Vegans on a Plane: Vegan Food on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)

I’ve copped to it in the past, and it’s still true: I secretly enjoy airline food. There’s something pleasing and special about getting served a meal 30,000 feet in the air. Pleasing, special, and absolutely necessary during long-haul trips!

Perhaps I should rephrase, though: I enjoy the concept of airline food. In practice, it’s often difficult to literally enjoy the taste (Turkish Airlines’ yummy options being a rare exception). That was certainly the case with the vegan meals on SAS, aka Scandinavian Airlines. I first flew them in 2018 during my trip to Tallinn, which began with a long-haul leg from Washington Dulles to Copenhagen (and then a short meal-less skip to Tallinn). I flew SAS again last month for a stay in Copenhagen itself, taking the same flight from IAD to CPH and back again. Both trips included nearly identical meals, so I’m pretty confident what I’m about to share with you is the standard offering on an IAD to CPH (and vice-versa) flight on SAS. Spoiler: It wasn’t great. Sad face!

SAS airline plane wing over a snowy and icy landscape

First, a note on how to request vegan meals on SAS. I booked both SAS flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, yet I was only able to request a vegan meal when booking my trip to Tallinn. The interface might’ve changed since then, or I might’ve just missed it when booking my flight to Copenhagen, but I was not able to request a vegan meal when booking my most recent trip. After logging in to the SAS website itself, I searched fruitlessly for a place to put in my request but found nothing. (No surprise; it’s a buggy website overall.) There’s an option to upgrade to a special/premium meal (one of which is vegan), but you’ll pay extra for that. Instead, I had to call SAS customer service and request a vegan meal (code VGML). After the call, a “vegetarian meal (non-dairy)” listing showed up on my booking reservation. I was a little worried that it didn’t specify VGML, but I did indeed receive a fully vegan meal on my flight. Whew! (Of course, if you book directly through the SAS website, you’ll probably be able to specify a vegan meal then.)

So, on to the food itself! On the 8-hour flight from D.C. to Copenhagen (and vice versa), you can expect two meals: dinner and a pre-landing snack. Let’s talk about dinner first.

On the D.C. to CPH leg, I was treated (ahem) to a rice and veggie dish, served with the barest minimum of tomato sauce. The highest praise I can give this meal is that the rice was cooked well. Beyond that, there’s not much to say: The veggie portion was comprised mainly of flavorless zucchini and summer squash, alongside a few bits of tomato and onion. It was certainly edible, but not memorable, and the lack of protein meant it didn’t really stick. The main dish came with a somewhat respectable side salad (served with a lemon-balsamic dressing, meh), the ubiquitous fruit salad (flavorless honeydew galore, alas), and a decent bread roll with margarine. There’s also non-dairy (and vegan!) coffee creamer in this photo, though I didn’t use it.

On the CPH to D.C. leg, I received a very unfortunate pasta dish. Unfortunate because (1) the pasta was overcooked and a bit gag-inducingly soft, and (2) the spinach-mushroom-tomato topping was simply flavorless. Ugh, what a textural nightmare! And look at that sad side salad. Whereas the previous salad at least had some color (and legitimately crisp lettuce), this one was so pale and limp and lifeless. And what are those bizarre pale sticks on top?! They had the texture of jicama but the flavor of nothing. Just sad. As was the dressing; that tube contains a vile, sweet, oily dressing that I hope never to encounter again. Even the roll was lackluster. (YMMV; the first time I flew this route, the roll was fine.) Redemption came in the form of dessert, a rarity on VGML orders. This chocolate-coconut ganache was legitimately delicious and legitimately rich, and I was so pleased when I saw it on my tray during the Copenhagen trip — I remembered how lovely it’d been from my last trip! It’s topped with toasted coconut flakes and truly makes up for the rest of this sad meal.

Don’t expect anything quite so lovely on your pre-landing snack, however. Especially not on the IAD — CPH route!

This meal includes applesauce (unsweetened if you get Lucky Leaf brand; sweetened if you get Mott’s), orange juice, a tiny sandwich, and either fresh fruit or a bag of extremely sweet dried fruit. And margarine, for some opaque reason. Maybe it’s meant for the sandwich? Butter would certainly improve it, because the sandwich is a big stack of nothingness, just bread stuffed with cucumber, tomato, lettuce, and some kind of flavorless spread. Seriously sad.

The pre-landing snack on the CPH — IAD route is marginally better for one reason only: cold-pressed juice. Legitimately delicious strawberry-apple-blackcurrant juice that I would pay real-world dollars for. Sooo good and tasty, a nice blend of sweet and tart. I received this juice both times I flew this route, and I was thrilled to see it again on my tray. The sandwich, not so much. Though you’d expect that dark, seedy, rich-looking bread to have a robust flavor to match its appearance, in truth it was quite flavorless. Perhaps we can blame the altitude, or the fact that it was served quite cold (urgh). The lackluster bread was filled with equally lackluster ingredients, so lackluster I cannot even recall them properly. Lettuce, perhaps? And a flavorless spread you can just see in that photo. Meh.

In summary, the vegan options on SAS exist, but they are not terribly exciting. They are, however, redeemed by a few true highlights: cold-pressed juice and delicious chocolate ganache. Both of those were served on the route originating in Copenhagen, so you can thank European air catering for those.

Have you flown a different SAS route? What was your meal experience?

Vegan Travel: An All-Vegan Cruise in Norway

A little over six months ago, Steven and I were drinking our weight in vegan Irish coffees, gorging ourselves on all-you-can-eat vegan food, and enjoying some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.

We also happened to be on a cruise.

All-vegan cruise in Bergen, Norway
Which, if you know me, may seem like an odd choice. For one, I’m a bit of a control freak enthusiast when it comes to traveling, preferring to make my own plans and set my own schedule. (And, as an introvert, I prefer to spend a decent amount of that schedule alone!) Plus, I’m frugal. “All-inclusive” and “luxury” are not exactly in my personal travel vocabulary. And finally, I’m leery of the environmental effects of cruises and of their less-than-savory reputation when it comes to how they treat their employees.

So why, then, did Steven and I put down a big chunk o’ change to spend a week WITH OTHER PEOPLE on a CRUISE SHIP that was essentially ALL-INCLUSIVE?!

Well, friends, we were on an all-vegan cruise, where we could stuff as much vegan food as we wanted down our gullets before spending our days immersed in pristine, gorgeous nature. Curious? I don’t blame you. Settle in, because I’ve got a LOT to say about this experience — all completely candid, of course.

What is a vegan cruise? Who operates them? Why would I want to join one?!

Eidfjord, Norway -- all-vegan cruise of Norway

The first time I heard about Vegan River Cruises (aka Vegan Travel), a German company that organizes all-veg cruises throughout Europe, my ears perked right on up. (Or rather, my eyes bulged — I’m pretty sure I saw it on Reddit first!) I’d always been more interested in the concept of river cruising than ocean cruising, because the boats are smaller, newer, and more eco-friendly, and I loved the idea of seeing European cities from a new perspective. But I’ve always hesitated when it comes to all-inclusives (including cruises) because I don’t want to miss out on the food. Sure, the kitchen might be able to churn out a vegan meal each night, and yeah, you might have access to a salad bar, butttt… let’s be honest. That is NOT the equivalent of the buffets and smorgasbords that characterize most cruises. I would be a grumpy vegan if I had to watch people stuffing their faces 24/7 while I twiddled my thumbs and counted down the hours till dinner. So, when I realized that literally ALL THE FOOD on the VRC ships would be vegan, I was instantly tempted. And when I learned that all toiletries on these cruises are also vegan and cruelty-free, I put another tick in the “SIGN ME UP NOW” column.

Let me backtrack for a second, because it’s important to understand exactly what Vegan River Cruises does. The company itself does not operate or sail ships. Instead, they make arrangements with existing cruise companies to run one-off all-vegan sailings, typically on the company’s existing routes. The boats are still captained and serviced by their regular staff, but behind the scenes, the folks at Vegan River Cruises work super hard to make sure everything is vegan. Well in advance of the trip, they work with chefs — often bringing in an advisor or consultant — to help veganize existing meals and dream up new veg options. They also recommend cruelty-free toiletry brands to stock the bathrooms and vegan vintners to stock the bars.

I’d been monitoring Vegan River Cruises’ upcoming journeys for a few months when I saw a new one pop up: their first-ever cruise of the Norwegian fjords. These majestic soaring mountains and their pristine waters had been on my must-visit list for a while, and I’d always heard that the best way to experience the fjords is by sailing through them. (That’s why many tour companies in Norway offer day-long sailing trips from popular ports.) So, we figured,  why not make a week-long trip of it, hitting up quite a few of these picturesque ports and gorging ourselves on endless amounts of vegan food?

That’s just what we did. We booked our tickets in January 2017, and in September, we hopped a flight to London and prepared to set sail.

Are vegan cruises a good value?

This is definitely a “your mileage may vary” question! Compared to my typical vacation style, the cruise was definitely more expensive. (We did cut down on costs by booking round-trip tickets to London, from whence the cruise departed, on airline points.) We paid £1,249 each for our cabin, which had a really nice-sized window. (No balcony, but it was chilly anyway!) That’s roughly $1,700 a person with today’s exchange rate.  (I’m wincing just thinking about that price. This was a splurge for us!) This price included seven nights of lodging and all our meals (including breakfast the day of departure) and averages out to about $250 per day per person. We stopped at four ports: Eidfjord, Flåm, Nordfjord, and Bergen. (We were scheduled to go to Geiranger rather than Nordfjord, but weather conditions prompted a change of plans.)

Vegan meal at Kaf in Bergen, NorwayFor a trip to Norway, this was a decent value… but that’s because Norway is notoriously expensive. In fact, the one day we had lunch off the ship at a cute place called Kaf in Bergen, we were pretty shocked at how much a relatively small — albeit delicious — meal cost: nearly $50 for both of us, including a drink for Steven. (Grainy photo at left!) Had we paid for lodgings, all our meals, and transportation to all the ports we visited in Norway without being super frugal, I have no doubt we would have spent nearly as much as our cruise cost. Plus, there’s the intangible benefit of not having to worry about finding food, booking lodgings, and arranging transportation… and I think that does count for something!

