Top 10 Vegan-Friendly Towns and Small Cities
If you’re a foodie, it won’t surprise you that vegan options at restaurants are on the rise—and it’s not just happening in large metropolitan cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco. Wherever you are in the U.S., you’re likely close to a vegan-friendly hotspot. After all, an estimated 9.7 million Americans are vegan. In addition to all the ways in which going vegan benefits animals, the environment, and our health, research shows that more and more people are leaning toward going vegan because of the pandemic. So what are you waiting for? Make going vegan your New Year’s resolution and start today! While you’re at it, support local vegan restaurants in your area.
For many years, PETA has named the most vegan-friendly big cities in America. This year, as so many people are migrating to smaller cities because of the pandemic, we’ve shifted our criteria, too, and included smaller urban areas on this year’s list of the Top 10 Most Vegan-Friendly Cities.
This year’s top pick even has a Vegan Awareness Week! How many others can claim that?
1. Asheville, North Carolina
With more than 100 vegan-friendly restaurants, Asheville is recognized as a vegan hotspot.
Asheville’s plant has been bringing locally sourced, mostly gluten-free, and totally vegan dishes to the city since 2011. If you find yourself in Asheville’s gorgeous city center, check out No Evil Foods for packaged vegan meats that are available to ship nationwide—so even if you aren’t in the area, you can still treat yourself to its delicious vegan taco meat, sausage, and more.
Don’t sleep on the vegan-friendly Nine Mile, where you can substitute tofu or Beyond Meat in pretty much any meal, or Black Bear BBQ, which offers barbecued jackfruit and plant-based chicken. If you fancy a drink with your vegan snacks, Asheville Brewing Company has vegan cheese, cauliflower bites, a house-made sweet pea spinach burger, and more that will hit the spot.
Don’t skip dessert—grab a pint of vegan Chocolate Banana Creme or Birthday Cake Pepita Milk ice cream at The Hop Ice Cream Café, or check out the vegan selections at Vortex Doughnuts. (And Asheville gets a bonus point: It has removed horse-drawn carriages and banned exotic animals in its facilities, which effectively means that no animal circuses will come to the small North Carolina city.)
2. Dayton, Ohio
Vegans in Dayton are never bored, with all the vegan festivals, barbecues, and dining spots.
In the Oregon District, you can feast on a hearty brunch at Lily’s by substituting vegan cheese and tofu scramble in your breakfast burrito. Or try some next-level bar food—such as a vegan pesto grilled cheese (with plant-based chicken added in, of course), fried pickles, nachos, loaded vegan hot dogs, and more—at Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery.
For an innovative take on traditional vegan fare, Cafe 1610 will impress you with its vegan mac and cheese and BBQ cauliflower, and Wheat Penny Oven and Bar has a killer Veganator pizza. The artisan ice cream pop-up shop Black Barn Veganry serves vegan smoothies and ice cream that you won’t find anywhere else, and the 100% vegan Sprouting Dreams packages fresh, hot meals available for delivery or pickup. There’s even a holiday menu with cold-weather comfort foods like vegan mac and cheese and mashed potatoes.
3. Frederick, Maryland
Many know Maryland for its seafood, but in Frederick, vegans dominate the dining scene.
Frederick’s K.A.T. Cafe—the all-vegan café where visitors can meet adoptable cats—rakes in tons of pawsitive reviews for its cozy atmosphere and attentive staff. If you wander over to the woman-owned Glory Doughnuts & Diner, you won’t be able to resist the tofu fried egg breakfast or the selection of vegan gourmet doughnuts, with rotating flavors, which have included blood orange and s’mores.
Hippy Chick Hummus is a café and kombucha bar serving Buffalo cauliflower tacos, vegan chicken sandwiches, Lentiball Subs, falafel wraps, and so much more. And who doesn’t love a good slice of pizza? Venture to Pretzel & Pizza Creations or Pistarro’s, both of which offer vegan cheese, pizza crust, and plenty of add-ons.
