Off-the-Radar U.S. Foodie Destinations

Off-the-Radar U.S. Foodie Destinations

by Jack Shaw

The United States is a fascinating melting pot of many different cultures. You’ll find restaurants and markets on every corner serving fresh food, with each bite taking you to India, Greece, Italy, Mexico and other beautiful nations. New York and Los Angeles are renowned for their food, but what about the cities in between? Here are 15 off-the-radar foodie destinations in the United States you need to visit.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

albuquerque, new mexico

Albuquerque, New Mexico, is one of the most beautiful towns in the western United States, boasting proximity to the Sandia-Manzano Mountains and warm weather year-round. The city is famous for the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, with over 500 balloons filling the clear skies each October.

When in Albuquerque, take advantage of the plant-based options around town. Duke City features restaurants like Annapurna’s World Vegetarian Cafe and its three locations across Albuquerque. The restaurant has vegetarian and vegan options all over the menu, so take your pick among the wraps, burgers, bowls and salads. The cafe prides itself on delicious teas, with over 30 options.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so start your morning at Knead Dough Bar and Eatery on Gold Avenue. This Albuquerque staple features plant-based biscuits and gravy, rancheros, pancakes, and French toast. You can even order chipotle tofu to start your morning with something spicy.

Boise, Idaho

boise, idaho

In the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find Boise, Idaho, nestled just east of the Oregon border. The city’s development has led to strong economic growth in the last few years. The Census Bureau says three Boise suburbs saw population growth above 5% between 2020 and 2021. This change has welcomed more vegan-friendly options in the metropolitan area.

Located on Overland Road, Vegan Soul is one of Boise’s most popular plant-based restaurants. It features vegan fried chicken, Caribbean jerk sandwiches, tuna melts and burgers. The restaurant is famous for combining soul food and veganism — two cuisines you might not associate with each other. Save room for dessert with delicious peach cobbler made with only plant-based ingredients.

When you’re downtown, stop at Frondescence for outstanding Southwest vegan cuisine. The restaurant features build-your-own nacho plates, street tacos, barbecue sandwiches, and chips and dip. Order a galaxy bar for dessert for Frondescence’s take on Milky Ways — it has vanilla nougat and caramel dipped in chocolate for an incredible plant-based treat.

Brookfield, Wisconsin

brookfield, wisconsin

Wisconsin is a foodie’s delight if you like cheese and beer. Milwaukee — the state’s largest city — is home to popular beer companies like Miller and Pabst. The beer culture is strong enough to name the city’s Major League Baseball team the Brewers. While Milwaukee is an excellent city for foodies, you can travel to the suburb of Brookfield to find famous vegan eats.

Stop by Cafe Manna on Brookfield Road for an eclectic blend of plant-based foods. The restaurant features vegan Reuben sandwiches, mushroom burgers, gyros and lentil soup. Tea fans enjoy cups of masala chai and tropical coconut tea. These brews pair well with the chai spice cake and chocolate chip cookies.

Do you want upscale dining without being in a large city? Head to Melting Pot on Bluemound Road in Brookfield. The restaurant features four-course dinners with a big pot of cheese fondue to share. You’ll have plenty of vegan-friendly bread and vegetables to dip into the mixture while enjoying the bursting flavors. The dinner includes salad and a vegan chocolate fondue with fresh strawberries and bananas.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

chattanooga, tennessee

Chattanooga is a city rich with natural beauty and American history. Many call it Scenic City because of its proximity to the Cumberland Plateau, Appalachian Mountains and Tennessee River. Chattanooga has been an essential city for transit because it’s a center point for Nashville, Atlanta, Birmingham and other southern metropolitan areas. While in Chattanooga, explore the recreational areas and dig into plant-based food.

After hanging out at Coolidge Park, check out Cashew on River Street. This cafe is famous for its baked goods and coffee, but you can have a hearty dinner with its burger selections. Try the beet burger with a spicy aioli sauce and chili mac or cashew salad. Pair your meal with a glass of Natalie’s lemonade or Walker Brothers kombucha for delicious combinations.

Another Chattanooga staple is the Real Roots Cafe on North Market Street. This restaurant is a health and wellness paradise, featuring healthy smoothies, juices and wellness drinks. You can stop by and have a fantastic plant-based lunch with a jackfruit sandwich, red lentil chili and Buddha bowls. Real Roots Cafe is famous for its made-to-order paninis, with flavors such as Hawaiian, pimento cheese and pizza.