It’s worth noting that the smaller — and more traditional — river cruises tend to be less expensive. VRC just started advertising a December cruise of a few Christmas markets in Switzerland and Germany (!!!), and it’s actually quite reasonably priced; twin cabins start at just 499€ for five nights, and obviously that includes all your meals as well.

What does a vegan cruise include?

Vegan Irish coffee on all-vegan cruise

See above — a cabin and all your meals. You can also tack on a drinks package with unlimited beer, wine, and cocktails, but Steven and I did the math and realized we would have to drink quite a lot each day to make it worth our while. I know myself — and my desire to make every penny count — so I knew I might get a bit obsessive ensuring that our drinks package was worth it. Not wanting to force myself into drinking more than I might want/need (always a good strategy, eh?), we forewent the drinks package and just told ourselves we could splash out on drinks as desired. They were relatively inexpensive anyway, and we never felt deprived.

The cruise also includes all onboard entertainment… and yes, that did mean we had — gulp — a cruise director. He was exactly what you would expect, and he seemed a bit puzzled by the whole vegan thing, as evidenced by his embarrassing garbling of the word “quinoa” at one point. Come on, quinoa is like the least bizarre thing vegans eat! It’s mainstream now! Ahem. Other onboard entertainment was more targeted to the audience; Vegan River Cruises had booked the likes of Macca-B, Dr. Michael Greger, Joyce Tischler (of the Animal Legal Defense Fund), Gene Baur, and Tobias Leenaert (the Vegan Strategist). There were multiple talks and panel discussions each day, many of which were stimulating and inspiring.

Cow in Olden, NorwaySo, other than drinks, what’s not included? Optional gratuities for cabin stewards, of course, although tipping culture is not as big a deal in Europe as it is in America. Transfers to and from the Tilbury port, which you could arrange on your own or pay to join a coach from Victoria Station. You will also need to pay for shore excursions, if you’d like. Steven and I researched each port and discovered that most of them had gorgeous hiking trails just literal steps from where our ship would dock, so we only ended up booking two days’ worth of excursions (we stopped at four ports total). As mentioned above, rough seas prompted a rejiggering of our itinerary and we didn’t end up stopping at one of the planned ports, so we got our money back for that. We also ended up canceling our second one because we loved the DIY approach: disembarking on our own time and choosing our own activities. (An absolutely gorgeous hike in Olden, Norway, gave us spectacular views… and a chance to see a few grazing cows. <3) We also independently booked tickets on the Flåm Railway, an absolute must-do. We could’ve booked them through the cruise, but it was less expensive to just do it ourselves! On that day, we rode the railway up to its highest point, turned around, then got off a few stops later and hiked down the mountain ourselves, along with some newfound vegan friends who wanted to do the same thing. It was a great decision: We were almost entirely alone in the middle of towering forested mountains, passed by the occasional blur of a biker whizzing downhill.

I feel pretty good about our choice not to opt for any excursions. While I’m sure some of them were really neat, and they gave you the chance to go a bit further afield, our hike-heavy independent excursions satisfied me just fine.

What kind of people go on a vegan cruise?

You probably know the stereotype: Only wealthy elderly folks take European river cruises! That was not the case on our vegan cruise. We had quite the mix of folks of all ages, from hippie families with young kids to a seventy-plus-year-old grandma who had raised all her kids vegan (and without ever going to see a doctor, butttt that’s another story entirely). I would guess that the average guest was middle-aged, probably white, and probably vegan for health reasons. Which leads me to my next point…

What types of vegans go on a vegan cruise?

Oh, I was so ready to indulge in a favorite habit on this trip: people watching! I was incredibly curious about the kinds of vegans who’d take this trip… and they were all over the map. There was the 20-something Dutch couple we chatted with at dinner, comprised of a vegan nutritionist and her not-quite-vegan partner who was gamely enjoying his animal-free dining experience. There was the middle-aged Liverpudlian couple we sat with during another dinner, chatting about vegan food in Liverpool and their (extensive!) travels throughout the United States. There were lots of Brits, since the cruise left from London, and many Europeans. We met some Americans at Tilbury Port — from Alabama, of all places — and they told us this was just one of many trips they’d taken with Vegan River Cruises.

Will's Vegan Shoes dock boots review // govegga.comAnecdotally, it seemed that many, if not most, of the guests were vegan for health reasons. Which is not to say that they didn’t also care about the ethics, but it seemed that many guests were relatively new vegans who’d been inspired by Forks Over Knives or similar documentaries. In my extensive observations (ahem) of the guests, I noted that many seemed ready to buy in to the most outlandish, non-scientifically-valid theories, i.e. the idea that veganism is a panacea. I personally find settings like this uncomfortable and off-putting, where the general attitude is that veganism is the One True Diet and that it will Cure All Your Woes, and people indulge in a sort of cultish celebration of their superior life choices. I heard a fair few people complain that the food (more on that below) was too unhealthy, with too much fat, sugar, and “processed” ingredients. To which I say: SHUT YOUR TRAP AND LET ME STUFF MY FACE. IS INDULGENCE NOT THE ENTIRE POINT OF A CRUISE?!

…so, overall, there was some anti-science bullshit that turned me off, yes. But on the flip side, there were plenty of animal welfare-driven, more old-school vegans to balance it out. Plus hearing from folks like Joyce Tischler and Gene Baur — people who have dedicated their lives to protecting animals in one way or another — was a wonderful experience and a humbling reminder of why I’m vegan.

What is the food like on a vegan cruise?

The million-dollar question, right?! The food on our cruise was best described as hit or miss. There were some really delicious dishes — especially the sweets! — and some that fell flat, occasionally because they were bland and occasionally because they didn’t seem coherent. For example, every morning, the breakfast buffet included a tofu bacon/sausage (really not sure which) that was more or less a stick of tofu, marinated in something extremely salty, then dehydrated (?!?) till it was incredibly dry. Not chewy or toothsome, just dry as a bone. I kept taking one for breakfast because I thought they would improve their cooking method, but no — it was always the same dry stick of tofu. Bizarre.

On the other hand, I loved nearly all their afternoon tea selections! The tea buffet always included a mix of savory and sweet, with little finger sandwiches, scones, biscuits, and other lovelies — along with vegan cream for topping. Mmmm. There was an almond scone that I particularly enjoyed. And because everything was bite-sized, I could really fill up my plate and try them all!

Like most cruise ships, this one offered either a buffet or a sit-down restaurant experience for dinner. We availed ourselves of the sit-down option twice, and found it wildly erratic. My first main dish was a seitan-based stew that was, not to mince words, pretty gross: The seitan was far too spongy and the broth lacked flavor. It was, quite frankly, difficult to finish this dish.

The buffet was a safer bet, because there were always dozens of options — everything from a massive salad bar to multiple hot mains. One winner was a whole-grain risotto, which I’d never even thought of trying. I want to recreate it at home! The buffet was available for all three daily meals (plus afternoon tea), or you could custom-order something at the outdoor junk food bar (my words), like a pizza, hot dog, or hamburger. I only ever got a veggie burger once, but I enjoyed it — it was nice and soft and veggie-filled. Overall, the buffet had something to offer any style of eater, and I never ever left hungry.

Two anecdotes: First, this ship did a great job of labeling what was oil-free (thanks for that, One True Diet vegans!) but was horrendous when it came to labeling anything that contained nuts! Are nut allergies just not a big deal in Europe?! I kept thinking about my sister — who is extremely allergic to cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts — and what she’d do on a cruise like this, when nothing was labeled but they were presumably using nuts in a fair few dishes. How exhausting to have to ask about each dish.

Second, something more positive: During breakfast on the latter half of the trip, I overheard a family sitting next to us chatting about the food. The dad had seemingly just realized everything was vegan, and was asking his daughters about it. “Yeah,” one of them said, “Do you not see all the signs?! It’s all vegan.” This was interesting for two reasons: One, because how on earth did they book an all-vegan cruise without realizing it?! (My hunch is that Cruise and Maritime Voyages, the operator for this particular cruise, had some extra cabins to sell close to sailing and offered them at a discount… perhaps without highlighting the vegan aspect. Yikes.) Two, if it took this family three to four days to figure out they hadn’t been eating animal products, the food must’ve been pretty “normal!” (…or maybe they were just unobservant. And considering that all the signage at embarkation included “SAIL AWAY THE VEGAN WAY” in massive lettering, in truth all signs point to blissful ignorance.)

What is the ship like on a vegan cruise?

Time to ‘fess up: My Norway cruise was not actually a river cruise; it was a true ocean cruise. In fact, it was Vegan River Cruises’ first-ever ocean cruise, and I admit I didn’t really digest what that meant until Steven and I were at Tilbury Port, just outside of London, staring at a honking, massive, legitimate cruise ship. We had seen the ship in pics but hadn’t appreciated how large it was until we saw it in person.It’s difficult to get a sense of scale in photos, y’know? If you’ve ever been on a traditional Caribbean cruise, it was just that type of ship. Ahem:

All-vegan cruise in Norway

Honestly, I was a little disappointed… but I have only myself and my (willful?) ignorance to blame. I had been looking forward to seeing a smaller, more modern river cruise ship, but we were instead on a very large, very regular cruise ship.

And… it wasn’t great. The Columbus was built in 1987 (hey, just like me!) and it was showing its age (…I set myself up for this one…). Vegan River Cruises typically works with newer, smaller ships on their river cruises, and this one was not the norm. It felt dated, from the layout of the cabin to the overall decor. From what I’ve seen of the typical VRC ships, they make excellent and strategic use of space, so even a small cabin feels (relatively) spacious. Not that ours felt particularly cramped, but the overall style was just… bland. Dated. Plus, while newer ships are built with energy efficiency at top of mind, this one had one of those massive smokestacks that blasted out smoke into the otherwise pure Norwegian air. Not a pretty sight, and I cringed every time I saw it. That said, the ship had just that year been retrofitted and redone to meet new environmental standards, so presumably it’s about as good as a 30-plus-year-old ocean ship is going to get!

