How Veg-Friendly is Your Town

(article by:  Katherine Swanta)

Animal lover rejoice! Cruelty-free diets are getting easier to support, no matter where you live, according to this list.

You know when Bill Clinton adopts a vegan diet, something’s going on in the zeitgeist of American food culture. Meat sales dropped 12 percent between 2007 and 2012, likely due to the increasing evidence that eating less meat increases heart health, decreases migraines and headaches, and trims that bit of tummy fat you can’t seem to shed.

More than 7 million Americans now identify as vegetarian, and a small 1 percent take that a step further and become vegan. But both groups are seeing a growing number of restaurants catering to their lifestyle, no matter where they happen to live, according to a new survey. The animal-loving nonprofit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals combed the United States looking for the most unique and fast-growing vegan food hubs. Compiling feedback from a number of travelers, the group ranked cities based on the number of restaurants offering vegan options and the impact that vegans had on other aspects of urban culture.

Here are their top 10 cities for vegan food lovers:

#1: Austin, Texas. Deep in the heart of cattle country, restaurants in the liberal burg of Austin are bucking barbecue in favor of bean burgers and other vegan fare. The city has no shortage of vegan and vegetarian food trucks—PETA calls it the “vegan-food-truck capital of the world”—and even non-vegan restaurants have chosen to highlight vegan options on their menus.

#2: Portland, Oregon. A vibrant city hipsters flock to and their eating habits follow, Portland has adopted an animal-friendly mentality in everything from its bed and breakfasts to its salons and massage parlors. The city even hosts an all-vegan cycling team, Sizzle Pie Cycling.

#3: Los Angeles, California. It’s the vegan bar trend spreading through LA that landed this city on PETA’s list. Many of the city’s bars offer vegan beer options—beer and wine processing often call for animal-derived ingredients that help with fermentation and preservation—and each year the city hosts The Vegan Beer and Food Festival, drawing brewers and food artisans from all over the country to share their vegan creations.

#4: New York, New York. New York City is known for its food culture and diversity, and that diversity is spreading to its animal-free restaurants. No longer do vegans have to rely on sprouts and seitan to sustain themselves. With restaurants like ‘Beyond Sushi’, which offers an Asian take on vegan cuisine, an ‘3 Brothers Pizza Cafe’, which recently won PETA’s award for Best vegan Pizza, options are plentiful.

#5: Chicago, Illinois. The city known for its hotdogs and deep-dish, meat-heavy pizzas may not immediately bring to mind vegan cuisine, but it’s home to what PETA calls “the most legendary vegan-friendly restaurant in the world,” ‘The Chicago Diner’, whose slogan is “Meat Free Since ’83.” And new vegan-friendly joints are popping up all over town.

#6: Seattle, Washington. The Emerald city’s vegan-friendly university district draws animal lovers from all over the country. And, like LA, even local bars are hopping on the vegan bandwagon.

#7: Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s the city’s high-quality vegan fare and creative take on veganism, characterized by ‘Brewvies’ a theater-vegan restaurant hybrid, that landed Salt Lake on PETA’s list. The city’s eateries have won numerous awards from vegetarian groups for their tasty animal-free food.

#8: Las Vegas, Nevada. Veganism has so pervaded the culture of America’s wedding capitol that the city now plays host to a bakery that offers a line of custom vegan wedding cakes, ‘Pura Vida Bakery and Bistro’. Steve Wynn, resort mogel, modified the eateries in each of his four resorts to make sure their menus provided more vegan options.

#9: Boulder, Colorado. Perhaps not surprising, this Colorado city, known for its love of all things green, has vegan grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and bakeries galore.

#10: Richmond, Virginia. This city used to house factories and production facilities for every major tobacco company in Virginia. But now it’s trading tobacco for tofurkey, thanks in part to demand from local university students and people who attend the Richmond Vegetarian Festival. Heading to town? Close out your visit at ‘Strange Matter’, where you can feast on vegan treats while listening to live music.