To be vegan means to abstain from eating meat, dairy, eggs and other animal products, and luckily there are plenty of restaurants in Arizona that are vegan or plant-based. We love the creativity that goes along with coming up with substitutions to these items and the concentration of delicious, clean flavors in every bite. Run, don’t walk to these Valley vegan dining spots, just a few of our favorites.
You don't have to be vegan to love (and crave) Pomegranate Cafe. The restaurant is known for its indulgent homemade pastries and desserts, comfort food classics, raw dishes and extensive drink list. We can’t say enough about the Gila Monster Nachos, a huge pile of corn chips layered with walnut chorizo, cashew queso, black beans, salsa roja, guacamole, chimichurri, pico and baja sauce. Then there’s the Pom Mac which can be topped with garden veggie pesto, buffalo cauliflower or BBQ jackfruit. Eggs are on the brunch menu if you wish to have that instead of tofu, and there’s also vegan or regular cheese available. We recommend the Country Burrito with your choice of eggs and cheese, apple sage “sausage,” peppers, onions, potatoes, guacamole and pico, all in a tortilla and smothered in country gravy. Drink-wise, check out the Pom Milk made from almond, cashew, chia seeds, dates and vanilla or the Hibiscus Cooler. Pomegranate Cafe is located at 4025 E Chandler Boulevard, Suite 28, Phoenix; 480.706.7472; www.pomegranatecafe.com
Green New American Vegetarian is another standout place for vegan fare in the Valley. Although it has vegetarian in the name, it’s 100 percent plant based and known for its mock meats and vegan cheeses. The award-winning Buffalo Wings are a good place to start then there’s the Crab Puffs with mock cream cheese and crab meat. All salads can be made into a burrito if so desired, and the Peanut Chicken and Thee Fighting Artichoke are our favorites and pack tons of flavor. Green does a great job recreating some classic handheld sandwiches like the Big Wac, a play on a Big Mac, and a Chicago Cheesesteak with seitan instead of steak. For dessert, head over to Green’s sister restaurant Nami, right next to the Green location in Phoenix, for some tSoynamis, a vegan ice cream treat that comes in a variety of combinations. Green New American Vegetarian has locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale; www.greenvegetarian.com
Speaking of Nami, here’s a rundown on its dessert options plus its breakfast and brunch. The tSoynamis are absolutely not to be missed and are made with your choice of soft serve in vanilla, chocolate or swirl. The Doughboy with chocolate chip namiDOH (vegan cookie dough that tastes just like the real thing) and organic chocolate syrup is killer and so is the Banana Cream Pie. There’s also just fruit flavors if you’d prefer that like Mango and Strawberry. If you just want the namiDOH, that’s available too or there’s cake, cupcakes, coffee and more. Breakfast is served at Nami from 7 to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and brunch is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Some of the items are the same, but on the breakfast menu we recommend the Nami McBagel Sandwich with a tofu “fried egg,” tempeh bacon, cheddar cheese and spicy aioli or the Biscuits N Gravy with sausage gravy, tofu scramble and homestyle potatoes. On the brunch menu, try the Sinful Cinnamon Sticky Buns and Chilaquiles, layered corn tortillas soaked in enchilada sauce with sour cream, scramble and potatoes. Nami is located at 2014 N 7th Street; 602.258.6264; www.tsoynami.com
Verdura or the hip, vinyl-record playing, rock 'n' roll spot in Phoenix does vegan very well across a variety of cuisines. The plant-based eatery draws on the culinary genius of executive chef Chris Gruebele,, and there are always specials of the day along with familiar hits like the I’m Just a Po’Boy made with flash-fried mushrooms, shredded iceberg, purple onions, tomato, pickle, tartar and nori served on a Noble baguette and the General Pow Cauliflower with nori peanuts, shishito and chimichurri with rice and Korean Brussels sprout. For dessert, you’ve got to try a Goth Waffle which is just as it sounds — a Japanese-style bubble waffle with activated charcoal to give it a blackened color, raspberry sorbet and shaved coconut. Brunch is served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the weekends, and we’d be remiss not to mention the Moco Loco which features a walnut-lentil patty, tofu scramble, rice, gravy, pineapple relish and baja sauce. Don’t forget a Spicy Bloody Mary. Verdura is located at 5555 N 7th Street, Suite 108, Phoenix; 602.283.5168; www.verduraphx.com
Dark Hall Coffee is a great vegan spot that many people might not know about. It’s a coffee shop with plant-based food and beverages right in the heart of central Phoenix. All of the mylks and pastries at Dark Hall are 100 percent vegan. Grab a Latte or Cappuccino with oat or cashew mylk and any of their assorted pastries. From cookies to cakes, brownies and macarons, they have it all, and it’s all vegan. The shop is on the smaller side but has incredible decor and a welcoming atmosphere. Dark Hall Coffee is located at 3343 N. 7th Avenue, #3. Phoenix; 602.277.5507; www.darkhallcoffee.com
Over in Tempe, 24 Carrots is known for its botanically inspired cuisine and love of local and fresh ingredients. All day breakfast, salads and soups, raw food, pastries and other sweet treats — you name it, they got it! We’d go for the Dan Dan Noodles with rice noodles, seasoned tofu, peanut, lime, cabbage, spinach and seasoned vegetables or the Nashville Hot Chickun with maple hot sauce, sweet and spicy pickles, greens, tomato, onion and herb ranch on ciabatta. On the raw side, try the Alfredo Primavera made with zoodles, cashew-coconut alfredo, rainbow vegetables and cashew parmesan. For drinks, go super healthy with the Apple Zinger juice with fresh apple and ginger or the Berry Me Alive made with seasonal berries, pineapple, orange and apple. 24 Carrots is located at 1701 E. Guadalupe Road, Tempe; 480.753.4411; 24carrotscafe.square.site
GuacStar Kitchen and Cantina is a highly anticipated Mexican eatery opening on Nov. 5 in Tempe’s Cornerstone Mall. The menu promises to have mouth-watering plant-based versions of Mexican comfort food classics along with a craft cocktail program of artisan margaritas and a present-day riff on cocktails made popular in the 1980s and ‘90s. It will also be a hip and fun place to hang out in a contemporary environment with a fusion of customized raw materials and stylish décor. GuacStar Kitchen and Cantina is located at 920 E. University Drive, #204, Tempe; 480.219.9272; www.guacstar.com