrone soup, or a salad with no dressing, vegan dressing on the side, and no croutons. A big plus here is that the breadsticks are vegan, too, with the garlic-butter and all. This is because Olive Garden does not use real butter to flavor the breadsticks, and instead, they use soybean oil. The chocolate mints gifted to you at the end of your meal are not vegan, however. My non-vegan friends take no issue with this, though, as they always get to eat my portion of mints as well. So, good for them.
#2. P.F. Chang’s
P.F. Chang’s has a lot of vegan entree and appetizer options, and they are really quite good. Another plus about this restaurant is that their menus indicate whether or not an item is vegetarian, which makes it even easier to know if something is vegan. I personally love the vegetarian lettuce wraps and the stir-fried eggplant with steamed white rice.
#1. Mellow Mushroom
I took this picture of my Mellow Mushroom vegan mushroom and avocado pizza during a trivia game night.
Mellow Mushroom is a great place to go if you are a vegan person. This pizza joint has vegan cheese, which means that you can get more than just a tomato pie. Just make sure you also ask for no butter or parmesan on the crusts, as this is usually the default. Mellow Mushroom has loads of veggies, tofu, and even tempeh toppings that you can add to your pizza. They also have some pretty good hoagies as well. I like the tofu hoagie with vegan cheese, personally. What’s great about this place is that the atmosphere is cool, the food is great, and you can eat a vegan version of the same thing that your non-vegan friend is eating, so you don’t feel left out. Your Pie also has vegan cheese and a lower price point, but the quality does not come close to that of Mellow Mushroom’s.
That was my top 10 list of vegan-friendly chain restaurants. I hope you enjoyed it!