My parents, God bless them, had to force me to finish all my vegetables when I was little. Fast forward 15 years, those nasty sprigs of color, comprise nearly my entire diet. The rest is bread, cheese, and beer.
No meat, though. I'm a vegetarian.
If you think reading that sentence was painful, imagine how I felt writing it. After all, being a vegetarian is tough. When I introduce myself as such to someone who isn't, I often see those words -- "I'm a vegetarian" -- interpreted to mean, "I'm better than you."
Vegetarians have a bad rap because, at the end of the day, we're picky eaters. Sure, there might be a moral or ecological rationale to the pickiness, but pickiness is pickiness. And it is not an endearing quality.
Yet vegetarians must be picky, because American cuisine is all about meat. That's why many vegetarians prefer cuisines like Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Indian, Thai, or Korean.
But the times are a' changin', especially here in Cincinnati. Sure, you can get meatless Ramen, Pho, Sushi, Tikka Saag, or Tabbouleh here. But now there are restaurants all across town specializing in vegetarian cuisine. And, what's even more encouraging, restaurants specializing in American cuisine are offering more vegetarian options than ever before.
So, let's get to it. We're talking burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and the like. Here are...
14 SPOTS THAT MAKE IT EASY TO GO FULL VEGGIE IN CINCINNATI
1438 Race Street (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
Who would've thought an Over-the-Rhine burger bar known for its wonderful (or so I hear) meat burgers would wind up on this list. But it earns a spot thanks to The Lori, a white-bean falafel patty with tomato-pepper compote and tahini. Pair that with ZBGB's outstanding french fries, and this bastion of beef has earned some serious vegetarian credentials.
Melt Eclectic Cafe
4165 Hamilton Avenue (45223) -- Northside
Melt is vegetarian friendly. Of all the restaurants on this list, it might be the most vegetarian friendly. They're known for the Veggie Cheesesteak, but you can order any sandwich on the menu with seitan, tempeh, tofu, garlic cashew pate, or vegan smokey cheese rather than meat. Considering the breadth and deliciousness of their menu, that's a big deal.
Rooted Juicery and Kitchen
6844 Wooster Pike (45227) -- Oakley
I happened upon this Oakley juice bar because I was thirsty one day and, well, everyone likes juice. But Rooted goes way beyond juice. It also has some of the most delicious and thoughtfully prepared vegetarian food in the city. Try the Almond Thai Wrap, with almond ginger pate, mango, avocado, carrots, basil, mint, cilantro, cabbage, romaine, pea shoots, and thai sauce -- all wrapped in a raw collard green. Or there's the Mediterranean Sandwich with... Okay, here's the menu, go look for yourself.
Green Dog Cafe
3543 Columbia Parkway (45226) -- Columbia-Tusculum
If Green Dog Cafe was ever a hidden gem in Cincinnati (as I said last year), that time is long since passed. Green Dog is one of the most popular places to get sustainably produced, local food -- vegetarian and not. But for vegetarians, what sets this place apart is the out-of-bounds goodness of the Green Dog Burger: a patty of garbanzos, nuts, mushrooms, and herbs topped with baby arugula, cheddar, red onion, and tomato jam served on a house-made bun. Get the french fries with the curry sauce and die without regrets.
Tela Bar and Kitchen
1212 Springfield Pike (45215) -- Wyoming
Cincinnati Refined's love for Tela is well documented. I grew up in Wyoming, so I have a soft spot for the place, especially since it brings a dash of OTR cool to Cincinnati's best community. (Yeah, I said it.) Their veggie burger is no joke. A house-made patty with the chef's selection of seasonal vegetables, beans, and rice; with lettuce, preserved tomato, a house pickle (the most wonderful pickle), and 2001 island dressing; between a Sixteen Bricks flax seed bun. Heaven.
Park + Vine
1202 Main Street (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
Love love love this place. Love it so much I wrote a piece about it (which you should read when it hits the site later this month). The short version: Park + Vine sells sustainable goods and also serves a mean meal at the brunch counter. Anyways, they change up their menu a good deal, but there's always a veggie burger there. At the time of this writing, they were serving the Silentils burger, made from lentils, polenta, and golden raisins, and topped with cheddar and slaw.
