Melbourne's best vegan restaurants
Fitzroy’s Smith & Daughters looks like an old-school rock’n’roll bar, but the cross-shaped neon sign on the wall tells you why you’re really here: to ‘eat vegan’. It started with a Latin-tinged menu, but did a switcheroo to Italian in May, pulling of plant-based pizza fritte, cacio e pepe, carpaccio and even tiramisu.
Here’s the thing about vegan cheese: it’s usually terrible. How glorious, then, to pick up a slice of fresh-out-the-woodfired-oven Margherita and bite into a dollar-sized dollop of creamy white fior di latte sitting atop a tangy, slightly-sweet San Marzano tomato base. The crust: thin, lightly charred, with just the right amount of chew. The pizza: entirely vegan. This fantasy is now a reality at Red Sparrow Pizza.
This vegetarian and vegan dining institution has existed for more than two decades, and it just seems to keep getting more popular. It's always busy here, and it's the quality of the plant-based food that keeps crowds coming back for more. The specials boards are updated frequently and always worth the time to read – perennial favourites on the regular menu include the 'mostly greens' stir-fry, a bean burrito served with the works, and some mighty fine vegetarian pizzas for under a tenner.
This tiny Japanese cafe may be small, but it's mighty. They specialise in healthy Japanese options, with a range of proteins of the day that can be anything from a balsamic, teriyaki glazed piece of salmon to nasu dengaku with a range of pickles and wild rice. Japanese curries are made from scratch and their vegan ramen is the best in Melbourne.
This Fitzroy institution specialises in organic (and often raw) ingredients, which are used to create dishes that span the world’s cuisines and cater to all manner of diets and intolerances. Popular raw items include raw nachos, a raw nutty burger, and their innovative ‘Rawsagne’. Remember to save room for desserts which includes pecan pie, carrot cake, and cheesecake.
This take-away spot makes plant-based desserts: we're talking soft serve, gelato and cakes, plus maca fudge bars, matcha almond tarts and bounty bites. On the drinks menu, you'll find spiced mylks, cold pressed juices, smoothies and thick shakes (all vegan, of course). The best part? Girls and Boys is right next door to Vegie Bar, which means you can grab the perfect after-dinner sweet treat after feasting on hearty vego meals.
There's more to this health-conscious café than bright green matcha lattes and multicoloured luxury smoothies. The all-vegan menu is incredibly inventive: there's a fascinating vegan poached 'egg', a soy chicken burger and a hearty pumpkin gnocci. And don't get us started on the vegan slices.
This place gets hit harder than the Taco Truck at Meredith. Grab a small ($12), medium ($17) or large ($26) share plate and load up from their buffet of delicious and healthy vegetarian/vegan options, including warm roast vegetable mixes, simmered house-made tofu in broth, mixed grain salads, creamy vegan tofu dip and much more. Takeaway is $13.
This petite Mexican eatery is all about big flavours without the animal involvement: we’re talking mouth-watering tacos, burritos and quesadillas with vegan soy cheese. Our pick is the tofu asada burrito: the tofu marinated in a sauce that is satisfyingly smoky and ever-so-sweet. Just up for a snack? Go for the fries with paprika seasoning, washed down with a light Pacifico beer.
This boho-chic all-day restaurant serves simple Lebanese with plenty of pickles and very little fuss. This is everything a neighbourhood restaurant should be. It's loud, and it’s BYO, with service that's personal if a little bit shambolic during peak times. Vegans get a solid look-in here. Green beans are liberally sluiced in a jammy reduction of olive oil, chilli and garlic and falafel are soft, fragrant pucks made with a green and yellow split pea base for a sweeter spin on the chickpea classic. We’re also keen on a squishy, cumin-y plate of cauliflower florets and eggplant fried with dukka.
An extension of Smith and Daughters, Smith and Deli is loosely based on a traditional New York-style deli in Fitzroy where sweet doughnuts, croissants, tasty bagels and the perfect egg salad sandwich (perfectly named The Eggs-orcist) all come completely animal product-free. With communal seating and lively artworks and many munching away on faux turkey and other deli meat delights, it’s a friendly place to stop in on your way to work for a salad or a bagel, or on your way home in the evening.
