West Michigan’s vegan dining scene has taken some real blows over the years with the loss of cult favorite restaurants like Bartertown and Gaia Cafe. Maybe the region just wasn’t ready yet — not enough people had seen Food, Inc. In 2019, however, the tides are clearly shifting. Gaia Cafe is returning, thanks to a successful Kickstarter, and plenty of restaurants around now offer more than a handful of token vegan options. Here are some choices you may not have tried yet.
Rise Authentic Baking Co.
1220 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids
Rise is the sort of place that elevates Grand Rapids to another level of cool. If you’re vegan or gluten-free, finding genuinely delicious baked goods can be a challenge, but Rise makes it easy. Every single piece of food they make is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and highly photogenic. Let’s just take a look at some of these doughnut flavors: cookies & cream, chocolate espresso, glazed blueberry, cranberry clove. Then there’s the bread, cakes, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, scones, tarts, cheesecake — really just about anything you can imagine. You can find it all at their new storefront, which is a collaboration with Squibb Coffee, and in other cafes around Grand Rapids.
Uncle Cheetah’s Soup Shop
1133 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
Uncle Cheetah’s business model is pretty much perfect for accommodating eaters of all kinds. When you have 12 rotating soups on every single day, there’s plenty of room for variety, including two to three vegan options on most days. Plus, if you’re looking for something a little more solid, you can get a vegan grilled cheese, salad or slider. It’s the perfect lunch spot or quick dinner option, and you can check out the daily soup lineup on the company’s Instagram.
211 N. 7th St., Grand Haven
If you’re ever on the lakeshore, Righteous Cuisine is your go-to spot. It’s an affordable, chill, counter-service joint that makes truly unique food, including multiple vegan options. For instance, you likely won’t find the Vegan Quinoa Sloppy Joe anywhere else, and the Vegan Taco changes with the seasons. Right now, it’s crispy potato, brussels sprouts, caramelized onions, kale chimichurri, black beans and cilantro. That’s a lot of taco.
16 Monroe Center St. NE, Grand Rapids
Sometimes in the vegan life, you just have to pluck up a little courage and ask what the restaurant can do for you. Our designer has found that Osteria Rossa will make a vegan pizza with whatever seasonal veggies they have on hand, and it just so happens to be some of the best vegan pie ever made. Or, get the spaghetti without the parmesan, which is equally amazing.
1710 W. Main St., Kalamazoo
Zooroona isn’t just fun to say, it’s a top-notch Mediterranean spot filled to the brim with vegan options. Half the appetizers, most of the salads and all of the soups are all vegan, just to start. Then you can head into the entrees, with options like the Falafel Burger, Vegetable Biryani and Galaya, which is a vegetarian sauté of onion, tomato, bell pepper, mushroom and pomegranate molasses mixed with Arabic spices. If you’re looking for healthy, vegetable-centric food from across the sea, this is the place to be.
38 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
834 Cherry St. SE, Grand Rapids
Cherry Deli and Two Beards are very similar, both offering a massive selection of sandwiches and wraps, including dozens of vegetarian and vegan options. Let’s just take a look at one: The Andre 3000 at Two Beards, with blackened tofu, caramelized onions, avocado spread, banana peppers, vegan bacon, tomato, chipotle veganaise, and romaine lettuce on nine-grain wheat. Basically, whether you’re into tofu, veggies, black bean patties or falafel, these two delis have your back.
The Mitten Brewing Co.
527 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids
329 Water St., Saugatuck
If we’re following stereotypes, no one would expect a sports-centric brewery to cater to vegans. But co-owner Chris Andrus, a proud vegan, wouldn’t have it any other way. The Mitten decided to set a new precedent and then some, with a huge portion of its menu being vegan-friendly. Rather than just have a side section for the herbivores, nearly every dish here can be made vegan, including its dozen-plus specialty pizzas. Vegan bacon, vegan chorizo, vegan pepperoni — it’s all here, plus every veggie you can imagine. Thank god most beer is vegan too.
816 S. Westnedge, Kalamazoo
Crow’s Nest has a huge menu, so it’s only fair that this comfortable little breakfast joint/diner sets aside some space for vegans. There are seven vegan items to choose from, including Vegan Reuben, Thai Tofu Stir-fry and Banh Mi Chay, and they all look delicious. You also can easily tweak any of the 15 “Egg Specialty” dishes, replacing eggs with tofu and removing the cheese — veganize me, captain!