(On the related topic of working conditions, I have to admit that I didn’t investigate this as much as I should have — and I feel quite guilty about it. I know typical Caribbean cruise lines have pretty bad reputations, but I’ve always had the Pollyanna-ish assumption that European lines would not be so horrible, and that river cruises in particular would be much less stressful for staff. But this wasn’t a true river cruise, and this was a massive ship, so who the hell knows.)

What is the vegan cruise experience like, overall?

Path in near Norway's EidfjordIt’s actually a bit difficult to describe. For one, the entire experience was a little disorganized, on the part of the cruise line itself and on the part of Vegan River Cruises. The cruise line, for example, sent out horrendously incomplete and oblique emails beforehand, and it was painful to try to figure out how to book anything. Their website was a beast to navigate, a personal pet peeve. And the Vegan River Cruises staff seems quite small and overworked, so getting answers directly from them was also difficult. Many of us relied on a Facebook group to crowd-source answers, which is never what you want to have to do as you plan a wincingly expensive vacation.

That said, this was absolutely an amazing way to see Norway, and I so enjoyed the absolute indulgence of all my meals.

Should I go on a vegan cruise?

If you can lean in to a somewhat quirky and a little disorganized experience, go for it! If you enjoy VegFest-type experiences — and especially if you’re the type of person who attends lots of talks at VegFests — you would probably enjoy it! If you prize efficiency and getting the absolute best bang for your buck, maybe plan your own vacation, or opt for one of the company’s less expensive options.
Kelly and Steven in Norway
I will note that although there were quite a few Americans on our trip, Europeans really get the better deal here. Most cruises are charged in euros (ours wasn’t because it departed out of London), so you won’t have to deal with the nasty exchange rate that we did. Plus, you won’t have to pay for transatlantic flights to get to your port! We also met a few people who booked their trips at the very last minute (as in, a week or two before departure!) and scored solid deals on their cabins, which you could probably not do as an American who would also need to book flights across the pond.

Personally, I would love to try a more traditional river cruise… and quite honestly, I’m seriously considering the Christmas markets one next December! I’ve been to Germany before, but I’d love the chance to tick Switzerland off my list. Plus, Steven and I had already batted around the idea of a Christmas market-focused holiday trip, and this could be a fun way to make that happen. Who’s in?!

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Vegan travel: What it's like on a vegan cruise in Europe // govegga.com

Disclaimer: This is a wholly candid and unprompted review! We paid for our vegan ocean cruise and have no affiliation with Vegan River Cruises.

Vegan in Rotterdam

Poor Rotterdam. It never had a fighting chance to win my affections. I arrived on a chilly, rainy afternoon after spending a few (relatively) warm, sunny days in Amsterdam. With my hood up against the wind and the occasional raindrop, I began the half-hour walk from the (admittedly striking) train station to my AirBnB with a minor sense of unease, and it only grew the further I walked. It wasn’t that the city seemed unsafe — more that it was slightly unwelcoming. I saw almost no one on my half-hour walk, a striking change after busy Amsterdam. The streets were unsettlingly quiet. The city gave off a distinctly barren vibe. The modern, clean lines of Rotterdam’s buildings were a jarring change from Amsterdam’s old-world charm, and they didn’t do much for me on that grey day.

Rotterdam central station

Shout out to Mr. Yawning Scooterist! (The blue skies appeared the morning I left… of course.)

I wish I could say my impression improved as the day went on, that I found a bit of charm in a seemingly charmless city. It didn’t happen, though. Perhaps the weather was to blame, but I found myself listless and anxious to leave. I gave the city a fighting chance, or as fighting a chance as I could in just under 24 hours. I had a good wander and I saw a few of the top sights, but I just didn’t connect with it.

Which is not to say the city has nothing to recommend it. The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen was an absolute highlight, with a surprisingly diverse collection. Although I got in for free thanks to my Museum Pass, I’d have happily paid the price of admission (€17,50 for adults as of January 2018). An eclectic yet engaging mix of Old Masters, Impressionists, Expressionists, Surrealists (and undoubtedly many more -ists) makes up the main collection, so you’re not sure what to expect in the next room. It’s also quite an educational spot; I didn’t know much about the De Stijl movement before spending time here, but the curators have done an excellent job of tracking the movement and I spent good long time reading through the signage. (Which, as a side note, is why I adore solo museum-ing. Free reign to… read!)

The museum also houses a fantastic display of “household objects that chart the history of design over eight centuries.” As I wandered through the basement rooms, I kept expecting the collection to come to an end — and then I’d turn the corner and find yet another room of, say, mid-century modern chairs or pipes used throughout the ages (including a charming one shaped like a dog).

The museum was blissfully quiet and uncrowded, a welcome change from the tourist-filled museums of Amsterdam. I was impressed and gratified I’d made the walk, and spent a few happy hours exploring.

Vegan cake in RotterdamAfter all that intense arting, I needed sustenance — in the form of cake. I headed to Heavenly Cupcakes, grateful for a chance to sit indoors and sip a hot beverage after a chilly walk. I ordered a slice of vanilla cake with raspberries and buttercream; it was perfectly serviceable, if a bit dense in texture. My perfect afternoon pick-me-up would’ve included a side of espresso, but alas: The espresso machine was being serviced at the very moment I stopped by. A pot of hot tea made a suitable replacement, and I enjoyed a leisurely snack in the otherwise empty cafe before heading back into the chill.

Suitably sugared up, I walked to the can’t-miss destination you’ll find on all city guides to Rotterdam: the Markthal (Market Hall). 

A vast indoor market characterized by its striking curved and reflective exterior, a dizzying indoor mural, and dozens of stalls, the Markthal is as good a place as any to spend a few hours in Rotterdam. Although it previously housed a vegan-friendly eatery, on my visit the Markthal was sadly devoid of much vegan fare, as far as I could tell. Still, there were plenty of bulk shops and a few bars, so you can always buy looseleaf tea and/or get a beer! Neither of which I did, but — you could.

The area around the Markthal also features the stunning elevated yellow cube houses that sometimes pop up on Pinterest and make you do a double-take. They’re even more impressive in person than in photos, and I wandered in the little cube-y “neighborhood” for a good while, wondering whether I should’ve shelled out for an AirBnB room in one of them. But I hadn’t, so eventually I returned to my regular ol’ AirBnB to charge my phone and fret over what to do next. I decided to keep it simple and go for dinner. Burgertrut was just a mile away, so I hoofed it to this indie eatery for  — you guessed it — a burger.

The place was packed when I arrived, with patrons who skewed heavily towards the hipster more than the hippie. (I didn’t realize overalls are now “on trend” until I saw a band of teens rocking them!) Luckily, the relaxed atmosphere meant I could grab an open seat on a couch and order from there, rather than waiting for a table to open up. I was seated right next to a visiting artist who was working on some kind of wall mural; Burgertrut is just one piece of a larger organization that includes a public studio and a communal art space. We chatted briefly while I waited for my food, and then I adopted an awkward silence and pulled out a book to read. As one does.

While Burgertrut is not a fully veg establishment, it does have a fair few thoughtfully crafted vegan options alongside its organic meaty burgers. I opted for the curry burger with a side of fries and vegan mayo and found it all perfectly tasty (especially with a beer). Wholly sated, I decided to call it a night and headed back to my AirBnB.

The next morning, I hoofed it to Rotterdam Centraal where I grabbed breakfast: an Alpro vanilla yogurt and a cup of fruit. This ersatz parfait was a surprisingly filling breakfast, and I thanked the vegan gods that Europe sees fit to sell vegan yogurt in its train stations. And then I was off. Bruges was my next stop, and as I’ve shared, it blew me away.

So, Rotterdam. I left feeling perfectly happy to put it in my rear-view mirror, but also with a tiny crumb of regret. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected it to be like so many other European cities I love; by its very nature, it’s a different beast. Rotterdam sustained heavy bombing during World War II, and rather than try to recreate its older architecture, the city was designed anew in a much more modern style. And while I did enjoy and appreciate elements of that style — the Markthal and the cube houses, to name a few — perhaps I needed to clear my mental slate and judge the city on its own merits, not in Amsterdam’s glow.

Pooping dog statue, RotterdamAnd if I’m honest, there were a few moments that made me think Rotterdam had hidden depths I left unplumbed. I saw a few pairs of honest-to-goodness punks, for example, that made my counterculture heart sing a bit. These were not the try-hard young hipsters of Amsterdam but grizzled old-school punks, and a quick Google search does indeed indicate that Rotterdam is home to a legitimate punk scene. I’ve also heard that Rotterdam is tops if you enjoy clubbing and “nightlife,” but as I spend 99% of my nights on the couch knitting, reading, or re-watching The Office, this fact holds no appeal for me. (Another high point? Finding this statue of Fikkie the dog… and his poo. Yes, I consider this a high point. No, I am not ashamed.)

My most acute Rotterdam regret is not taking an afternoon trip to see the Kinderdijk waterfalls (see here and here). It had been on my tentative to-do list, but the timing just didn’t work out — you have to take a water bus over to them, and the schedule didn’t make sense given my limited time in the city. They look really lovely, though, and they remain on my bucket list.

All in all, with six months of retrospection behind me, I’m glad I visited Rotterdam. The cube houses had been on my to-see list for years, and my sense of the Netherlands as a whole country was deepened by my visit. Will I return? I could be convinced. It’s easily accessible by train, so a daylong visit could happen at some point — and definitely with a visit to Kinderdijk built in. Maybe I’ll even shell out for a cube house for a night.

Other vegan options in Rotterdam

My pre-visit list of Rotterdam vegan restaurants wasn’t huge since I knew I’d only be spending a single night there, but here are a few places I didn’t get to try.

