Gone are the days when vegan and vegetarian dishes were an afterthought on the menu, relegated to side salads or an obligatory vegetable-only entrée (here’s looking at you, eggplant parm!). Today, top eateries across Northern New England serve inspired and inventive plant-centric dishes. Here are 8 vegan and vegetarian restaurants that even meat-lovers will enjoy.
1. Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro, Portland
In a city known for its creative culinary scene (Bon Appétit magazine named it “America's Foodiest Small Town”), this longstanding vegetarian haven remains a standout. The minimalistic space has stone accent walls, simple wood tables, and wide-plank wood floors, but the menu is loaded with choices.
Asian-inspired dishes take center stage at Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro. The roster includes stir-fried, steamed, fried-rice, and noodle dishes along with appetizers, soups, and salads.
Popular choices include hot and spicy soy “chicken” sticks, a tempura asparagus salad with coconut milk–chili dressing, Malaysian char kway teow, and Thai ginger noodles packed with veggies and flavor. There’s also a Portsmouth location.
2. Vickie’s Veggie Table, Biddeford
About 6 years ago, Vickie Charity-McGuirk became vegetarian. “I was impressed by the positive impact eating a whole-food, plant-based diet had on my health,” she says. “The more I learned about it, the more I wanted to share.”
Fast forward: Charity-McGuirk and her daughter, Melanie, opened this bright, friendly breakfast and lunch café. Vickie’s Veggie Table specializes in cold-pressed juices, acai bowls, and veggie-packed sandwiches.
The top-selling veggie avocado sandwich comes on whole-wheat seeded sourdough bread with a house-made cashew cheese spread. The popular breakfast panini on herbed focaccia features Impossible sausage, tofu, and a house-made vegan mozzarella. Melanie makes a quartet of cold-pressed juices on-site: Apples, lemon, parsley, and ginger comprise the Wicked Tart.
3. Col’s Kitchen, Concord
Loaded nachos, wings, Philly cheesesteak, burgers, and milkshakes. This may sound like the menu at your neighborhood tavern, but at this casual restaurant, the American-style pub food is locally sourced and 100% plant-based.
The something-for-everyone menu at Col’s Kitchen has a variety of choices. Popular starters include fried seitan nuggets and nachos, which are taken up a notch with a drizzle of chipotle cashew cream. Sandwich favorites include a chickpea tuna salad and a reinterpreted Philly steak and cheese made with sauteed seitan.
The ingenious alternative BLT with tempeh bacon, lettuce, and tomato hits all the right salty, crunchy, and sweet notes. Ditto for the lentil walnut burger, served on a vegan brioche bun. Larger entrees include pad thai, seitan stroganoff, and veggie ravioli. Take your meat-eating friends here and you may just turn them on to veganism.
4. Country Life Vegan Restaurant, Keene
Looking for inexpensive, high-quality vegan comfort food? Head to this down-to-earth cafeteria-style lunch restaurant that’s been around for more than 35 years. Bins of feel-good, taste-good, 100% vegan fare contain no GMOs, no MSG, and no aspartame; most dishes can be served gluten-free, as well. “Our customers’ health is number one,” says owner Peggy Schauffler.
Burritos, vegan hamburgers, falafel pockets, and salads are always on the Country Life Vegan Restaurant menu. You’ll also find daily specials like shepherd’s pie, lasagna, veggie pot pie, spring rolls, and more. They make more than 30 soups from scratch, offering a different one each day. Vegan pizza is available once a week.
“We can tell you about every ingredient in every dish we make,” says Schauffler. “We can also tell you why we use it and how it nourishes your body.”
5. The Farm Café, Keene
You’ll find this homey café tucked inside The Toadstool Bookshop, with a friendly, knowledgeable staff eager to serve you. The Farm Café’s large menu offers a wide array of vegetarian bowls, soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, and plant-based burgers.
The reinvented vegan Cuban sandwich is a creative take on the traditional, with jackfruit carnitas, vegan salami, and vegan smoked gouda cheese served on a grilled ciabatta roll.
Weekly specials might include some kind of “compost plate” or “leftover bowl” that can be enhanced with optional additions. Or go for a quinoa bowl to leave room for the signature gluten-free whoopie pie or sweet potato brownies.
6. Revolution Kitchen, Burlington
It was a revolutionary idea in 2013: the first all-vegetarian eatery to open in this liberal-leaning college town. With a warm wood-and-brick interior and thoughtful meatless dishes, the intimate restaurant, soon to reopen under new ownership, remains a local favorite.
With some menu items changing seasonally, Revolution Kitchen uses fresh, local, and organic ingredients as much as possible, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. Occasional specials might include pumpkin ravioli and buffalo cauliflower tacos, along with miso maple–glazed brussels sprouts and guacamole-filled wonton shells with house-made vegan queso.
Save room for a vegan dessert like vanilla maple cake, coconut cream pie, or the famous chocolate banana cream pie. There’s also a nice selection of organic wines and local beers.
7. Superfresh! Organic Café, Brattleboro
This neighborhood hangout, which also offers rotating local art, cooking classes, and cleanses, has a serious “food as medicine” ethos. Chef-owner Jessica Jean Weston is also a holistic health coach. She nourishes the community with a 100% organic, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, peanut-free menu.
Popular dishes at Superfresh! Organic Café include the chickpea frittata; raw falafel salad; and raw pesto pasta with kelp and veggie noodles and cashew cheese. The setting, in a historic building overlooking Whetstone Brook Falls, is as inspiring as the food.
8. Vegan A.F., Brattleboro
Don’t let the plain-Jane entrance throw you off. Inside, you’ll find a lively, modern café with indoor and outdoor patio seating and an ultra-friendly staff. This new kid on the block, which opened in 2022, offers a loaded menu of innovative cuisine and vegan-only, flavor-packed dishes.
Choices include a mushroom-walnut pâté, Savoy cabbage salad with Korean seitan and kimchi, a rich portobello puttanesca, and the popular buffalo cauliflower wings.
Other rave-worthy dishes are the vegan sausage and shrimp jambalaya; barbacoa tacos with jackfruit, cilantro lime slaw, and serrano salsa; and the deeply seasoned fried tofu bowl. There’s also a well-curated wine selection.
New England–based writers Diane Bair and Pamela Wright cover food and travel for several publications and are frequent Boston Globe contributors.