Life Alive, a self-described “urban oasis” with five local locations, has crunchy credentials in spades. Potted plants, rattan light fixtures, and colorful tapestries decorate each place, where grain bowls and salads are named like Healer and Southwest Sol. You’ll have no reservations ordering something with a wacky title, though, once you’ve sampled the red miso-sesame sauce or lemon-garlic hummus that gives these dishes their powerful flavor punch. This counter-service mini-chain has healthy liquid sustenance, too: Expect a wide range of smoothies, juices, and teas.
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Whether you’ve let your carnivore card expire permanently or are just looking for a little more green in your life, the meat-free options at these local spots are sure to satisfy.
Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of satisfying fare at Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant in Jamaica Plain. Meals revolve around the tangy injera, a springy sourdough flatbread perfect for sopping up stews like Misir Wat, spiced red lentils; and Gomen Wat, chopped collard greens. Can’t decide which wat to try? A colorful combo plate comes with a scoop of four or six vegetarian options (and this hearty cuisine makes great leftovers). Blue Nile is open daily with patio dining and takeout available.
Award-winning baker and chef-owner Joanne Chang’s Asian street food-inspired restaurant caters to a wide variety of dietary restrictions, vegetarians included. At Myers+Chang, those options never lack flavor: expect seriously spicy Cold Taiwanese Dan Dan Noodles and sinus-clearing potstickers with mustard greens and wasabi. Just like your favorite Chinese-takeout hole-in-the-wall, plates here are meant for sharing family-style. So gather a group of like-minded herbivores—preferably with a tolerance for spice—and order for takeout or patio dining.
No meat? No problem. Everything on the menu at Walnut Grille is plant-based—and also flavorful and crave-able. Otherwise, though, this “global vegetarian” menu will not be contained. You’ll find everything from soy-based “fingers,” fried for dipping in chipotle barbecue sauce; to Polenta Napoleon with fennel béarnaise and black-eyed pea salsa. There are plenty of fully vegan options, as well as dishes that can be made gluten- and soy-free. Walnut Grille is open daily for lunch and dinner, with patio dining and takeout, too.
Acclaimed chef and restaurateur Ana Sortun deals in Mediterranean meze, not strictly vegetarian fare, but the Near East inspiration at her three dining spots is great for plant-based eaters. There’s a good reason why Sarma, Oleana, and Sofra Bakery & Cafe take their veggies so seriously: They source produce from Siena Farms, the Sudbury acreage owned by Sortun and her husband. Menus change frequently, but the classic Spinach Falafel with beet tzatziki has graced menus at both Oleana and Sofra; and Sarma gets seasonal with dishes like Parsnip Fritters with cilantro and walnut; and Feta Cheese Gnocchi with baby artichokes, peas, and porcini. All three locations offer takeout and patio dining.
Stoked Pizza Company
Stoked Pizza Co. evokes pizza party nostalgia at its locations in Brookline and Harvard Square with a loud soundtrack, retro cocktails, and comfort food. The best part? No one is excluded, as Stoked boasts a fully vegan menu along with their standard offerings. There is a vegan cheese alternative for most of the pizzas, including the cult favorite Cheeseburger with tangy pickles and chipotle aioli, whose plant-based version features ground Impossible Burger. It doesn’t stop with ’za, though. Veg heads can look forward to Carolina BBQ Cauliflower Bites, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with maple, and even Chili Cheese Fries topped with spicy beans and barley and vegan queso.
Field & Vine
This Union Square Eden is not a vegetarian restaurant, but with a name like Field & Vine, plant-based diners can trust they’re in good hands. The menu changes frequently, but vegetarian snacks like lacto-fermented farm vegetable Pickles and Cheddar Cornbread with grilled scallion butter typically spring up. Depending on the season, herbivores can delight in garden-fresh dishes like Jimmy Nardello Peppers with sweet, rich saba, a syrup derived from grapes; and Grilled Arrowhead Cabbage with Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese, pickled ramps, honey, and cashews. Check it out for patio dining and takeout.
Koshari Mama is a flavor-packed vegan option at dining destination Bow Market, where a mother-daughter duo serves up nourishing Egyptian street food. The namesake koshari is a unique dish, which layers up lentils, rice, pasta, chickpeas, and crispy fried onions. It’s also an excellent canvas for house-made sauces like mild tomato-garlic El-hady or fiery Narr. We love the Eggplant Rice Bowl with Spicy Mama sauce (a garlicky vinegar); and an earthy Mushroom Shawerma sandwich on an Iggy’s roll with sweet peppers and tahini sauce. Grab a seat in the Bow Market courtyard or take your street food to go.
Updated by Jacqueline Cain