  • Gare du Nord: Vegan bistro in a train car! Lots of organic and local options. Reservations recommended.
  • Happy Kitchen: Eco-friendly eatery and small grocery store featuring vegan goods that skew towards the organic, raw, and whole-foods-based.
  • Tribestlife Raw Food Kitchen: Café with a bevy of raw, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan menu items. Choose among small bites, heartier dishes, sweet treats, and plenty of hot and cold drinks.

Where to stay in Rotterdam

I opted for a private room in an AirBnB since I was essentially just there for the night. New to AirBnB? Use my referral link to save $40 on your first booking!

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Vegan in Bruges

Kelly in Bruges

Bruges: the sleeper hit of my recent trip to Holland and Belgium. I booked two nights in this small city on a bit of a whim; I knew it was deliciously quaint and charming, but not much more than that. As a consummate planner and preparer, even this tiny dipping of the toe into semi-spontaneous travel was exhilarating. But then, the night before I arrived, I started to regret my choice.

It was a Wednesday night in Rotterdam. I was bored. I was cold. I was heading to Belgium the following morning and I was wondering whether I’d made a mistake. I’d been enjoying Amsterdam so much that by comparison, Rotterdam couldn’t help but disappoint me. (More on that later.) What if Bruges was the same? What if I found myself in a boring, tiny city with nothing to do, nothing to see, and only the relative comfort of a few vegan restaurants to sustain me? Why had I booked two whole nights there without doing more research?!

Bruges, Belgium // copyright Kelly WilliamsWell. Those fears were, of course, unfounded. My arrival in Bruges felt charmed. The sun was out, the day was warm, and I was riding high after a brief stop in Antwerp to change trains. I’d found Antwerp absolutely breathtaking, to my surprise and delight, and my expectations for Bruges were raised in kind.

The whole walk into Bruges from the central train station had me grabbing my phone to snap photo after photo, mouth agog in sheer delight and surprise at the city’s charm. It’s impossibly quaint, like something out of a Disney movie. And it’s a bit like Amsterdam writ small, with slightly shorter buildings, fewer canals, and a more compact city center. I’m sure the fact that I was staying in a incredible 500-year-old canal-side hotel didn’t hurt my impression of the place! (See below. Shout out to travel hacking!)

Hotel Ter Brughe, Bruges, Belgium

Even the crowd is different. Whereas Amsterdam plays host to droves of hen parties, stag parties, and college students on break, Bruges’ visitors seemed of a more — ahem — mature inclination. I’m guessing it’s a popular stop on European bus tours that cater to older travelers, because I saw quite a few groups of pensioners following a tour guide’s bobbing umbrella around the city. To my partying-averse self, that was a good thing (even if I did have to endure the slow-moving groups clogging up the sidewalks more than a few times). I’ll take a dozen retirees dawdling through a guided tour over a dozen liquored-up frat boys any day of the week.

Bruges, BelgiumAnd about that fear of boredom: Bruges may be small, but there’s lots to see and do. Even though I took it easy on the touristing front, I was never bored. I visited just a few hotspot locations and instead spent my time enjoying the sunshine, meandering through the blissfully bike-free streets (well, relatively bike-free), and eating. Always eating.

It’s surprisingly easy to find vegan food in Bruges, especially considering that this is a relatively small city. I spent two nights and barely two days there, so I didn’t get to sample everything, but I was so impressed with the places I did visit. Read on for details and a list of the eateries I didn’t get to try.

#food

If you are in Bruges, go to #food (pronounce it “hashtag food”) for dinner. If it’s sunny, ask to sit outside — there’s a hidden patio out back, so you can enjoy the sun while you enjoy some fantastically creative food. This relatively new restaurant does serve meat, but it’s also incredibly vegan-friendly. Everything is clearly labeled, and the servers get it when you say you’re vegan: after ordering my vegan entree, my server brought me a bowl of spicy popcorn and reassured me that it was vegan even before I had a chance to ask.

#food is definitely trying hard to project an image of quirky eccentricity, which generally irks me. (Everything is very colorful, and the restaurant eschews place mats, opting for records instead.) However, the menu is so genuinely creative and playful that it justifies all that quirky decor. I ordered the Coconut Oil, which is described as “lasagna with coconut, sweet ’n sour sauce, pineapple and lots of veggies, with fruity salad.”

Now, calling this dish “lasagna” is a bit of a stretch… but who cares when it tastes so good? Thinly sliced zucchini, pineapple chunks, and coconut made up the bulk of this souffle-esque casserole-y dish. (It really defied description.) I wasn’t sure whether I’d like the sweet ‘n sour flavor profile, but it was absolutely perfect alongside the tropical ingredients. And thanks to a generous topping of pomegranate seeds, toasted coconut, edible flowers (!), and passionfruit, there were plenty of textures to set off the more souffle-like main dish. The fruity salad on the side was also a masterpiece, featuring a very light vinaigrette over salad greens, tomatoes, grated carrots, golden raisins, strawberries, grapes, orange slices, and a gorgeous Rainier cherry on top. The fact that I thoroughly enjoyed this salad must be a testament to my more refined palate, right? Because this combination of fruit and veggies in the same dish would not have met with my approval just a few years ago!

#food is a bit on the pricey side, especially for Bruges, but I considered it well worth my money for the attentive service and the thoughtfully prepared dishes. I was seated by a large British family who ordered quite a few different dishes, and to a person they all raved about their meals. My only regret: not ordering dessert. But! On the way out, the server (who I believe is the owner) handed me a raspberry aquafaba meringue. “For our vegan guests,” he said. What a treat.

Editor’s note, 06/2018: #food has moved locations since I visited, but it’s still up and running and seemingly more vegan-friendly than ever!

Royal Frituur

In Belgium, a “frituur” is an eatery that serves quick, fried foods, including the famous Belgian fries. Royal Frituur takes that concept and expands it to include a bevy of vegan and gluten-free options. No, it’s not healthy — again, this place is literally designed to serve deep-fried foods — but it’s a fantastic option for vegans who are sad they can’t enjoy the fries from Bruges’ ubiquitous fry stalls. (They’re cooked in animal fat, typically lard or ox fat. Gross.)

royalfrituur

This is a small place, a little outside the city center, but still an easy walk given Bruges’ relatively small size. It was not very busy when I arrived around 7:00 pm on a Friday. Staffed by a single woman, most likely the owner, it’s a small, relatively unassuming joint, with all the various vegan and non-vegan patties, burgers, balls, and other fryables on display in a front case. What makes Royal Frituur so remarkable is the sheer variety it offers, from your average soy-based patty to the hazelnut one I chose. I believe the proprietor carries a few items from De Vegetarische Slager (aka The Vegetarian Butcher), a meat substitute specialist that supplies much of Europe with all sorts of meat-free goodies. (They have a great backstory, too.)

Anyway, my hazelnut burger was crunchy and filling, if not particularly exciting. I also got a small order of fries, which turned out to be too large for my small tummy. But the dip — a horseradish mayo — was really tasty. (Royal Frituur has six vegan fry sauces.)

bruges5

A few quirks of Royal Frituur: To sit at the small lunch counter, you’ll need to buy a drink (hence my sparkling water in the photo above). It’s also cash-only. Everything is relatively inexpensive, however, so it’s a great place to use up those euro coins burning a hole in your pocket. If the weather’s nice, forego the lunch counter and head to the park just around the corner. You can find an empty bench and take a gander at the Sint-Janshuis windmill, which is still used to grind flour today.

Other vegan options in Bruges

Given my short stay in Bruges, I didn’t get to try too many veg-friendly joints. The city happened to be hosting a food truck festival starting the Friday I was there, and all the flyers advertised vegan food. So I visited the festival and grabbed a couple of vegan momos for lunch on Friday. They were tasty, but they also meant I missed out on another restaurant visit. Oh well. Here are a few other places that never made it off my list and onto my itinerary.

  • Books and Brunch: Used book store and tea room with vegetarian and veganizable options. Only open 9 to 5, so best for breakfast or a light lunch.
  • De Bron Vegetarian: Small vegetarian eatery offering a single main dish each day. Cash only.
  • De Plaats: I tried to hit up this centrally located vegetarian restaurant on my first night, but it was unexpectedly closed (according to the hand-written sign out front). HappyCow reviews are mixed, but I thought it looked cute.
  • For a wonderfully comprehensive resource of all things vegan in Bruges, check out Trudi’s list on the Bruges Vegan blog.

General tips + recommendations

  • If the weather is nice, you could certainly do worse than grabbing a few to-go items at the many Carrefour Express spots around the city center and enjoying them in the middle of Markt square. I did just that one morning, with a super-tasty Alpro mango quark yogurt and an accidentally vegan apple pastry. (Side note: Why is quark (regular or vegan) not a thing in the States?! The Alpro version was a thick, pudding-like yogurt, and I loved it!)
  • For beer enthusiasts, a visit to the family-run Brouwerij De Halve Maan is a must. The beer you’ll sample on the tour (Brugse Zot) is vegan, and they even serve a tasty unfiltered version you can’t get elsewhere. I’ve been on plenty of brewery tours, but this was one was especially fun and informative. Plus, you get a great rooftop view of the city at one point! There’s also a pleasant beer garden if you want to extend your post-tour drinking beyond the one free sample. (And they have a crowdfunded BEER PIPELINE that transports the beer underground across the city to the bottling plant. How neat is that?!)

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Vegans on a Plane: Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is a great option for #vegan #travelers. #govegga

Last spring when I was planning Steven’s and my trip to Vienna and Prague, Turkish Airlines kept popping up with seriously unbeatable prices. (I think we ended up paying <$600 round trip from DC to Vienna.) Despite the rather long layover(s) at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, I ended up being glad we opted for Turkish — this is one airline that still treats its economy class passengers well. Here’s some of the special treatment you can expect on Turkish, even in economy:

  • Hot towels at the beginning and end of your flight
  • An amenity kit, including toothpaste, a toothbrush, an eye mask, slippers, and a few more doodads
  • Turkish Delights just after takeoff (this sweet is often vegan; not sure about the vegan-ness of the ones they serve)

Plus, they have more than respectable food! Turkish is well-known for having a bona-fide chef on board; although she/he primarily serves the business and first-class cabins, you’ll see her/him helping out during meal service in economy, too. I was extra impressed that they offered a full meal service on our relatively short flight from Istanbul to Vienna, meaning we arrived at our destination with full bellies. That’s always welcome!