The Loving Hut
6227 Montgomery Road (45213) -- Pleasant Ridge
Peace, love, and harmony. That's what you get if you play The White Album backwards, right? It also happens to be the vision of The Loving Hut -- that all beings can live in peace, love, and harmony with each other and the planet. How do they plan on bringing that vision to reality? For one, by serving affordable vegan food that doesn't skimp on flavor. Like the Sunny Burger: organic brown rice, organic chickpeas, and a veggie patty topped with organic lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and house sunny sauce. Delicious. I guess there's just one question left: What exactly does inorganic lettuce taste like?
1211 Vine Street (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
Another restaurant in the vein of ZBGB that falls in the "you don't really think it belongs on this list" category. Spoiler alert: It does. Thanks to its veggie burger, a house made beet-based (!!!) veggie patty with provolone, pesto mayo, mixed greens, and homemade pickles on a challah bun. I can't begin to tell you how flavorful that beet-based patty is. Best veggie patty I've ever had. Get it with a side of farro and you're good to go.
3516 Edwards Road (45208) -- Hyde Park
8221 Beechmont Avenue (45244) -- Anderson
The black bean burger from this established Hyde Park restaurant (/ institution?) is a weekly indulgence of mine. Is the burger that good? Yes, it is. But there's more to it than that. The intimate, unpretentious atmosphere, the friendly staff, the $2 Miller Lites, the french fries like golden spears from heaven... It all adds up to an immensely satisfying experience. The burger patty is made of beans, corn, cheese, bread crumbs, and spices, served with lettuce, tomato, and pickles.
1344 Vine Street (45202)
The girlfriend dragged me to Vine Street's Happy Belly against my will a few months ago, and I've been thanking her ever since. It's clean, healthy eating made by irresistibly nice people. Get The Hans, a sandwich of free-range egg with spinach, turkey bacon (er, make sure to hold the turkey bacon), avocado, tomato, and Amish cheese on an English muffin. Do yourself a favor and add some basil hummus. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, the Black Bean burrito makes an equally delicious breakfast.
(Speaking of breakfast, I have to add that my favorite vegetarian breakfast option in the city is M5 Espresso's avocado toast. Served on a thick slice of wheat and topped with a drizzle of Sriracha. But be warned: You have to like avocado... I mean, reeeally like avocado, because they pile it on.)
1609 Chase Avenue (45223) -- Northside
Northside's tasty pizza parlor, serving vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. Love this place because, of all the meat cravings I get (brats, bangers, chicken salad, whathaveyou), the biggest one seems to be for meatball subs. And Kitchen Factory has a vegetarian meatball sub, with vegetarian meatballs, zesty marinara, and smoked provolone. Craving satisfied.
4516 Clifton Avenue (45219) -- Clifton
This Clifton restaurant serves delicious food while educating people about food quality. I got an education in a few things. For instance, how good carrot fries -- yes, carrot fries --are. Still, no amount of education could make me forget my disdain for mushrooms (including the portobellos Conscious Kitchen serves on its Bella Burger). But I consider that a personal failure and not the restaurant's. In any case, the girlfriend loves mushrooms. And according to her, the Bella Burger was delicious. It comes with the aforementioned
fungus mushroom, mozzarella, grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, and garlic mayo. Yum. ... If you're into that kind of thing.
Picnic and Pantry
1400 Republic Street (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
How cool of an idea is Picnic and Pantry? They serve picnic-inspired foods like gelato, ice cream, cheeses, lunch meats, local breads, and more, with the idea that you'll gather some supplies and head out to Washington Park for an afternoon. You had me at gelato. The vegetarian option is the Veggie Blast: Cucumber, radish sprouts, tomatoes, pickled shallots, a spring mix, and your choice of goat cheese, pimento cheese, or hummus. I got it with hummus and added pickles, and it was the best decision I ever made. PICKLE EVERYTHING!
110 E. Central Parkway (45202) -- Over-the-Rhine
3316 Eerie Avenue (45208) -- Hyde Park
301 E. 4th Street (45202) -- Downtown
Gallagher Student Center / Williams College of Business -- Xavier University
Perhaps you know Central Parkway's Coffee Emporium as a popular watering hole for Cincinnati's students, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. That's what the coffee is for. But they also have delicious food, including a black bean burger with avocado that'll knock your socks off. Comes with ranch, feta, tomato, onion, and lettuce. So you can fill up and do your intellectualizing at the same time.
- - -