Veggie-Friendly Restaurant Roundup

With steak houses and chili parlors aplenty, Cincinnati is a paradise for carnivores. But you don’t have to look far to see more veggie options taking hold. Our intrepid team of interns rounded up some favorites:

1. Park+Vine
Local knick-knacks and an all-vegan menu make Park + Vine perfect for those with an affinity for Cincy products who would prefer not to eat adorable animals. After ordering, we used our lengthy wait time (it’s a small shop with few employees; factor in time to browse) to peruse the pre-packaged vegan offerings, bottled teas and juices, and bulk nuts and grains. When our vegan basil burger arrived, we relished the homegrown tomatoes and lettuce, the soft-yet-crunchy multi-grain bread (Shadeau Bakery, no less), and a perfectly spiced roasted tomato sauce slathered on top. But the patty disappointed. Made with potatoes and grains, it was crispy in some parts, mushy in others, falling apart with reckless abandon, and quite bland. There was just something lacking. Could it have been meat? The world may never know.

For our second order, we couldn’t pass up a vegan GLT (Goetta, lettuce, tomato). Quinoa replaced the typical sausage in the goetta mixture, giving the patty a crumbly texture. A soft ciabatta roll, roasted tomatoes, and vinegary veganese amped up the sandwich, mellowing out the flavors and giving it just enough “oomph.” Park+Vine is a cute store worth checking out. And if you’re feeling hungry, go ahead and try the lunch. Just don’t expect your carnivorous tendencies to be converted anytime soon. —Katherine Braden

1202 Main St, Cincinnati, OH , (513) 721-7275, parkandvine.com

2. Melt Eclectic Café
Offering a variety of sandwiches, salads and wraps, Melt is your standard lunch café with a twist. They’ll accommodate almost any food preference: try the gluten-free bread, vegan cheese, or substitute one of the meat-based sandwiches with tofu. The veggie cheesesteak may not satisfy diehard Philadelphians any time soon, but the thinly sliced seitan (a wheat-based alternative to tofu) was seasoned to perfection. True to Cincinnati form, the hearty vegan chili was sweeter than most, but packed a slight kick and a smoky aftertaste. Try it on Rudy’s Nachos: smoked mozzarella and pico de gallo over SunChips. After you order, check out the chef’s work in the open kitchen, then grab a seat on the large back patio. Finding a table can be a challenge when it’s busy, but you can always call in an order and enjoy your meal elsewhere. On your way out, don’t forget to pick up a chocolate cupcake from Picnic and Pantry. After such a healthy lunch, don’t you deserve it? —Adrienne Donica

4165 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-681-6358, meltcincy.com

3. The Loving Hut
This all-vegan restaurant, appropriately located next to an Animal Hospital, needs a little love and care. Part of a growing international restaurant chain dedicated to bringing harmony to the planet through wholesome, vegan cuisine, The Loving Hut has a strange mixture of décor. Simplistic and light (classic café chalkboard menus) slowly transitions into Chinese lanterns and water features—soothing, but confusing. The menu is more straightforward than the décor, and surprisingly cheap (everything is under $10). The spring rolls are perfectly crisp on the outside and stuffed with a delicious mixture of cabbage, carrots, and celery. The house sweet-and-sour sauce paired with them was the perfect combination. The raw pasta with organic zucchini, sun-dried tomato/pine nut marinara, walnut crumbles, and herbs, takes longer to explain than to rave about. With so many ingredients, we expected a dish like that to overwhelm but instead found it bland and boring. Luckily, the chocolate cake saved the day. Made from wheat flour, sugar, and vanilla (all organic), the cake was rich and flavorful. It left us feeling healthy, instead of the normal just-ate-a-whole-piece-of-cake guilt. We felt the love at The Loving Hut, we just didn’t 100% taste it. —Laura Frey

6227 Montgomery Rd., Pleasant Ridge, (513) 731-2233, lovinghut.us

4. Veg Head
Set in a decrepit strip mall opposite a McDonald’s, Veg Head is something of a Loveland institution. On the wall behind the front counter are awards for their wraps and black bean burgers amidst rustic flourishes (one wall is filled with rusted trinkets, iron watering cans, and the like). We ordered a key-lime Fitz soda to wash down the sampler: a smorgasbord of salad, spread, and beans. The chicken salad (Veg Head provides some dishes with meat) was a crowd pleaser: The vinegar in the finely shredded chicken made it slaw-like, but the plump raisins and sunflower seeds added some sweetness. Black bean mini-burgers (can we call them sliders?) were sandwiched between toast rounds with fresh tomatoes, pickles, and lettuce. The flat, well-seasoned patties imitated beef but still kept a starchy consistency. We were impressed, and we’re headed back for a wrap soon. —Thomas Carter

920 Loveland Madeira Rd, Loveland, OH, (513) 697-7090, imaveghead.com

5. Happy Belly
We’ll say this for Happy Belly: the store is cheerful, full of natural lighting and, well, cool. Splashes of modern art mingle with vintage pieces; hanging chalkboards advertise the menu and the ingredients used. It’s a small selection, though, which is good because the line moves fast so you won’t have time to be indecisive. Breakfast is served all day long (the egg and avocado wrap sounded delicious), but we ordered a basil hummus wrap and a sweet potato burger. The wrap, served pre-packaged and already sliced in half, would be a terrific on-the-go option. A wheat tortilla, slathered in a deliciously creamy and flavorful basil hummus, was chock full of carrots, lettuce, red pepper, and cucumber. The sweet potato burger was served warm on a whole wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, and mustard. It was a better faux burger then we’ve had at some places, but the patty (beans, oats, rice—was there even sweet potato in there?) was lacking flavor. Luckily they have sriracha handy. We happily slurped down their iced Tazza Mia coffee (with the option of coconut, soy, or almond creamer). We didn’t get to try their smoothies or a side of popcorn, but I plan on heading back soon. It’s not strictly vegetarian—they serve both chicken and eggs for the carnivorous among us—but it’s local, organic produce at a reasonable price.—Katherine Braden

1344 Vine St Cincinnati, OH, (513) 873-8619, facebook.com/HappyBellyonVine

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