One downside to booking on Turkish? You can’t reserve seats or request a special meal online. Instead, you’ll need to call their booking line ahead of your flight to make that happen. Every time I make the vegan food request, I always fear this is the time it fails and I’ll be left meal-less. Happily, that was not the case on these flights — although I was a little disappointed that the special meals aren’t delivered early, as is usually the case!

Here’s a sampling of what we ate on Turkish.

As you can see, the presentation was pretty standard for airplane fare. But nearly everything tasted pretty darn good. I most enjoyed the white beans in tomato sauce, that phyllo-wrapped savory pastry, and the fresh, piping hot bread.

So, the verdict? Vegan food on Turkish Airlines is tasty and plentiful. Now go ahead and book your flight!

Vegan on the Go: Cape Cod

Vegan on the Go: Eating #vegan on #capecod

Last month, my partner Steven headed north to Cape Cod to spend a week soaking up the sunshine with his mom. He kept me well-apprised of all the vegan food he found during his stay, and given the plentiful options available for veg-friendly folks, I knew I needed him to write up a review of everything he enjoyed on his trip. So, here it is: Steven’s report on where you can find vegan food in Cape Cod. All words and photos are Steven’s. 

(Side note — how sad is it that I grew up in Rhode Island but have never been to Cape Cod?! Yikes! Maybe next summer…?)

Pearl restaurant -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.
Pearl

Our first stop was Pearl, a classed-up beachside seafood place right near Mayo Beach. After verifying that the veggie burger was vegan, I ordered it with a side of hand-cut potato chips. The burger itself was nothing to write home about, and I erred in ordering it again on a return trip (even when I added the sriracha slaw). The hand-cut fries, on the other hand, were absolutely fabulous — piping hot, crispy, and nice and thick while still being wonderfully crunchy.

JD's Pizza -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.
JD’s Wood Fired Pizza (aka JD’s Sports Bar)

Provincetown is probably the most veg-friendly town on the Cape, and my mom and I stopped by JD’s Wood Fired Pizza for lunch during our visit. I ordered the primavera pizza, which featured peppers, snow peas, zucchini, onion, summer squash, mushrooms, sundried AND cherry tomatoes, and a big old pile of arugula. I have a bad habit of always ordering Daiya on pizza when it’s available, and this veggie powerhouse definitely didn’t need it. Thankfully the chef had a light hand with it. The crust was crispy and delicious, and while I could have done with some tomato sauce, it was a great pizza.

Grab 'n Go -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Grab ‘n’ Go Health Bar

“Vegan Soft Serve” was written on the sandwich board outside this shop, so I had to stop in. The only flavor was chocolate, and although it was not especially unique, I always appreciate vegan soft serve — and this one came with purple sprinkles!

Box Lunch -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Box Lunch

Lunch in Wellfleet was a little tough to find, but I figured the Box Lunch sandwich shop would have something I could eat. One of the few options was the “Hum Vee,” a pretty standard wrap with hummus, tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, onions, and lettuce. Unfortunately the hummus was overly salty and there wasn’t much (if any) avocado to balance it out.

Van Rensselaer -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Van Rensselaer’s

I wondered why I was the youngest person in the restaurant by about 30 years until I realized it was Early Bird dinner hours. Someone has clearly made an effort to be accommodating to vegans at Van Rensselaer‘s, as the restaurant offers an explicitly vegan fried rice bowl and a tofu provencal that can be made vegan. I got the latter along with a trip to the salad bar, which was decent — there was a kale salad that looked very out of place among the rest of the standard salad bar fare. The tofu provencal was unfortunately not as appetizing. There were zoodles for some reason, and the tofu had clearly not been prepared properly (it was limp and bland). I couldn’t resist the vegan peanut butter brownie for dessert, but it was unfortunately just as mediocre. Disappointing, given the prices here!

Joey's -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Joey’s at Eat at the Fleet

Right off Route 6 is a little convoy of food trucks called Eat at the Fleet that includes Joey’s, a tex-mex truck with some solid veggie options. I got two chorizo tacos and shared some tortilla chips with my mom. The chorizo was quite good and uniquely flavored, if a little overly sweet, and the pico was awesome — the cashier told me it was from a local farm, and it certainly tasted fresh.

 

Green Lotus Cafe

I always have to get vegan Reubens when they are available. The one at Green Lotus was quite good, even if it wasn’t the best (that honor goes to the Reuben Royale at Liquid Earth in Baltimore). And their vegan clam chowder was awesome.

 

Karoo

This very veg-friendly South African restaurant in Eastham was absolutely packed on a Saturday night. I started with the West African Peanut Soup, which I often make a quick and lazy version of at home. This one featured pumpkin and carrot in addition to peanut and was absolutely delicious. I also got the Vegan Bunny — apparently “bunny chow” is a South African street food that features curried meat or vegetables inside a loaf of bread. This was more of an open-faced sandwich, with flavorful and savory curried veggies, a pile of delicious sweet potato fries, and two buns in there somewhere.

Shoreline Diner -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Shoreline Diner

Whenever Kelly and I drive up to Rhode Island to visit her family, we see the sign for Shoreline Diner — but it’s always past midnight and we can never make the time to stop. On this trip I vowed I would make it. On the drive over I deliberated for awhile between a breakfast dish (Berries and Cream French Toast) and something more savory, and in the end decided on the Tempeh BLT Club. Crisp, flavorful, and filling, this sandwich included both tempeh and veggie bacon. I was in protein heaven.

MIchael Angelo -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Michael Angelo

There’s apparently a thing in Connecticut called Salad Pizza. When my cousin told me he was ordering pizza from Michael Angelo, I responded in the classic vegan way — “Don’t worry if the pizza isn’t vegan, I’ve got leftovers, I don’t want you all to have to go out of your way.” Of course, they responded like family should, by calling to check that the pizza was vegan and making a delicious salad, fresh salsa, and guac for sides. Salad pizza is, much like it sounds, is simply a chef salad dumped on top of a pizza. It’s very strange and very good, and never comes with cheese anyway, so I didn’t have to feel bad about depriving them.

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Vegan in Prague (+ free shareable Google map!)

vegan in prague, vegan travel, vegan in the czech republic

After visiting Vienna and Prague in the same trip, I’ve come to think of Prague as Vienna’s slightly more rebellious and slightly cooler cousin. It’s a little rougher, a little edgier, a little less staid. I loved it.

I also loved its food. Based on my experience, there weren’t quite as many vegan options, nor was the food as consistently good as it was in Vienna. But there are some stand-outs, and there are many more places I haven’t tried.

Etnosvět

This vegetarian eatery is a great, affordable option. Although it does have a set restaurant menu at certain times, we visited mid-morning on a weekday and were limited to the brunch buffet, a pay-by-weight bonanza with quite a few vegan options. I really appreciated the mix of heavier foods, like a rich seitan dish, and lighter options, like raw salads and slaws. The combination was the perfect antidote to a rough-around-the-edges morning after a late night out in Prague.

etnosvet

Although there is a written chalkboard menu by the buffet, you can ask the staff what’s vegan just to be sure — I found it a little tricky to decipher which menu item corresponded with which actual food. I kept my meal relatively simple: a cold noodle salad, a heavier seitan dish, a grain salad, a light slaw, and some slices of jicama for crunch. Other than the surprisingly bland noodles, everything was tasty and filling. I definitely recommend stopping by for a quick varied meal!

Moment

Easily my favorite restaurant in Prague! This surprisingly spacious bistro seems to be a popular spot — we visited three times, and other than during a morning visit, it was packed. Located in Praha 2, it’s a little bit of a hike from the city center, but is totally worth it. I recommend staying close by (like we did) to make for easy visits. ;)

Everything on the menu is vegan, and there are lots of tempting options. On our first visit — immediately after settling in to our AirBnB — Steven and I both chose burgers. He had the smoky tofu burger, while I selected a more generic-seeming veggie burger. But generic it was not — it was made with peanut butter, which was an unexpected and welcome surprise.

Our second visit was less than 24 hours later, this time with Ian and Pragathi in tow. We started off our first full day in Prague with brunch at Moment, and what a filling brunch it was. I selected an amazing omelette, studded with potatoes and mushrooms, and I was blown away.

moment2

So filling and so savory delicious! My only complaint? It was a little salty. Ian had a similar comment about his scrambled tofu, while Pragathi’s gorgeous pancakes were a super-sweet delight. Steven chose the seitan bagel, which was disarmingly simple: a bagel, some ginormous slabs of seitan, vegan cheese, and some veg and sauce.

Steven sampled my omelette at breakfast and liked it so much that he ordered it for dinner when we returned a few days later. Alas, it was a second-rate version, nowhere near as aesthetically handsome or as tasty. We hypothesized that only the breakfast cooks could do it justice, so be warned — breakfast for dinner at Moment is not wholly advised. I opted for the smoky tofu burger instead, a much better dinner choice. For dessert, Pragathi and I shared a chocolate cake with strawberry frosting — beautiful, but a little underwhelming. The frosting was very greasy. But that was really my only complaint with Moment — I’d say it’s a must-visit on your trip to Prague!

Plevel

Ah, Plevel. This was one of my most anticipated restaurants, but I never made it there for dinner. On our first night in Prague, the four of us were desperate for a meal. We walked to one place, only to be told it was reservation-only. Our tummies rumbling louder, we walked to Plevel, only to be told the kitchen was closed. We finally succumbed to a Thai restaurant that could make dishes without the fish sauce, but I was itching to return to Plevel.

