If it’s authentic Mexican food you crave, head to family-owned El Palote Panadería in Dallas. The plant-based meats and breads are house-made to replicate the flavor of classic dishes like menudos, al pastor tacos and even pan dulce.
This San Francisco vegan spot is so popular that, even though it doesn’t take reservations and is open only for dinner, the line is often out the door. Try creative rolls like the Colonel’s Pipe (smoked beets, cashews, creamy tofu, asparagus, sweet mustard and orange zest) and the Plot Twist (tempura-fried roll with sweet potato, smoked bean curd, mango, tomato, onion, yuzu, shiso and jalapeño) or indulge in the shoyu ramen with a smoky and sweet "pork."
This vegan tiki bar, with locations in Seattle and Portland, Ore., is incredibly popular for its fun atmosphere and bar food selections. You'll find items on the menu like buffalo cauliflower, fried avocado tacos, and jackfruit nachos. Come for the cocktails but stay for the munchies.
Located in chic Santa Monica, Calif., this Matthew Kenney restaurant offers some of the most beautiful plant-based dishes in the country. Offerings include kimchi dumplings and Roan Mills polenta made with almond ricotta, kale purée, blistered tomatoes and roasted fennel. For dessert, try a kabocha tart with Meyer lemon crème fraîche and a pepita sage crumble.
Buddha Bodai in New York has some of the best, most unpretentious vegan Chinese food you can find. Buddhists have been making plant-based meats for much longer than most cultures, and it shows. Try the barbecue pork or duck and any of the noodle dishes. The bigger the crowd you bring, the more you’ll have to share around the Lazy Susan.
If you’re in Atlanta, you’ll want to check out Cafe Sunflower. This eatery offers everything from comfort food like buffalo "lollipops" and handmade squash ricotta ravioli, to lighter fare like beet carpaccio and pan-seared mushroom scallops.
Land of Kush's cuisine is described as Southern American vegan soul food. Locally-owned and operated, this restaurant makes a delicious chicken salad and a vegan mac and cheese hailed as one of the best you can get in Baltimore, hands down.
You’ll want to wear your best socks to Hangawi, where the shoes come off before your dining experience can begin. This restaurant in New York's Koreatown is tranquil and impeccable, with dishes like fragrant bamboo rice, stuffed eggplant in chili sauce, and a mushroom sizzler hot pot reigning as crowd favorites.
This West Hollywood vegan restaurant is a favorite. And not just for celebrity sightings, but also for its tapas-style menu, with dishes like crab cakes and kale spanakopita. Some dishes, however, are sizable – the Impossible Burger is a standout, as is the fettuccine carbonara topped with a raw "egg" made of cashew cream and yellow tomatoes.
With locations in College Park, Md. and Washington, NuVegan Cafe offers a large menu of classic and Southern American entrees and is beloved by reviewers around the country. Try the crab cake sandwich with a side of mac and cheese and collards, the barbecue tofu, "Vegan Chick’n Drummies," and a rich piña colada smoothie as a milkshake.
As its name suggests, Avant Garden is simply one of the best places to try vegan food; both a little avant-garde and wonderfully fresh. With a creative small plate menu that changes with the seasons, this restaurant requires a reservation. Try dishes like the house-made spaghetti carbonara with smoked mushrooms, and the sunchoke toast with pickled pear, olives, and pistachio.
This Asheville, N.C. spot is known for impeccable raw and gluten-free options, vegan cheeses and handmade desserts. The plantains, maitake mushrooms, homemade cheese plate, tofu bibimbap, and creme brûlée are all beloved recommendations.
This West Village restaurant is known for having the best vegan French food in the country. Owned by a model who hired his own mother to be head chef, this place offers just about any classic French dish. Crowd favorites include the tartares and crepes, French onion soup, beef bourguignon and orange creme brûlée.
This Denverrestaurant was vegetarian since 1998, but became all-vegan in 2014. It regularly tops best-of vegan lists with fried cauliflower, sesame soy, chicken wings and cheesecake all praised by reviewers.
Who says vegan food has to be healthy? Not Champs Diner. This Brooklyn favorite has some of the richest vegan food in the country – anything from the Philly cheesesteak (made with seitan) and the cinnamon roll pancakes, to the eggs Benedict and the vanilla-with-cookie-crumbs milkshake.
This vegan joint in Portland, Ore. is owned by a cook who went vegan, but didn’t want to give up eating barbecue every day. It boasts some of – if not all of – the best vegan barbecue in the country, with every comfort food from ribs and wings to mac and cheese, completely veganized.
This vegan diner in what's practically the beef capital of the world – Dallas – satisfies all the classic cravings and then some. Try the buffalo chicken nachos, mac and cheese, and "Bacun Ranch Cheeseburger." Also, be sure to try the freshly baked desserts.
For some of the best vegan pizza (and cheese) you can find, head to New York's Double Zero. It's a wine bar and otherwise romantic date spot where you’ll want to try the homemade Flora artisanal cheese plate, farro fennel sausage pizza and the "White Pizza."
Vegan cookbook author, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, opened this Omaha spot to such success in 2014 that there is now a second location in Brooklyn. Comfort food – sometimes with a Jewish spin – is on full display here, with offerings including mushroom stroganoff and chickpea Parmesan. You’ll definitely want to leave room for dessert, with offerings like the peanut butter Snickers pie and strawberry shortcake.
If you want to convince a meat eater that anything they can eat, you can eat vegan, take them to The Butcher’s Son in Berkeley, California. This delicatessen serves up just about every rich combination you can imagine, including donut-stuffed pancakes, steak and egg hoagies, buffalo bacon ranch fried chicken and bacon patty melts.
This popular spot in Philly is owned by the same chefs that run the celebrated vegan spot V-Street. But Vedge is the most creative, with high- and low-brow combination dishes like a rutabaga fondue with a daily pretzel; leek tart with farinata, flaked potato, and black garlic jam; and cherry cheesecake with cola gel and potato chip ice cream for dessert.
If you want some of the freshest and most avant-garde vegan cooking there is, head to Farm Spirit in Portland, Ore. where the tasting menu changes daily and the plates look almost too good to eat – almost. A truly unique experience.
Choosing the best vegan restaurants in the United States is no small task. The website Happy Cow, which is like Yelp, only for vegan and vegetarian food, lists nearly 23,000 veg restaurants in the U.S., including 1,240 purely vegan restaurants.
While the bulk of the U.S. vegan food scene is concentrated in California (with 261 vegan restaurants) and New York (143), smaller cities, towns, and certain states you wouldn’t expect also boast a strong vegan game. Texas, for example, now has 64 vegan restaurants, Florida has 106, and Pennsylvania claims 49.
Those numbers will only continue to rise. From 2014 to 2017 alone, the U.S. saw a staggering 600 percent increase in people who identify as vegan, and "vegan" is now officially a more common Google search term than "vegetarian," surging 90 percent in 2016.
So how’s a person to choose the best vegan restaurants? Consult this list and check out Happy Cow, Yelp, and local vegan Facebook groups to hear people’s top vegan food recommendations.
Rachel Krantz is a vegan travel writer working on a book about non-monogamy. Check out her latest work and location on Twitter and Instagram @rachelkrantz and check out her writing and podcast at www.racheljkrantz.com.