Chincoteague, Virginia

chincoteague, virginia

Chincoteague’s population is barely over 3,000, but the city is a terrific destination along the Atlantic Coast. While Virginia Beach and Newport News headline the Virginia Coast, Chincoteague holds its own with fun things to do in the small town. Check out the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague Lighthouse for amazing views.

Despite its small size, Chincoteague has plenty of plant-based options. Start at Blackfin, only a few blocks away from Black Narrows. This restaurant is unique because it operates inside a food truck. Each day, Blackfin serves meat and vegan options in burritos and bowls. Get a poke bowl with jackfruit or tofu, and add your favorite toppings.

The coastal destination makes Chincoteague a popular location for food-truck owners. Another mobile dinner date you can find in the city is Cosa Pizza. The restaurant serves traditional pizza in a wood-fired oven, but plenty of vegetarian and vegan options are available. Cosa Pizza allows you to substitute for vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts so more people can enjoy the delicious eats.

Columbia, South Carolina

columbia, south carolina

Military history enthusiasts love going to Columbia, South Carolina, for its rich legacy with the armed forces. The city boasts Fort Jackson, a U.S. Army training center and McEntire Joint National Guard Base. Locals call it Soda City, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the University of South Carolina.

Columbia is an excellent city if you’re looking for plant-based options. One of your options is the Good Life Cafe on Taylor Street. The restaurant’s menu is primarily vegan but includes some healthy meat options. Patrons love the sweet potato burger made with beans, quinoa and a garlic ranch dressing. Vegan house specials include the funky fungi pizza and vegetable pesto pasta.

In the South, you feel better after eating comfort food. How can you do it healthily? Visit A Peace of Soul on Main Street. The restaurant’s menu features plant-based chili-cheese dogs, jerk chicken, loaded fries and burgers. Side dishes include vegan macaroni and cheese, rice and beans, purple cabbage, and black-eyed peas. If you’re craving southern cuisine, you’re in the right place.

Durham, North Carolina

durham, north carolina

Durham, North Carolina, is home to Duke University — one of America’s most coveted institutions. The city was once integral for tobacco production, but those warehouses now house art galleries, shops and restaurants. Some of the businesses popping up have embraced plant-based recipes to entice the college student population in the area.

One of Durham’s best plant-based eateries is inside the Durham Farmers’ Market on Foster Street. Soul Cocina has only been around since 2020 but has quickly risen as a local favorite for its whole ingredients and delicious eats. You can find Soul Cocina at the farmers market each Saturday with heat-and-serve meals ready each weekend. Some choices include the shiitake mushroom burrito bowl, pupusas, chile relleno and yuca pie. Check the menu each week because the selection will change.

Visiting North Carolina means taking advantage of the barbecue scene. Where can you get vegan renditions of this famous southern cuisine? Head to Pure Soul if you’re driving to Chapel Hill. This restaurant features vegan barbecue sandwiches with locally grown soybeans and homemade coleslaw. Pure Soul also specializes in barbecue plates with delicious sides, such as vegan mac and cheese, collard greens, cornbread, and sweet potato waffle fries.

Eugene, Oregon

eugene, oregon

Portland, Oregon, is an American city famous for its environmentally conscious crowd. It embodies caring for the planet through food and recreation, with many other Beaver State cities falling in line. Eugene is two hours south of Portland and has some of the best plant-based eats on the West Coast. Like Durham, Eugene is a college town, with the University of Oregon heavily influencing the area. The college atmosphere creates a younger, eco-friendly vibe citywide.

Start at Acorn Community Cafe in West Eugene because it’s one of the most unique restaurants you’ll visit. The cafe has a tip-free menu and encourages you to pay it forward by buying another guest’s meal. You can donate online and contribute to the prepaid ticket wall. This list helps guests in case they can’t pay for their food.

People come to Acorn for the communal feeling and the delicious food. Order the banana pancakes with buckwheat, pecans and organic bananas for a tasty start to your day. At dinner, order the vegetables and verde for roasted veggies with quinoa, lentils, and green salsa. The strawberry shortcake will make you come back to Eugene for return trips.

Are you looking for good vegan eats in downtown Eugene? Head to Lotus Garden Vegetarian Restaurant on Charnelton Street for vegan and vegetarian Chinese dishes. Any night is an excellent opportunity for kung pao chicken, sweet and sour chicken, or Hunan beef. However, Lotus Garden gives you plant-based options using fried tofu, and vegetarian versions of chicken and beef. Other fan favorites include the double mushroom soup, seaweed tofu soup and fried veggie shrimp.

Huntsville, Alabama

huntsville, alabama

The foothills of Appalachia stretch into north Alabama, where you’ll find the booming metropolis of Huntsville. The Rocket City is now Alabama’s most populous city, boasting a population of 215,000 people. Huntsville’s growth has led to booming art, festivals, breweries and sports scenes. The city’s rise has also led to more plant-based options to appeal to more consumers in the Tennessee Valley.

Chef Will The Palate is among the most popular vegan spots in Huntsville and the owner makes the magic happen through a food truck. This local staple rotates its menu, so your selection will depend on the day you go. You’ll often find blackened mushrooms over rice, mushroom steak sandwiches, stir fry and various salads. For dessert, try the banana split for a terrific plant-based treat.

If you want a place to sit down, check out OakTree Bistro on Adventist Boulevard. This intimate bistro is also a farmers market, and serves crowd-pleasers like burgers and pizza. However, the plant-based element puts them over the top. The restaurant becomes popular in the fall when its vegan soups warm the soul. Pea protein and Impossible burger meat give incredible flavors to this Huntsville institution.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

lancaster, pennsylvania

If you’ve had enough cheesesteaks, head an hour west of Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This quaint city is older than the United States, with settlers chartering the town in 1681. Lancaster is famous for its vast farmland, allowing many restaurants to serve farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to customers.

First, stop at Root on West Walnut Street. This restaurant devotes itself to plant-based eating based on animal activism. Rob Garpstas — the owner — says he became an animal rights activist because of his daughter and wants to help the planet through his vegan menu. Visitors love the tofu buffalo bites, fish and chips, and pasta primavera. Check the menu for specials because they change weekly.

Head to Lancaster Cupcake on Orange Street or Granite Run Drive when it’s time for dessert. This shop serves delicious treats year-round with a seasonally based menu. Lancaster residents love the cupcake store for its gluten-free and vegan flavors. For instance, this autumn’s featured cupcakes include apple crisp, strawberry champagne and pumpkin roll.

Little Rock, Arkansas

little rock, arkansas

When traveling west across the Mississippi River, you won’t take long to find Little Rock, Arkansas. This state capital is the location of a rising vegan scene, with more restaurants advocating for a plant-based diet.

Head to President Clinton Avenue in front of the Arkansas River to find Blue Sage Vegan Bistro. This intimate cafe is a popular lunch spot for Little Rock locals wanting a healthy plant-based meal. Blue Sage Vegan Bistro is famous for its super fried chicken sandwich with cabbage, spicy pickles, honey mustard and aioli. You’ll barely notice it’s a plant-based sandwich because of how good the concoction is.

After visiting downtown, head south to MeMe’s Twisted Potato. This restaurant has become a Little Rock institution for its fresh ingredients and local farm products available for purchase. MeMe’s Twisted Potato prides itself on being a fusion restaurant, with entrees like Philly vegan tacos, cauliflower wings, vegan quesadillas, avocado fries and more. It also caters for the holidays and sells premade meal prep to Little Rock residents.

Omaha, Nebraska

omaha. nebraska

If you go to the Midwest, you must stop in Omaha, Nebraska. The Gateway to the West was on Lewis and Clark’s path as they made their way to the West Coast. Nowadays, Omaha is a bustling city of industry and home to successful companies. For example, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has its headquarters in the town. Amidst the crowds, you’ll find incredible vegan eats across the city.

Turner Park is a famous green space in Omaha and home to jazz concerts year-round. Across the street, you’ll find Modern Love — a plant-based comfort-food restaurant preparing its dishes from scratch. Seitan — a popular gluten-based protein — is the base for its buffalo wings and burgers like the mushroom swizz. Dig into vegan alfredo with cashew mozzarella sauce and the mushroom fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Imagine being in Omaha in the late fall. The morning chill has you craving a warm cup of coffee and something to eat. Amateur Coffee has you covered with your sunrise coffee and delicious plant-based options. Try a shaken espresso with brown sugar or a blackberry cinnamon roll if you have a sweet tooth. Food options include scones, coffee cake, waffles, breakfast sandwiches and other classic delights.