Well, I did return a few days later — but only for dessert. Steven and I had eaten dinner at Loving Hut* and had had the worst restaurant meals of our lives.  With our stomachs upset from frankly disgusting food, we followed Ian and Pragathi to Plevel, where those two lucky ducks got to enjoy beautiful dinners. I opted for a pot of green tea and an apple cake, simple food that would settle my stomach. Both were great, but I wished I’d been hungry for a full dinner!

plevel apple cake prague

Vegan’s Prague
(formerly LoVeg)

The restaurant on a hill! We saw the Vegan’s Prague sign from afar while visiting Vyšehrad, Prague’s historical fort located above the city center. Can you spot it in the photo below?

vegans1

After a morning traipsing around the fort, we decided to head over for lunch. We were quite excited for this restaurant since we knew they offer vegan versions of traditional Czech dishes. I ordered a traditional potato goulash, Steven selected the svíčková with smoked tempeh, and both Ian and Pragathi chose the Old Bohemian feast, a mish-mash of various traditional dishes and dips.

Despite our dishes’ impressive appearances, we were all a little underwhelmed with our meals. My goulash was surprisingly bland, as was the svíčková (traditional Czech bread dumplings served with gravy and meat, or tempeh in this case). If I recall correctly, none of the elements in the Old Bohemian feast were standouts either.

On the bright side, the restaurant itself is beautiful. It’s a bit of a climb up a few flights of steep stairs to reach, but inside it’s classy and comfortable, with an upper level reachable by a spiral staircase.  And the prices are right — Prague is inexpensive in general, and the favorable exchange rate helps keep costs down. You can get a big lunch for ~$7. If you’re in the area and need to fill your belly, go ahead and give this place a try — but don’t expect to be blown away.

Other options

Needless to say, I didn’t manage to visit every vegan eatery in Prague — we only visited for a few days. Here are a few I never got around to trying. I’m saving these for my return trip to the Czech Republic! (Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.)

  • Country Life: Small chain of grocery stores featuring organic and healthy food with some vegan options; there’s a small deli/restaurant attached to the store in Praha 6
  • Lehka Hlava: Super popular but small vegetarian restaurant — be sure to make a reservation ahead of time
  • Momo Cafe: Coffee shop and bakery with delicious-looking pastries and some light meals
  • MyRaw Café: Raw vegan eatery with a rotating daily menu and lots of beautiful raw desserts; also has an extensive drink menu (including coffee, tea, alternative hot drinks, and alcohol)
  • Radost FX:  Vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan options in many styles (Italian, Mexican, burgers, Asian, pizza, etc.); offers a popular vegan brunch on weekends

General tips

  • Many of these restaurants are cash-only, so be sure to have a substantial stash of Czech koruna with you. If you’re able to use a card, consider a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees (see recommendations for said cards here and here) so you don’t get dinged a small fee every time you use it.
  • If you’re in need of a quick bite, don’t overlook simple bakeries. While waiting at the Florenc metro/bus station for our bus to Pilsen, we found a bakery stand with ingredients clearly labelled. We were able to snack on some beautifully fresh breads to tide us over till we got to Pilsen.
  • As part of the EU, the Czech Republic labels 14 common allergens on both commercially packaged foods and restaurant menus. Since milk and eggs are included in that list, vegans can use those labels as a clue to whether a given item is vegan-friendly. It’s not a perfect system (honey could easily slip by unmarked), but it’s a good way to identify potentially vegan items and rule out options that are clearly unsuitable.

Google map of vegan options

If you’re planning a trip to Prague, I have a little treat for you! I’ve created a Google map you can use with lots of vegan-friendly eateries plotted out. You can find it here. If you’re like me and disable cell data while you’re abroad, note that you can download the map to your Google Maps app so you can still access it while you’re on the go.

If you’ve got updates to my map (closures, new places, whatever!), just leave me a comment and I’ll update it. Vegan travelers gotta help each other out!

*A note on Loving Hut

I’ve eaten at quite a few Loving Huts, and I hadn’t had a bad experience until eating at the one on Plzeňská 8/300, Motol, in Praha 5. I ordered schnitzel, curious to see Prague’s take on vegan schnitzel. And it. was. horrible. So gross. Oily as heck, with very little flavor, it sat in my stomach like an anvil. On the side was mashed potatoes served with some kind of thick soy sauce as gravy. Maybe that’s a local thing, but it did NOT agree with me. I’m not one to waste food, but I couldn’t finish this meal at all. Steven couldn’t finish his burger, either — it was tasteless, with way more mayo than any human needs.

I’ve heard good things about Loving Huts in Prague, but this one was just a total waste of money. Maybe we ordered poorly, but the menu didn’t feature as many Asian-inspired dishes as Loving Huts usually do, and I wanted to try that schnitzel. What a mistake!

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Free Google map of vegan restaurants in Prague

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Vegan in Vienna (+ free shareable Google map!)

Vegan in Vienna

Wow, wow, wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings about the state of vegan eats in Vienna, Austria. I recently returned from spending a little more than five days there (and a few in Prague, but that’s another story for another day) and ate like a freaking vegan queen. I’ve heard that Europe in general has been experiencing somewhat of a vegan food revolution in the past few years, and it feels true to me. Vegan food is everywhere.

Along with dozens of dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurants, you can find animal-friendly options in the most unlikely eateries around the city center. Sandwich shop with lots of meaty options? Surprise; there’s a vegan sandwich that’s tasty and filling! Ice cream joint with mouthwatering flavors? Bam — they’ve got the words “VEGANES EIS” painted on the walls and offer lots of vegan varieties. Although these particular restaurateurs are likely offering vegan food from purely economic motives, I’m not complaining. Demand, meet supply.

All said, Vienna is easily one of the most vegan-friendly cities I’ve visited. Steven and I were there with my brother and his girlfriend, both of whom are vegan too. They live in Seattle and thus have access to all sorts of veg goodness, but even they were highly impressed with Vienna.

Read on for my reviews about eating vegan in Vienna, but keep in mind that I simply didn’t have the time to try everything — there’s just so much! To that end, I’ve put together something helpful for vegans planning trips to Vienna. Check out the very end of the post for that!

BioBar

A semi-hidden gem! I’ll admit that BioBar wasn’t initially at the top of my must-visit list, but we decided to try it purely by virtue of its proximity to our location one drizzly day. And I’m glad we did! Although it’s unassuming from the front, it’s cozy and inviting inside. The vegetarian menu rotates, and the waitress was happy to translate the daily offerings to us and clarify which ones were vegan. (Unfortunately, none of us speak German.)

I wasn’t particularly hungry when we stopped here for lunch, so I got a bowl of celery cream soup and a beer (obviously). My dining companions ordered full meals, and we enjoyed our choices across the board. My soup was lovely and flavorful, creamy without being too rich or salty. I split a dessert with Pragathi (my brother’s girlfriend), but truth be told, I can’t remember what we got! I think it was some kind of chocolatey tart. Whatever it was, I know we enjoyed it. BioBar is a great option for healthy, filling meals to shore you up for an afternoon of sightseeing.

Blueorange

For a quick breakfast to start your day, you really can’t beat Blueorange. This deli and bagel shop has an extensive vegan menu, and they clearly mark which of their delicious bagels are vegan. Although you could just pick up a half-dozen bagels and some vegan cream cheese and munch on them throughout your stay in Vienna, you should really try the Vegan Power breakfast spread. For just under 9.00€, you’ll get a fresh-pressed glass of orange juice, a hot drink (espresso, thank you very much), and a bagel sandwich that will knock. your. socks. off.

blueorange1If I had a photo of the assembled sandwich, it would not be terribly pretty — because you get a LOT of spread to fit in one bagel, and it all ends up mooshing out the sides. That’s regular hummus, spicy beet hummus, and avocado creme, along with two slices of a lovely non-dairy cheese, tomato slices, cucumber slices, and a little pile of sprouts. When you smoosh everything together, you get a ridiculously tasty sandwich with lots of textures and flavors.

I enjoyed that beetroot hummus so much that I ordered a beetroot sandwich the next time we visited Blueorange. Although I’d wanted it on a bagel, there was a miscommunication and it arrived on whole-wheat bread. No worries; it was still delicious, if not quite as filling as I’d wanted. It came with arugula, onions, pickles, and sweet mustard. I need to recreate this at home!

Blueorange has two locations in the city. Steven and I were lucky enough to be staying just down the street from the Margaretenstraße location, and it was actually the very first place we visited in Vienna. Ah, nostalgia! Hot tip — if your German is a little shaky or you’re having trouble deciphering the menu, just ask for an English menu; there are a few behind the counter.

CupCakes Wien

This is a twee cupcake shop tucked behind Mumok, Vienna’s modern art museum, in the MuseumsQuartier. Although it’s not fully vegan, CupCakes Wien offers quite a few vegan flavors. Steven picked up a couple cupcakes for us to share after we’d visited the Leopold Museum, and we enjoyed them while taking a stroll around the Ringstraße.

CupCakes Wien

That’s a straciatella cupcake and a caramel cupcake, from left to right. Both were massive, dense, sugar bombs — and that’s a good thing. The straciatella was a tiny bit dry, but the super creamy frosting made up for it. Steven had the caramel, but he thought it was fantastic. Based on the one bite I tried, I agree!

Delicious Vegan Bistro

What an odd little place. Tucked into a row of shops opposite the Naschmarkt, this tiny restaurant is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small. Inside the cramped quarters is a single table with two chairs agains the right wall, a counter attached to the left wall, and a small kitchenette at the back. When we arrived, it seemed to be in a state of half-completion (despite being open since late autumn), with paint cans and other detritus further cluttering the small space. Plus, the owner’s two large labs were snoozing in a very large crate against the wall.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I love that dogs are welcome inside restaurants throughout Vienna and Prague, and I really enjoyed meeting the resident canines at Delicious Vegan Bistro when they woke up from their naps and came out to say hi. But they definitely took up a lot of space in an already small area.

Although there’s a chalk menu listing multiple options, the owner told us upon arrival that she only had a few things available for the day. Steven and I both selected black bean soba noodles with veggies and coconut cream sauce, and we chatted with the owner while she prepared the food in full view in the tiny kitchenette. Unfortunately, she ran out of coconut cream but didn’t adjust the tamari levels to match, so both of our noodle dishes were far too salty. (I can’t find our photo of the noodles, unfortunately, so use your imagination!) The owner did acknowledge the issue and water down the dishes a bit when we both admitted we found the soba too salty, but it didn’t really solve the issue; I still couldn’t finish all my noodles and had to get a to-go box. The owner reduced the price of our dishes by 2€ each, but the meal ended up being pricier than it was worth.

I’m not linking to the Delicious Vegan Bistro website because (1) it’s not complete, and (2) I want to give the owner the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’ll finish all her painting projects, offer a full menu, and ensure she has ample ingredients ready for patrons… but for now, I can’t fully recommend this place.

Easy-Going Bakery

Vienna is legendary for beautiful, delicious pastries, so much so that there’s an entire category of baked goods named after the city. Sweet treats are front and central at nearly any café you might visit, but most of the traditional coffee houses don’t have vegan sweets on offer. So if you’re looking for a sugary snack to cap off a lazy afternoon spent sipping espressos, Easy-Going Bakery is a good place to find one.

easygoing1

I opted for a rather unconventional treat when we visited: a chocolate nougat-filled cake pop. I’d never really understood the cake pop trend, but this dense, not-too-sugary treat — something between a fudge cake and a truffle — was the perfect accompaniment to my espresso. In the background you can see Pragathi’s beautiful bright green matcha latte.

Easy-Going Bakery also offers cupcakes and cakes, a bit of a departure from the traditional sweets found in Viennese coffee shops. But as desserts in their own right, they’re perfect for vegans with a sweet tooth.

Landia

Landia was one of our very favorite eateries in Vienna — I’d go so far as to say that it shouldn’t be missed. Located in the 7th district, they offer veg versions of traditional Austrian dishes in a cozy, welcoming environment. Everything is vegetarian, and all vegan items are clearly marked (along with dishes that can be made vegan).

We all loved everything we tried here… in fact, we enjoyed our first visit so much that we decided to come back for our very last meal in Vienna! On my first visit, I ordered the pierogies. They were fantastic — beautiful, big dumplings filled with savory onion and potato and topped with fried onions. On the side came a salad with some light dressing, a big pile of red cabbage, and a mix of various grated veggies. All those raw vegetables were the perfect complement to the heavier pierogies, and I finished the dish easily. I had a ginger Radler beer and loved the light gingery zing.

The second time we visited, I ordered the red lentil balls and received six surprisingly large balls alongside a big ol’ salad and shredded veggies. Although they’d been fried, the balls weren’t terribly heavy. They were reminiscent of falafel, but had a less crumbly texture. The big serving of tahini sauce was perfect for dipping the balls and for drizzling over all my veggies. Just like with the pierogies, the side salad really helped balance this meal.

My dining companions tried various dishes: Steven ordered a traditional goulash, which featured dense, tasty bread dumplings alongside seitan in a very savory, tomato-based sauce that he compared to a masala. He described it as “very heavy, but very good — very hearty.” In fact, he liked it so much that he ordered it again the second time we visited! Ian and Pragathi tried the schnitzel and a mushroom-based goulash and enjoyed those dishes too. Note that the schnitzel and goulash don’t come with side salads, so they skew towards heavier, more “meaty” meals.

Our group had the same waitress both times we visited, and she was gracious enough to point out dishes that could be made quickly when we accidentally arrived right after the kitchen had closed on our second visit. Friendly service and great food — what more could you want?

Minipizzeria Pinocchio

This was an accidental find, and it was a gem. While walking around one day, Steven and I spotted an unassuming little pizzeria with a surprising message on the sandwich board out front: VEGAN PIZZA. We already had lunch plans, but we filed away Minipizzeria Pinocchio for future bouts of hunger.

A few days later, we returned with Ian and Pragathi in tow. Thanks to Steven’s fantastic sense of direction, we were able to find it without knowing the address. And when we did, we were thrilled to discover an extensive vegan menu alongside the traditional meat-and-cheese options.

After placing our orders with the single employee working the oven, we grabbed a few beers and settled in to wait for our pizzas to cook. This is truly a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, with extremely limited seating, but we were lucky to snag a table to ourselves. After 15 minutes or so, our pizzas were ready for us to devour.

And devour them we did. I’d ordered the Pizza Funghi, a simple variant with sauce, vegan cheese, and lotsa mushrooms. This isn’t gourmet pizza by any means, but it’s quality thin-crust pizza with lots of fun topping options. It was delicious and totally hit the spot. Steven and I each ordered a pizza to ourselves, while Ian and Pragathi split one (they had just indulged in some ice cream from Veganista). If you’re very hungry, you can probably finish a pizza yourself; otherwise, consider sharing with a friend.

Pirata

Say it with me: fish-free sushi. This all-vegan sushi joint in the 7th district is perfect when you want something lighter for lunch or dinner. Steven and I stopped in for an early dinner and each ordered a 12-piece set. The owner showed us all the rolls that were available, and we got to choose what we wanted. Check out my (gorgeous!) platter.

pirata1

I’m not a sushi connoisseur by any means, but I really enjoyed these rolls. The flavors were fresh and clean, yet filling — a couple rolls featured quinoa instead of rice, offering a little extra protein. I loved the mango roll and those beautiful pink beet-infused maki! In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with any of their options.

If you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy the full sushi-eating ritual, consider buying some of the day-old trays Pirata has on offer. For half-price and a zero-percent chance of eating rotten fish, why not?!

Swing Kitchen

An all-vegan burger joint?! Be still, my heart! With two locations, Swing Kitchen is a hop, skip, and a jump away from either the Karlzplatz or Zieglergasse U-bahn station. And it’s well-worth the visit. Yes, it’s vegan junk food. But it’s delicious, filling vegan junk food. Although Swing Kitchen has burgers, wraps, and salads on offer, c’mon — you know you’re going to order a burger. You can get burgers alone or as part of a menu/meal, along with a side (fries, cole slaw, or salad) and a drink.

I kept my order simple both (!) times we visited: the Swing Burger and then the Vienna Burger with a drink (elderflower soda and then cherry soda) and a side of fries. I’m not really a soda drinker, but I had to try these! And they were good. As were the fries — thick, nearly steak-cut, with just enough salt. Note that dips (including ketchup) are an extra 0.80€. And the burgers themselves? YUM. The patties are flavorful and tender, with lots of tasty toppings that create a unique bite. The Swing Burger was a classic American-style burger, although it features sweet-ish gherkins instead of dill pickles (heresy!). And the Vienna Burger is a fun take on the burger, with a schnitzel patty, veg, and lots of a garlicky mayo sauce (a little too much sauce for me, but I’m picky).

You probably can’t see it in the photo, but the menu also lists onion rings and vegan nuggets. I was dying to try the onion rings, but these burgers and fries are just so filling that I had no room! I did, however, sneak a taste of the vanilla soft serve that Steven ordered, and it was fantastic — super creamy, like a vanilla custard. You can even get it dipped in chocolate shell. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming about this ice cream for a while.

Veganista

Speaking of vegan ice cream… hello, all-vegan ice cream shop! In writing this post, I realize a tragic truth: I never actually got ice cream from Veganista, despite visiting it twice! Both times, I was still full from my previous meal and didn’t want to make myself sick on ice cream. I realize my mistake, now that it’s too late! I should never pass up the chance to eat vegan ice cream. Never!

Steven at Veganista

Steven, clearly, knew better than I! He got a cup of black forest ice cream, which features a vanilla base studded with cherries and chunks of chocolate. He loved it; I stole a bite and also thought it was great. Our second visit was with Ian and Pragathi, who got black forest (his favorite flavor) and chocolate, respectively. The chocolate is soymilk-based, while other options use ricemilk or oatmilk. Both were super tasty.

On my next trip to Vienna, I’m going to go straight to Veganista to ensure that I don’t make the same mistake again.  I’ll probably have to go for maple pecan, but strawberry agave also sounds mighty tempting!

Veganz

You cannot miss Veganz. You just can’t. The all-vegan supermarket chain, based in Germany, has a location in Vienna on Margaretenstraße, and it should be required visiting for all vegans in Vienna! Despite all the veg-friendly grocery stores that exist in the US, I’d never been to an all-vegan market before visiting Veganz… and honestly, I’m still dreaming of it! I could’ve spent an hour there, browsing the shelves and picking out new-to-me products to try.

Veganz

Although the store isn’t huge, it’s respectably sized. I was in awe at the two fridge sections full of vegan meats, cheeses, and non-dairy products. In awe! There’s also a freezer section down the middle, a small produce section, and a large dry-goods/pantry items section. Although some of the products are imports (with high price tags to match), most are European brands that are priced quite affordably. And Veganz itself has its own brand with extensive options! This was the only place we visited for souvenirs — we stocked up on chocolates, gummies, and Tartex-brand pâtés to share with friends and family. I was pleasantly surprised at the prices on these snack items. In the US, high-quality vegan chocolate will easily run you $4-6 a bar, but we paid less than 3€ for some seriously amazing chocolate. Even with the exchange rate working against us, that’s a great deal. Veganz also has a fresh bread section, and Steven and I picked up a super yummy poppy seed-filled bread to nibble on for breakfast.

The icing on the (vegan) cake was when we saw a little piglet on a leash on our second visit to Veganz. A customer had brought his pet pig into the store, and everybody ooed and ahhed over its cuteness. Although my somewhat cynical nature leads me to grump about the ethics of a pet pig, I’m going to pretend it was a rescued piglet living a life of luxury and educating others that pigs aren’t pets. ;)

Other options

Needless to say, I didn’t manage to visit every vegan eatery in Vienna! Here are a few I never got around to trying. Alas for the finite size of my stomach! (Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.) And you can always check out HappyCow to find vegan food in Vienna.