Get the full vegan fast-food experience by treating yourself to an animal-free burger at Serendipity Market & More and a vegan milkshake from Frederick’s specialty soda shop, the North Market Pop Shop. If you’re craving Chinese food, Hunan Gourmet has veggie shrimp on the menu. The Orchard Restaurant also offers crispy sesame tofu, and Polynesian, Szechuan, or Chinese stir-fry.
4. Tacoma, Washington
Move over Seattle—the up-and-coming vegan hotspot Tacoma has got you beat this year!
Folks can’t stop raving about the all-vegan soul food restaurant Quickie Too, where you can satisfy your soul with favorites like the Crazy Jamaican Burger, loaded with spicy tofu and potato salad. Viva also serves all-vegan and organic comfort foods, from cauliflower Buffalo wings to a decadent chocolate brownie topped with soy ice cream.
The Buffalo melt served at Peterson Bros. 1111 won the Top PETA Spot in 2019, and the restaurant’s vegan menu has plenty more for hungry vegans to chow on. At Gilman House, the mostly vegan menu includes a mouthwatering shepherd’s pie with meatless crumbles, onion, carrot, English peas, mushroom gravy, and mashed potato.
For a quick bite, the Happy Belly smoothie and juice bar offers vegan cheese, cream cheese, and tofu that you can add to veggie wraps, and The Red Hot has a Field Roast veggie dog that you can request instead of a meat sausage. If your sweet tooth is difficult to satisfy, Corina Bakery has some marvelous decadent desserts, including an Aztec chocolate cake garnished with dried chili pepper, rum- and espresso-soaked tiramisu, handcrafted peach melba and marionberry pies, pumpkin loaves, and more.
The vegan-friendly spots in Tacoma don’t end with dining. Vegans in the area have tons of resources, from the vegan nutritional coaching offered at Organically Grown Muscle to the cooking classes at Marconi Chiropractic & Wellness Center. Heck, just 10 miles away, you can even get a vegan tattoo at Inkstaind Tattoo Studio!
5. Boise, Idaho
Boise is another plant-based powerhouse, with some unique vegan spots.
You can’t go wrong at Mai Thai Modern Asian Cuisine, where you can chow down on bao buns loaded with meat-free char sui, bell pepper, onion, and green onion. Or perhaps you’re craving a classic burger and French fries—if so, check out Big Bun Drive-In or Locavore, both of which have quality vegan options.
Boise’s BBQ4Life has loaded cheesy nachos, mac and cheese, potato salad, and more. If you want to add some sweet to your savory, try the decadent vegan fried chic’n at Oh Vegan Soul. If you’re touring around Freak Alley, the largest outdoor mural gallery in the northwest, head over to Even Stevens Sandwiches, which offers a hummus- and fresh veggie–filled sandwich and a vegan breakfast burrito with Soyrizo, potatoes, and veggies.
Boise’s vegan scene also features artist Raven Call Tattoo’s artist Jeff Graham, who specializes in vegan tattoos, and a monthly whole foods plant-based-for-life support group at Plant Based Central.
6. San Marcos, Texas
Nestled halfway between San Antonio and Austin, San Marcos is a hidden vegan gem.
San Marcos is home to one of the nation’s first all-vegan fast-food drive-throughs, Earth Burger, with deluxe on-the-go meals like the Spicy CHIK-N Sandwich, the Buffalo CHIK-N Wrap, the Roasted Quinoa Burger, and much more. At Freebirds World Burrito, you can have your burrito, tacos, or bowl made with Beyond Meat.
Other vegan favorites include the veganized beet burger at The Root Cellar Cafe & Catering, the vegan fried chicken, turkey, and meatball subs at Ike’s Love & Sandwiches the smoothie bowls ordered without honey at Vitality Bowls Superfood Café, and the mint chocolate chip ice cream at Rhea’s Ice Cream.
7. Chattanooga, Tennessee
South of the country music capital is a hidden plant-based haven with over 50 vegan-friendly restaurants.
Chattanooga’s vegan website, ChattaVegan, has all kinds of resources for locals who are vegan or considering going vegan, including recipes, restaurant lists, podcasts, documentaries, and even a map of all the vegan-friendly businesses in the area.
