Try one of the 5 best restaurants for innovative, sustainable, vegetarian cuisine from across the United States.
Hang out with yoga practitioners for a bit and the conversation, inevitably, turns to food—and our common desire to please the palate even as we attempt to fuel an exalted state of good health. As Boulder-based yoga teacher Amy Ippoliti puts it, "If I eat well I am so much happier." Ippoliti sticks to a mostly raw, vegan diet while traveling the globe teaching her classes, but she also enjoys indulging in dining out with the various yoga communities she visits. "I love a simple meal, but I do really value the foodie experience—there's nothing like doing the happy food dance!"
Fortunately, in recent years, the restaurant scene has evolved. Pasta primavera is no longer the vegetarian option, and there's more than spinach salad for those who want more than a token serving of greens. Across the country, inspired chefs are serving innovative, veggie-centric dishes that aim to meet the needs of principled food lovers who want sophisticated, healthful meals prepared using conscious, sustainable methods and served with style.
At The Plant in San Francisco—one of five fantastic restaurants featured in this story—dishes like a nutrient-rich raw kale salad and a ginger-miso quinoa bowl share a menu with fresh fish and poultry, decadent wood-fired pizzas (some gluten-free), and spectacular stuffed French toast, which is served for Sunday brunch—ensuring that there really is something for everyone's tastes and dietary desires. The restaurant is committed to buying locally grown, organic, and sustainably raised ingredients, and it uses energy-efficient appliances and solar panels to reduce its impact on the planet.
"From the way we source our food, to how we cook, to this very building itself, we wanted to offer our customers a completely healthy and vibrant dining experience," says The Plant's executive chef Sascha Weiss.
These values, shared by a growing number of chefs and restaurant owners whose fashionable dining rooms dot the country, resonate with many in the yoga community. "When I can go out and know the food is ecologically sustainable and healthy and that it's prepared in a way that stimulates the senses, I feel nourished in all the ways I can be nourished," says Ippoliti. "Plus, it just feels so good to eat something prepared with love, prepared with creativity."
The Plant (San Francisco)
The Asian-inspired, but very Californian, menu designed by chef Sascha Weiss invites indulgence without requiring you to break any of your dietary restrictions. The seasonal vegan chef's palette may include shaved asparagus drizzled with Meyer lemon, sweet baby beets infused with orange and oregano, soy sausage paired with a carrot-tarragon purée, and earthy king trumpet mushroom carpaccio topped with lemon-thyme oil.
Gluten-free pizzas, every bit as enjoyable as their wheat-crusted counterparts, are topped with everything from a simple marinara to duck confit. Raw oysters, crab cakes, and fresh fish appeal to seafood fans, while raw foodists will rejoice at the raw raspberry cashew cheesecake drizzled with blackberry pepper sauce.
The Plant is located right on the San Francisco Bay, with gorgeous views of boats, bridges, and water, and it has an active bar scene where you can explore exotic cocktails or sip on fresh-squeezed veggie juices.
Location: Pier 3, San Francisco, California
Axe Restaurant (Los Angeles)
"Sustainable dining is an extension of my lifestyle, and I bring that into the practice of my restaurant," says Axe chef and owner Joanna Moore. An early supporter of Santa Monica's downtown organic farmers' market, Moore now runs a fully organic kitchen sourced from a roster of local farms. Among her many eco-friendly advances, she eliminated the use of disposable plastic wrap—an industry staple—in favor of parchment paper and reusable containers.
"As I've grown and learned, my awareness has grown and so has the way I run my business." Whether or not they know of her sustainable practices, diners enjoy the housemade flatbread with a variety of savory vegetable spreads, the mixed mushroom tart, the pappardelle pasta with ricotta and seasonal vegetables, and inspired dishes featuring sustainable fish, poultry, and meat. Moore has created a calm oasis using reclaimed wood, vintage Kilim pillows, and open windows that invite in the Pacific breeze.
Location: 1009 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, California
Dirt Candy (New York City)
Chef-owner Amanda Cohen's inventive style and exquisite attention to detail invite visitors to the cozy, 18-seat Dirt Candy in New York City to celebrate plant life. The dish "Cauliflower" features buttermilk-battered cauliflower and cauliflower waffles with horseradish and wild arugula. "Pepper" features a smoky red-pepper mousse, yellow-pepper soup, and a side of jalapeño chips. "Cabbage" transforms a humble vegetable into a daring Chinese kohlrabi salad with purple cabbage "wontons." Not to be missed are Cohen's sometimes-shocking desserts, such as rosemary eggplant tiramisu featuring grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton candy, and mascarpone. Also, check out Cohen's cookbook, Dirt Candy—A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant.
Location: 430 East 9th Street, New York City, New York
Tilth Restaurant (Seattle)
This Northwest gem, located in a cozy house in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, is known for its impeccable service and dishes featuring regional ingredients at their best. "I deal with local farmers, fishers, and ranchers," says chef-owner Maria Hines. "They have good-quality, local, organic foods, and it's important to have this connection with the community. It gives me a sense of place and reminds me that we are all interconnected." This local influence is reflected in her seasonal menus of dishes such as roasted garlic flan with cauliflower, capers, and green garlic; smoked bean cassoulet with oven-dried tomato, truffle butter, and brioche; slow-cooked sockeye salmon served with parsley root, parsley pesto, and sumac; and naval orange parfait with pistachio, candied tarragon, and fresh breeze cream. Try the five-course or grand tasting menus, both available for vegetarian or omnivorous diets, and look for the sophisticated wine list specializing in organic and biodynamic wines.
Location: 1411 North 45th Street, Seattle, Washington
Restaurant Alma (Minneapolis)
Restaurant Alma takes its name from the Spanish word for "soul," and for chef-owner Alex Roberts, vegetables are the heart and soul of every dish. Located in a preserved historic building with a high, open-beam ceiling, exposed brick walls, and a concrete floor, the restaurant offers seasonal, organic, sustainably produced American food and works with local farms (including Otter Creek Growers, Roberts's father's organic farm) and artisans. Vegetarians luck out with a four-course vegetarian tasting menu that might feature dishes such as Parmesan flan, arugula and asparagus salad with ricotta and hazelnut dressing, or crispy bean pancake. Sustainably farmed and sourced poultry, meat, and seafood are also available.
Location: 528 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Dayna Macy is Yoga Journal's communications director and managing editor of international editions. She is also the author of Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom.
Get the Recipes:
Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup by chef Maria Hines of Tilth Restaurant
Greens Marmalade by chef Joanna Moore of Axe Restaurant
Broccoli Carpaccio by chef Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy
Vegetable Sauté With Miso-Ginger Sauce by chef Sascha Weiss of The Plant Cafe Organic
Roasted Beet and Farro Risotto by chef Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma