Being a vegetarian is nowhere near as hard as it used to be, but how do you sort the good places from the bad?
After eight years as a vegetarian, I’ve had my fair share of great and not-so-great vegetarian eats. More and more restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan options and there are more vegetarian restaurants around than ever before.
As a vegetarian, these are my preferences in Melbourne.
380 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065
“Now I think about it, it seems so obvious to take a vegetarian to Vegie Bar,” my companion said upon entering. Waiters hurried from table to table, tapping orders into screens, and the place was warm from the sheer amount of people in it. An exceptionally friendly and flamboyant waiter approached us when we’d barely stepped a metre into the venue. “Hello guuuys,” he purred. We’re told that the wait is 40 minutes and are offered seats in the back bar. After only 20 minutes, the same cheery waiter reappears and takes us through to a table by the window. I order the Mexican burrito. I’ve had a lot of vegetarian burritos that lack depth. Minimal beans, too much mushroom and never enough cheese. But when the plate arrives, I’m anything but disappointed. Rice, beans, nachos, avocado, sour cream and even a little side salad accompany the burrito, plus … the burrito looks amazing. Beans and mushroom in a tomato sauce, wrapped up with a topping of spicy tomato sauce plus melted cheese equals perfection. The taste matches the aesthetic – delicious. I’d recommend Vegie Bar for first dates – there are heaps of tables packed into the two rooms and canopy area, so you have no choice but to get cozy and you can have a cocktail or two out the back while you wait for a table.
Smith & Daughters
175 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065
Pretty quickly, you learn that this place is insanely popular. So popular, you generally need a reservation to get in and if you don’t have one, good luck getting a table. Smith & Daughters don’t really offer meals as such, but rather a selection of tapas – some that are big enough that they could pass as meals. I suggest you order three or four dishes to share with a friend. I’d also recommend the layered queso dip… It’s like nachos gone wild.
Madame K’s Vegetarian
367 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
I discovered this place when my favourite, Vegie Bar, was closed. My vegan friend and I looked around Brunswick Street hopelessly and this little gem caught my eye. “It’s vegetarian, right?” I said aloud. We scurried across the road and found that our prayers might have just been answered. Thai and Asian are their speciality, so if that’s not your cup of tea, maybe avoid it. My favourite is the green curry – but be wary, not everything is vegetarian, even though the name implies it. On the plus side, if you’re dining with people who aren’t, they can get their meat cravings satisfied.
Lord Of The Fries
If you’re not really up to a sit-down dinner, Lord Of The Fries is the place for you. Not at all fancy and more on the side of trendy, this is essentially the vegetarian equivalent to McDonalds. LOTF offers chips, burgers, hot-dogs and “chicken nuggets”, all vegetarian, and most things can be made vegan on request.
163A Sydney Road, Brunswick VIC 3056
Sick and tired of typical vegetarian food? Try the Cornish Arms hotel. First, try anything with the cheez; it’s vegan and tastes like the real thing. Second, it’s not strictly vegetarian, but there’s a whole menu dedicated to those of us who have decided that meat isn’t for our palate; it’s actually a menu designed for vegans, but if you don’t mind dairy, you can have it changed to be just vegetarian. – Taylor Yates
Top photo from Skånska Matupplevelser’s Flickr photostream. Other images from the restaurants’ Instagram accounts.