The Green Man’s Arms is an Israeli-influenced and 100 per cent vegan and vegetarian pub on the corner of Lygon and Elgin streets. Food at the Arms comes courtesy of Israeli head chef David Raziel who uses serves up an ethical and seasonal selection of dishes. Falafel is on the menu (made to a secret Jerusalem recipe rumour has it), as is fluffy, crumpet-like lahuh bread which comes served with either falafel, fried eggplant, or green beans and mushrooms.
Lentil as Anything is a not-for-profit organisation that relies solely on the generosity of patrons, partners and volunteers and helps to provide employment for those less fortunate. Our pick is on the Abbotsford Convent branch, which offers a 100 per cent vegan buffet filled with curries, salads, rice, enchiladas, risotto, soups, moussaka, and shepherds pie.
Part juice bar, part café, Combi is the kind of eatery where every single menu item has at least one superfood (but the more the better). The café specialises in organic vegetarian and vegan feed, and diners have the option of perusing a list of thick cut toast and the super bowls. The smoothies are the main event here though. Not unlike the freakshakes of late but definitely more healthy, many of the superfood smoothies taste too good to be healthy but are indeed packed full of healthy fruits, seeds, and nut mylks.
Nutritionist Lola Berry and St ALi founder Salvatore Malatesta have joined forces to open up Happy Place, a superfood smoothie bar and health food takeaway joint, at South Melbourne Market. Mindful of food sensitivities and intolerances, the café and smoothie bar stocks plenty of raw, vegan, and dairy and gluten-free options.
Opened in 1972, Carlton stalwart Shakahari has earned its name as one of the most innovative vegan restaurants in Melbourne. Their hearty dishes are centred around Japanese and Indian cuisine, from bite-sized fried wedges of avocado to laksa and curries. The krub phom dumplings, filled with sweet corn, mushroom, pumpkin and walnuts, melt in your mouth.
Eating healthy food on the go doesn't have to consist of canned veggies and sad leaves anymore. Laneway Greens brings you seasonal salads and smoothies made to order using ethically sourced ingredients, cooked in a mindful manner.
More than just chips in a cone, Lord of the Fries now offers burgers and hot dogs but we (and the rest of Melbourne) love it for the fries and ‘sauce of the month’. Yum. Lord of the Fries can be found at Chadstone, Chapel St, Elizabeth St, Flinders St and Melbourne Central.
There are more than 200 outposts of this all-vegan eatery worldwide, and it’s not hard to see why. The price is right, for a start – and while the fit-out isn’t anything fancy, the real reason you come to this (mostly) pan-Asian restaurant is for the mock meat. Dishes range from ‘ham’ sushi and deep fried ‘prawns’ to Southern fried ‘chicken’. Want to try it at home? Loving Hut has a wide grocery selection, where you can stock up on mock meat and other vegan ingredients.
Built in 1854, the Cornish Arms was once a favourite for gold diggers (of the literal variety) and has been a main-stay of Brunswick social life for over a century. And they get top marks for inclusive pub meals. There's a dedicated vegan section ensuring your craving for firsh and chips, souvlaki and a parma are met without any animal products going into them.
This ultra shiny modern-Sichuan restaurant is Shu Liu’s first dining rodeo. There’s good news for bean fiends too. Around one third of the menu steers vegan. Crunchy little daikon rolls sprouting a forest of enoki mushrooms, chives and smoked tofu, balanced by salty soy, and a fiery pot of silken tofu swimming in a nuclear Sichuan pepper sauce are plain tasty whichever way you sway.
Head chef Thai Nguyen is from Hanoi and makes his secret family-recipe broths fresh every day and we are here to tell you that his meat-free soup is an absolute winner. The vegetable broth is complex, with deep earthy notes balanced by a cassia-bark sweetness that changes with each mouthful of chewy white snow fungus, black shiitake or rice noodles. Green choy sum and fresh herbs bring out the ginger heat, while fried tofu soaks up the umami in the soy.