  • Deli Bluem: Vegetarian café/bistro with lots of healthy vegan options; most entrees appear to be vegan
  • Dr. Falafel: Falafel stall in the Naschmarkt with many vegan options, including bulk foods (olives, etc.)
  • Harvest Café-Bistro: Vegetarian eatery with primarily vegan dishes, though dairy milk is available for coffee
  • Mikkamakka: All-vegan self-service bistro with traditional local dishes
  • Rupp’s: All-vegetarian Irish pub (!) with lots of cheap vegan options
  • Vegetasia: All-vegan Taiwanese food with reasonable prices
  • yamm!: Pay-by-weight salad bar with some vegan options; also advertises vegan breakfast

anker_brot_vegan_pastry

General tips

  • Many of these restaurants are cash-only, so be sure to have a substantial stash of euros with you. If you’re able to use a card (like at Swing Kitchen or Pirata), consider a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees so you don’t get dinged a small fee every time you use it.
  • If you’re in need of a quick bite, don’t overlook chain bakeries like Anker or Ströck — there’s seemingly one on every corner, and they have a shocking variety of clearly marked vegan options. While catching an early(ish) train to Prague, Steven and I were thrilled to find clearly marked vegan pastries at Anker. I enjoyed a spontaneous apfeltascherl (an apple-filled puff pastry) in the train station — a luxury I’ve never experienced in the US, because we’re much worse at both offering vegan options at chain bakeries and labeling them as such.
  • Speaking of labeling, a newish law in the EU requires the labeling of 14 common allergens on both commercially packaged foods and restaurant menus. Since milk and eggs are included in that list, vegans can use those labels as a clue to whether a given item is vegan-friendly. It’s not a perfect system (honey could easily slip by unmarked), but it’s a good way to identify potentially vegan items and rule out options that are clearly unsuitable.

Google map of vegan options in Vienna

If you’re planning a trip to Vienna, I have a little treat for you! I’ve created a Google map you can use with lots of vegan-friendly eateries plotted out. You can find it here. If you’re like me and disable cell data while you’re abroad, note that you can download the map to your Google Maps app so you can still access it while you’re on the go.

If you’ve got updates to my map (closures, new places, whatever!), just leave me a comment and I’ll update it. Vegan travelers gotta help each other out!

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Vegan food options in Vienna, Austria // govegga.com

Free Google map of vegan restaurants in Vienna

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Vegan in Auckland, New Zealand

Vegan in Auckland

It’s been nearly six (!) months since my trip to New Zealand, and I’ve neglected an important post-travel duty: reporting back on the vegan-friendliness of my destination! Auckland was my home base on the North Island, since that’s where my friend K. was living and working at the time. Neither of us is much of a spendthrift, so we cooked and ate quite a few meals at her house, simple stuff like pasta, mostly. But Auckland proper is definitely vegan-friendly; when I was out and about, I ate perfectly well. I’ll share some of my favorites here, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention An Auckland Vegan, an Auckland-based blog where Moira highlights pretty much everything vegan you can get in Auckland. I used it as research before my trip and wrote down the addresses to have on hand, since I didn’t have a working smartphone with me in New Zealand, and free WiFi access is pretty rare. If you’re heading to Auckland, these are the places I recommend!

Little Bird

My favorite eatery, hands-down, was Little Bird. This brand includes a few brick-and-mortar locations of their Unbakery, along with products sold throughout the North Island. Little Bird offers organic, raw, and mostly gluten-free delicacies, mostly of the sweet variety. Everything is creative, fresh, and absolutely scrumptious.

For the vegan traveler, the Unbakery location at the Britomart Transport Centre is superbly convenient. Britomart is Auckland’s transit hub, where you can catch a local bus or any of the tourist lines. It also houses a railway station, and it’s just across the street from Queen’s Wharf, where you can hop a ferry to loads of locations. If you take the airport bus, you’ll get dropped off right across the street from Britomart.

I sought refuge from the rain at the Unbakery one extremely stormy morning after a failed attempt to visit Tiritiri Matangi, an open wildlife sanctuary on an island accessible only by ferry. The storms were too heavy to safely run the ferry that morning, which I only discovered after getting up early and schlepping down to the wharf from my home base in Kohimarama. Not to be discouraged, I changed my plans, bought ferry tickets to Waiheke Island instead, and made my way across the street to Little Bird to warm up and get a sweet treat while I waited for the ferry.

On that particular morning, I was the first patron, and the two women at the till were friendly and chatty. They pointed out which items in the bakery case included honey so I could avoid those. I selected a coconut berry slice and a cup of English breakfast tea for right then, and a caramel slice and a Matcha and Mint Almond Milk for later.

Little Bird Unbakery

Although the Britomart location is meant to be take-out only (it’s a smidge of a shop!), my new bakery friends graciously let me sit inside and eat since it was pouring buckets outdoors. The tea was perfect for my cold self, and the berry slice was heavenly. I ended up drinking the Matcha-Mint milk then too, and it was by far one of the best raw nut milks I’ve ever had: incredibly smooth, which just a hint of mint. Heavenly! These snacks weren’t cheap, but I considered them wholly worth the money. And isn’t that little glass jar so sweet? I kept it and keep it my kitchen to store dried rosemary — you can see it in a photo from my VeganMoFo kitchen tour!

I went back to Little Bird the very next morning while I waited to catch a bus down to Rotorua. The weather was much nicer that day, so I got a chia pudding to go and ate it in a nearby parkLittle Bird Chia Seed PuddingLittle Bird’s chia pudding is incredible. It’s made with coconut milk and topped with coconut cream, chocolate sauce, raspberry jam, fresh pineapple, granola, and goji berries — all raw. This healthy breakfast felt tasted a decadent dessert! It was easily the best thing I ate in New Zealand. No joke! Can you see why Little Bird was my favorite place to eat in Auckland?!

Himalaya

One night, on the way back from a long day on Rangitoto and in the city, K. and I decided to forgo cooking dinner. Instead, we stopped at an Indian takeaway shop right near her place in Kohimarama. If you find yourself in the suburbs, Himalaya offers lots of options that can be made dairy-free. It’s your standard Indian fare, perhaps a bit less spicy than what you get stateside, but I thoroughly enjoyed the two curries we picked up. They’re pricy, but you’ll have leftovers!

 Revive Café

K. clued me in to Revive and took me out for lunch there right before I caught the bus back to the airport to head home. I love the concept: fresh, healthy, mostly plant-based salads and soups served a la carte. For a (low!) set price, you can choose a combination of soups and salads, usually two salads and one soup. The menu changes daily, and ingredients are clearly labeled. I wish I could remember exactly what I ate (and I wish I took photos!), but I know I had an Israeli couscous-butternut squash salad that was scrumptious. K. confessed that she ate lunch there more often than she’d like, but she couldn’t resist the low price and uber-healthy options! The lunch hour crowd proved that Revive’s mission is a welcome one, especially to folks who want something nourishing and filling on their lunch break.

La Cigale French Market

Don’t let the name fool you — La Cigale French Market is really just a farmer’s market in disguise. In a bit of a post-long-haul-flight haze on my first morning in New Zealand, I assented to a trip to the market to meet up with some of K.’s work friends. My jet lag and the walk — which was uphill, seemingly both ways — rendered me nearly delirious, but I still managed to muster up the energy to be suitably impressed at the French Market’s offerings. With dozens of stalls, both indoors and out, La Cigale has lots to offer vegans. I opted for a cold grain salad from a deli stall, and later kicked myself for not investigating further — there were chocolates, juices, raw vegan sweets, fermented foods, breads, and more! This would be a great place to stock up on snacks for your stay in Auckland. Even though I felt grungy and unfit for public viewing the whole time I was there (my luggage was delayed, so I hadn’t had a chance to shower and change clothes), I enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere and bevy of vegan options.

Other options

Needless to say, this is just a tiny sampling of the options on offer for vegans visiting Auckland. I can’t recommend An Auckland Vegan enough when planning your trip; Moira even has a Google map with all the vegan-friendly joints marked up. If you go, tell me your favorite Auckland eats — I’ll have to try them next time I’m in New Zealand!

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Vegan food options in Auckland, New Zealand // govegga.com

Strawberry-Coconut Granola

I’ve got a pretty robust travel tag going, and for good reason: I love, love, love to travel. And I love talking about traveling! Besides daydreaming about my next trip, planning a detailed itinerary, and overthinking my suitcase strategy, every trip I take involves lots of pre-departure food research. This New Zealand trip has been no exception! And one very important part of my food planning is deciding what travel snacks to bring.

My strategy hasn’t deviated much from the one I employed when I went to Italy a few years ago. It’s all about nutritious, protein-rich snacks to keep my tummy full. I made a Wegmans and Trader Joe’s run to stock up on pre-made snacks, and I also whipped up a batch of granola for munching. Since I knew I’d mostly be eating this by the handful (not in yogurt or with plant milk), I needed to make sure this granola had lots and lots of big ol’ clumps. I’ve seen oil-free granola recipes that use applesauce for moisture, so I decided to try something similar. But I wanted to experiment with a different, bolder pureed fruit, one that would add flavor as well as moisture. Strawberries seemed like the perfect choice, and they worked wonderfully, especially when paired with coconut. Mmm.

Strawberry-Coconut Granola

Strawberry-Coconut Granola

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mix-ins of choice (I used chopped almonds and chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350˚ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spread liberally with coconut oil.

In a food processor, blend the strawberries until they’re nearly pureed. (If you’re using frozen strawberries, they should be the texture of a slushie.) Set aside.

In a small saucepan, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine, heating over low so that the oil melts. Once all three ingredients are well mixed, stir in the dried coconut. Let sit for a minute, then turn off the heat. Add the pureed strawberries and stir to combine, then set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, ground flax, and salt together, then pour in the wet ingredients. Stir to combine, then fold in any mix-ins you’re using.

Pour the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a thin layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, then remove from oven and let cool completely before eating.