San Marcos, Texas

san marcos, texas

Have you ever taken a road trip through Texas? The Lonestar State is large enough for a vacation in itself. There are a few nice spots along the way when driving from Austin to San Antonio, so be sure to stop in San Marcos. This city is home to Texas State University and tasty vegan dishes.

First, stop at The Root Cellar Cafe on North LBJ Drive. This business serves breakfast and dinner parties, but you should make a reservation in advance because its popularity can make seats hard to come by. The Root Cellar Cafe has meat options but is renowned for its vegan cauliflower steak, beet burger and eggplant sandwich. Get the beer-battered asparagus fries for a fantastic appetizer.

Summers in San Marcos can get hot, so it’s worth stopping for a cold treat to cool off. Rhea’s Ice Cream is only a short drive from The Root Cellar Cafe, featuring dairy and vegan options. The dairy-free ice creams include vegan avocado coconut and mint chocolate chip.

Savannah, Georgia

savannah, georgia

Savannah, Georgia, marks its 300th anniversary in 1733, making it the oldest city in Georgia and one of the oldest towns in the United States. The city is integral to the American Civil War, the Girl Scouts, the Georgia Historical Society, and other famous organizations and events. Nowadays, people visit Savannah for its arts scene and gorgeous riverfront. Take a stroll through the city while eating terrific vegan food.

Head to the Fox and Fig Cafe in the North Historic District. This restaurant serves plant-based dishes from locally sourced ingredients. The Fox and Fig Cafe aims for a brunch vibe with its menu while serving food all day. Here, you can order chipotle macaroni with a cashew cheese sauce, barbecue jackfruit sandwiches and plant-based egg sandwiches. Pair your food with a glass of Chardonnay or an espresso with oat milk.

Does your heart desire Southern cuisine? The Hungry Vegan in Savannah knows what you need to satiate your appetite. As the name suggests, this restaurant is 100% vegan and for hungry people. The stars of the show here are spaghetti, cornbread, Impossible burgers and fried oyster mushrooms. You can find the restaurant on East Lathrop Avenue.

Wichita, Kansas

wichita, kansas

Wichita, Kansas, started as a destination for cattle drivers in the late 1800s, earning the nickname “Cowtown” among locals. Nowadays, the city is famous for its aviation, with Beechcraft, Stearman Aircraft and Cessna calling Wichita home. You’ll also find incredible eats for any plant-based diet.

One of the best spots in the city is the Sunflour Cafe on West Central Avenue. This cafe and marketplace prides itself on sustainable practices, shopping local and healthy foods. For example, the shop owners only source coffee from roasters in Wichita. The Sunflour Cafe only uses compostable and eco-friendly disposables to improve its environmental consciousness. Grab a coffee and a sandwich, and relax for a while in the lounge.

The Old Town District is in the heart of Wichita and features some of the city’s favorite destinations. If you want a plant-based meal, it doesn’t get much better than the Lotus Leaf Cafe on North Washington Street. This business features meat and fish dishes, but locals love the location for its black bean burgers, cashew cheese dip and creamy zucchini noodle plates.

Explore These Exciting Eateries Across America

Plant-based eateries are rising from New York to Los Angeles and Anchorage to Miami. Choosing vegan and vegetarian meals reduces your environmental impact, especially when businesses locally source their products. Eating plant-based meals also gives you the essential vitamins and nutrients for your diet.

Vegetarian and vegan eateries are easy to find in larger areas, but you may have a more challenging time in the smaller, off-the-radar locations. These 15 cities aren’t as large as Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia or other neighboring metropolitan areas in their respective states. However, they deserve your attention for their unique plant-based offerings. Check out these locations for a taste of vegan Americana.

Author Bio

Jack Shaw has spent the last five years writing freelance and seeing as much of the world as he can. He has a distinct love of traveling and exploring new cultures. Writings about his experiences can be found on Modded, The Travel Facts, Duluth Pack and more.

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