The problem with “best of” lists is that they inevitably leave something out, then piss someone off. The common chant is: how could you include this and not this?
We understood. We reluctantly and somewhat regretfully left Haji-Baba’s Vegan Falafel Sandwich in Tempe… and Trash Panda Vegan’s remarkable Buffalo Chkn Sandwich in South Phoenix… and Pomegranate Café’s Mac Skillet in Chandler. Heck, we’re mad at ourselves. But you have to stop somewhere.
So consider this less definitive and more delicious vegan list, a range to help you start your meatless odyssey through Phoenix. But for you, this is definitely not a place to stop.
Vegan Combination Plate at Authentic EthioAfrican Kitchen & Bar
1740 McDowell Road East
Authentic Ethioafrican has grown steadily since it opened 10 years ago, growing from a 650-square-foot, two-table take-out joint to a 50-seat restaurant with a wraparound bar, handcrafted seating, and original artwork. Ethiopian inspiration.
Owned by husband and wife Anduale Hassan and Elsabet Tirune, what has not changed at the restaurant is the authentic service and traditional Ethiopian cuisine, refined recipes handed down from generation to generation.
Order the vegan combo platter and sponge the flavorful sides with bottomless injera, a spongy pancake made from teff flour. The bread is topped with savory wonders including meser wot, spicy red lentils flavored with Ethiopian spices, fossolia, green bean and carrot stew, beet and keyer potato salad, shiro wot chickpeas and ginger-spiced gomen cabbage. It is a festival best enjoyed with friends.
Carne Asada Nachos in Verdura
5555 Seventh Street North
Carne asada nachos Greenery do not hold yourself back. The plate is loaded with chipotle black beans, pico de gallo, a handful of sliced jalapenos and olives, guacamole, gooey queso sauce and a drizzle of cream, plus homemade seitan “carne asad”.
These rich, tender pieces offer a juicy, charred and smoky flavor. All on piles of homemade tortilla chips that manage to hold their crunch despite the torrent of toppings, probably because they come out fresh from the fryer, all hot and puffy. These loaded beauties are listed under “shareable” in the menu, but there’s no shame in keeping them all to yourself.
Jackfruit fries at the Welcome Diner
929 Pierce Street East
If there was such a thing as a perfect bite, jackfruit fries from Welcome dinner would come close enough. It starts with the presentation. A generous basket of thin fries – the crispy kind with the skin intact – is piled high with meaty chunks of jackfruit that are beer-braised and spiced just right with hints of cumin and cinnamon.
Next up is the coleslaw, a slightly sweet and slightly sour topping that adds the perfect amount of crunch and color. Finally, a mustard-based Carolina barbecue sauce balances it all out. It’s all just four seemingly simple ingredients. But when combined in one bite, you get a more flavorful and satisfying crunch and creaminess, a total taste bud igniter that sings with flavor and party appeal. Oh, and it happens to be vegan.
PHX Coronado Cauliflower Tacos
2245 12th Street North
There is a reason The Coronado never plans to remove cauliflower tacos from their all-vegan menu. The bosses would revolt.
By far the most popular and beloved dish, these hand dishes tick all the boxes of what makes a great taco. Corn tortillas are crispy on the grill. Generous florets of cauliflower are coated in masa and beer batter and fried until creamy on the inside with a crispy outer crust, before being dressed with crunchy nuggets, strips of vibrant spinach, a creamy avocado vinaigrette and lime wedges. All in all, it’s a totally composed dish with a comforting vibe.
Big Wac at Green New American Vegetarian
2022 Seventh Street North
2240 North Scottsdale Road, Tempe
The aptly named Big Wac is by far the most popular item on Green vegetables menu, and for good reason.
A total Golden Arches double-decker lookalike, this one comes with two hand-wrapped plant-based patties made with a combo of Beyond Meat and textured soy protein. They are so imitative of McDonald’s that if you close your eyes you won’t see the difference.
Add the toasted sesame bun, shredded lettuce, diced white onions, pickles, melted vegan cheese and Big Wac sauce, a vegan version of Thousand Island dressing, and you have a two-handed beast that surpasses by far the OG. Yes, you want fries with that.
Dalai Lama Vegan Pizza at La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria
4410 North 40th Street
Who needs pepperoni on their pizza — or even dairy cheese — when you have the Dalai Lama at The Big Orange.
This pie is loaded with heaps of plump roasted tomatoes, yellow peppers, Brussels sprouts and heaps of crispy kale. Each bite is enhanced with a signature sourdough that imparts a tangy chew and ensures that no crust will be left behind.
But the real star here is the homemade cashew cheese, a secret recipe that turns the whole pie into an ooey, gooey indulgence. Insider Tip: You can also add vegan cheese to Rocket Man and Mother Earth vegetarian pizzas.
Al Pastor Tacos at Earth Plant Based Kitchen
1325 Grand Avenue
When the taco craving strikes, head to Earth, a family-owned and operated all-vegan Mexican restaurant on Grand Avenue. But what to order?
There’s the Crazy “Shrimp” Tacos with beer-battered vegan shrimp topped with pickled onions and Baja sauce, carnitas tacos with grilled and pickled baby bella mushrooms and avocado salsa, and quesabirria tacos crunchy yet crunchy with homemade wheat protein, melted cheese and dip, all prepared on freshly pressed corn tortillas.
But if we had to pick a favorite, it would be the tacos al pastor with tender seitan meat marinated in adobo sauce paired with diced onions, caramelized grilled pineapple chunks, and creamy avocado salsa. Do not hesitate to wash it down with an agua fresca or a homemade horchata.
Buffalo Cauliflower at Vegan & Vine
502 Thunderbird Road East
The newly opened Vegan & Vine in North Phoenix serves a full list of vegan dishes for brunch, lunch and dinner – chilaquiles with fire-roasted salsa and tofu scramble, a cobb salad with a southwestern twist, a portabella burger with truffle aioli and arugula and homemade fries – plus a host of vegan wines.
But the must-have item here is buffalo cauliflower. A whole head of the stuff is beaten in flour, coconut milk and vinegar, for a vegan version of buttermilk, then fried to crispy perfection and tossed in buffalo gravy for a spicy finish. The heavy pieces are plated with creamy house ranch, crumbly gorgonzola and celery strips for an indulgent serving that will test even big appetites.
Vegan Pho with Pho Noodles
3417 Seventh Avenue North
If you want to enjoy noodles with your meat-eating friends, head to Pho Noodles, a Vietnamese specialty with steaming bowls of pho and perhaps the fastest service in Phoenix.
The majority of the menu includes meat, but the vegan phở chay is so tasty. Lacey rice noodles, vibrant vegetables, chunks of tofu, crunchy bean sprouts, jalapeno slices and fresh herbs float in a heady broth covered in spices and simmered for hours. It could make anyone vegetarian. Start with the gỏi cuốn chay or tofu spring rolls, meatless packets of fresh vegetables and Vietnamese herbs wrapped tightly in rice paper, or the tofu rang muối, crispy fried tofu bites coated in pepper and salt, for a vegan treat.