At Cashew, Chattanooga’s vegan café and bakery, you can indulge in veganized comfort foods like jackfruit nachos, house-made “meatballs,” and more.
There are also several vegan-accommodating spots such as Bluegrass Grill (which serves tofu hash and vegan black bean chili), Fat Boy’s Roadside Eats (which offers vegan chicken wraps and Philly cheesesteaks), Taco Mamacita, Firebox Grill, Mr. T’s Pizza & Ice Cream, and Clumpies Ice Cream Co.
8. Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor has been recognized as a best place to live, a best place for singles, and a best college town. We consider it a best place for vegans, too.
Established in 1973, Seva is a vegan-friendly eatery offering a cheesy, gooey vegan nacho dip and more.
Bring your love for black bean burgers to the vegetarian/vegan eatery Detroit Street Filling Station, which also offers vegan specials like Buffalo cauliflower wings and tempeh Reubens, or to Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery, where you can veganize the house-made triple bean burger.
A truly farm-to-table dining experience, Fresh Forage changes its menu depending on available local ingredients and always has plenty of vegan options. Have a taste of heaven at Simple Pleasures, where you can choose from an assortment of irresistible vegan delicacies, including the rich, chocolatey cookie cheesecake bar and the fluffy, gooey cinnamon buns.
Aside from a wide variety of vegan dining options, Ann Arbor is chock-full of other vegan goodies. At Ann Arbor Vegan Kitchen, Vicki Brett-Gach provides vegan lifestyle coaching, cooking classes, and catering. Jessica’s Apothecary is a self-care sanctuary with all-vegan products, from the facials to the skin-care line. There are plenty of all-vegan eateries just a short distance from Ann Arbor as well, including GreenSpace & Go and Detroit Soul Vegan.
9. Bend, Oregon
For outdoorsy vegan foodies, Bend, Oregon, is paradise.
There’s lots for vegans to do in Bend, which even has its own website and radio show for vegan education, events, and more.
Take your taste buds on a flavorful tour of the city’s all-vegan comfort food joints with the jackfruit mac bowl at Lively Up Yourself food cart and the tempeh- and cauliflower-filled tacos at Root Down Kitchen. There are also several accommodating eateries with vegan options, including fried avocado tacos and falafel plates at Bethlyn’s Global Fusion, cheesy vegan pizza at Deschutes Brewery Bend Public House, Zydeco Kitchen & Cocktails‘ veggie and tofu pastas, and the dairy-free toasted coconut gelato at Bontà Natural Artisan Gelato.
Can you shop ’til you drop? Check out Axiology, Ericka Rodriguez’s vegan lipstick company.
10. Bisbee, Arizona
This picturesque town belongs to artists, writers, and lots of vegans.
At the organic, Mexican-inspired vegan restaurant Poco, folks can enjoy veganized classics like the grilled “chicken” and veggie filled Crunchwrap or the Quesadilla Tacos. Take a tour down to Thuy’s Noodle Shop, where you can slurp down vegan pho, and Old Bisbee Brewing Company, where you can indulge in some delicious, steamy vegan chili.
For a sugary pick-me-up, Bisbee Good Cakes has you covered with its vegan, gluten-free Blueberry Banana + Coconut GoodCake, and Pussycat Gelato offers an assortment of fruity and chocolate vegan sorbets. If you need a caffeine boost, an iced matcha latte made with a choice of house-made fresh vegan milks at Nam Sen Teahouse should do the trick—and be sure to order a plate of its michu chocolate mocha cakes on the side.
Note: Please call restaurants in advance as temporary COVID-19 closures recur in certain areas.
Pledge to Go Vegan Today!
You don’t have to leave the house to be vegan—order from local vegan-friendly restaurants, check out some awesome vegan cookbooks, and support vegan businesses. If you don’t live near any vegan hotspots like the ones we’ve listed—or if you live in a food desert—there are still plenty of ways to keep animals off your plate.
For animals, who have their own complex thoughts, emotions, and relationships, join the record-breaking number of people who pledged to go vegan in 2020. You won’t regret making the decision to live kindly—start today by ordering PETA’s free vegan starter kit!