A Vegan’s Guide To Dining In Indy
We’d be the first to admit our Best Restaurants 2018 listing isn’t the best resource for vegetarians and vegans navigating the city’s dining scene (except Best Restaurants winner Three Carrots). So we asked our resident vegan to give us the goods on going green.
With growing numbers converting to vegetarianism and veganism throughout the country, it’s hardly realistic to consider plant-based diets a fad anymore. So we sniffed out the best veggie-friendly restaurants in the city that serve greens your mom would be proud of you for eating, and tofu even the meatiest of carnivores would love.
It’s nearly impossible to be in a bad mood at this quirky vegan stop in Broad Ripple. The sign that greets you upon arrival has a picture of Happy Buddha on it, sitting cross-legged and smiling. The outside patio, adjacent to a colorful mural next door, is scattered with bright pink and green tables and potted plants—a hint at what’s inside. Ezra’s entirely plant-based menu is free of dairy, processed sugar, GMOs, and gluten, but in no way does this cause the flavor to suffer. Many of the fresh, locally sourced ingredients are harvested from the restaurant’s own farm. Several menu items, like the chai cinnamon truffles and falafel, are completely raw, which preserves nutrients and natural enzymes. The raw factor is perhaps out of the comfort zones of plant-based-diet newbies, but delectable nonetheless.
6516 Ferguson St., 317-255-3972
Sports bars usually traffic in wings, cheese, and other classic bar foods—basically the opposite of vegan. Until now. The Sinking Ship, a sports bar that favors wrestling and hockey, serves vegan versions of the savory, rich snacks we all crave. Chili fries, wings, mac and cheese, brats, tacos, chimichangas, and gyros are just the start, and not a single animal was harmed in the making of this game-time grub. We adore the vintage, themed pinball machines and arcade games scattered along the burnt-orange walls, plus the place is open until early a.m. every night of the week. And the dark, shadowy ambiance of the warehouse-style interior is the perfect cover for when your pant button pops off.
4923 N College Ave., 317-920-7999
You’re bound to strike lucky at Sobro Cafe—and not just because it opened on 11/11/2011. This eclectic cafe is reminiscent of every trip you’ve ever taken, or want to take, with its vibrant, internationally inspired menu. Sobro saves the day when the vegetarians and meat-eaters of your dinner party coin-toss to decide on a place to eat, as nearly every main dish offers several options for protein—tofu, seitan, shrimp, or chicken. Try the Thai coconut soup for an Asian feel, Cajun-seasoned tiger shrimp if you’re craving Southern, and the hummus deluxe plate for when you can’t make it to the Mediterranean. Take home more than leftovers, too: The local art on display in the dining room is available for immediate sale, and 100 percent of the cost goes directly to the artist.
653 E. 52nd St., 317-920-8121
Breakfast in a bed … room. Tables and chairs replace beds and nightstands at 3 Sisters Cafe, which serves home-style brunch and lunch dishes in an eggshell blue Victorian-style house in Broad Ripple. Rustic shiplap furnishings in what once were bedrooms and living rooms serve as the perfect backdrop for a heaping stack of their famous Lemon Corn Cakes or tofu scramble on toast. The cafe doesn’t feature an entirely vegetarian menu but has plenty to keep an herbivore happy. Your already-lengthy wait time for a table during weekend brunch may double, but try to score a spot on the outdoor deck in spring.
6223 N. Guilford Ave., 317-257-5556
Martha Hoover is a living legend in Indy, and Public Greens will help you understand why. This urban cafeteria dedicates all of its profits to The Patachou Foundation, which provides healthy food to at-risk, homeless, and food-insecure Indianapolis children and has served more than 9,000 meals so far this year. The menu rotates about every month, depending on the season and what crops are available in the restaurant’s on-site micro farm. Public Greens offers a few full-plated entrees that include some form of meat, but the key is customizing your own plate from their selection of snacks, nearly all of which are vegetarian or vegan. To try this month: pesto cauliflower and vegan quinoa chili. The outdoor patio adjacent to the Monon Trail is perfect for people-watching and dog-adoring.
902 E. 64th St., 317-964-0865
BurgerFuel is one of those rare places where indulging in a guilty pleasure won’t make you feel so guilty. This New Zealand chain has fueled a fire since its opened its first U.S. location—right in the heart of Broad Ripple—last year. Although officially deemed a fast-food place, BurgerFuel gives off a higher-end feel for a burger joint, somewhat like Shake Shack, but the cool punk rock theme as well as legitimately fresh ingredients give the Kiwi eatery an edge. Its veggie burger options are either a crumbed pumpkin, chickpea, and ginger patty with vegan provolone and aioli, or a mushroom basil patty with truffle mascarpone and plum sauce, and all vegetarian ingredients are cooked on separate equipment to ensure no cross-contamination with animal products. If it weren’t for the cardboard containers the burgers are served in, you’d think this bunned goodness was gourmet.
6320 Guilford Ave., 317-405-8362
On any given day of the week, Martha Hoover’s first-born culinary creation is a full house at all six Indy locations. It’s abundant with classic brunch staples, like loaded omelettes (including an eggless option made with a garbanzo flour crepe, tofu, black beans and pesto), french toast, and waffles. The avocado-topped multigrain toast is so fresh, you’ll forget how cliche and millennial the dish is. Brunch and lunch menus already offer several meatless options, and nearly all other dishes can be adjusted as such. This “student union for adults” gives off a total classroom vibe with chalkboard walls and black-and-white-checkerboard tile floors, but you won’t be pressing snooze with brunch like this to wake up for.
Sourcing from local farmers will give any restaurant mega brownie points in their community, so it’s no surprise The Garden Table has earned the adoration of this city for its freshly harvested menu. The shiplap interior, pale tile accents, and scattered potted plants give off a more-urbane Fixer Upper feel. Its seasonal menu fulfills every aspect of the sweet-savory spectrum, from the naturally sweet minty acai bowl topped with granola and fresh fruit to vegan jalapeño cornbread garnished with a warming tempeh white-bean gravy and sage chimichurri.
908 E. Westfield Blvd., 317-737-2531; 342 Massachusetts Ave., 317-638-0321