I last wrote a brief guide to vegan food in Louisville back in 2008. Last week someone on Twitter asked me to update it. A lot has changed since that 2008 post, restaurants have come and restaurants have gone with a net gain for Louisville in terms of vegan food. Last time round I wrote about both restaurant dining and home cooking but with Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Value Market and even Kroger having large selections of vegan items I think I can just focus on restaurants this time around.
The caveat to this list is that I’m not vegan so all the info on this list is correct to the best of my knowledge as a non-vegan who eats a good amount of vegan food in many of Louisville’s great restaurants.
Ramsi’s is kind of like the godfather of vegetarian food in Louisville. This Highlands staple serves up a wide variety of dishes including lots that are vegetarian/vegan by default and lots that have the option to be made made vegetarian/vegan. Everyone from vegans to omnis can find something excellent to eat at Ramsi’s so it’s a great choice for a group of folks with different dietary preferences and restrictions. Vegan foccacia, seitan parmesan panini, tofu creole and capellini marina with tofu are highlights.
Taco Punk is a newish taco place in the very hip East Market district. They offer tacos with vegetables or vegan black bean fillings and they celebrate Meatless Monday with vegetarian specials each week.
Also on East Market you’ll find an organic bakery called Cake Flour. They aren’t a vegan bakery but they do have lots of vegan goodies every Sunday. Call in advance on other days of the week but I suspect even on those days they’ll have something tasty for you.
Please and Thank You (also on East Market) is a very cool coffee shop and record store (yes, both!) on East Market that serves breakfast and lunch. The owner, Brooke, is a fantastic baker and her vegan baked goods are no exception. She also offers bagels with vegan cream cheeze and some of my favorite salads in town.
El Mundo should have been on this list back in 2008 but at the time I wasn’t aware of just how vegan friendly they are. They make my favorite veggie burrito ever (it has sweet potatoes!) and my favorite guacamole and have vegan black beans and rice. I’ve never had a bad meal at El Mundo. Highly, highly recommended. Also, if you go to El Mundo you should have a blood orange margarita, they’re outstanding.
After dinner at El Mundo you can head to Sweet Surrender for dessert. They have a rotating selection of vegan cupcakes and have started having more vegan cakes and cookies as well.
If Ramsi’s is the godfather of vegetarian food in Louisville then Zen Garden gets that honor for vegan food. Almost everything on the Zen Garden menu is vegan and it’s delicious. You’ll find a wide selection of Asian inspired dishes like Orange Tofu, Mock Duck with Green Beans, spring rolls, curry soup, etc.
For a long time Zen Garden was the only all vegetarian restaurant in Louisville (to my knowledge) but that changed in 2011 with the opening of sister restaurants Roots and Heart & Soy on Bardstown Road. These two restaurants are owned by the same woman who founded Zen Garden and they are both amazing. Heart & Soy features noodle bowls, soups, sandwiches and other Asian “fast” food options. My recommendation is to get an order of fried tofu and a bowl of yellow curry soup. That combination is currently my lunch obsession.
Roots is a sit-down establishment with a larger menu featuring wonderfully surprising dishes like Forbidden Rice Risotto many of which are already vegan or can be made vegan. These dishes are clearly marked on the menu.
Simply Thai has two locations in the area (one in St. Matthews and one in Middletown) and has lots of vegans goodies to choose from.
Hillbilly Tea is a wonderful cafe in downtown Louisville that offers some of the most creative southern inspired vegan food I’ve encountered. Along with their meat and vegetarian dishes they currently have chicken fried tofu, smoked tofu, pit roasted sweet potatos, vegan scones and more. Their menu changes regularly so they might not always have these same items but ever since they’ve opened their doors they’ve had great vegan options. They also occasionally host three or four course special vegan dinners.
North End Cafe (two locations) has a good selection of vegan options including a vegan reuben, vegan breakfast tacos, Breakfast Stir-Fry with Tofu, Curry Sauté and Sesame Noodle Salad.
Against the Grain is a new brewpub downtown that has a really interesting rotating selection of made in-house beers. Their vegan choices include seitan wings and a seitan “Kentucky Fried Chiquen” sandwich that I can’t get enough of.
Feast BBQ is across the river in New Albany and they offer up a really wonderful bbq tofu option. I heartily recommend getting some bbq tofu sliders. The majority of the Feast side dishes are vegetarian and a good number are vegan I think.
Also across the river is Earth Friends Cafe. They have a small menu but a good chunk of can be made vegan, like a pumpkin quesadilla with pumpkin, black beans and spices, red pepper and artichoke panini and an olive nut sandwich.
Annie May’s Sweet Cafe is a gluten, nut and soy free bakery. They offer a wide variety of baked goods and a fair number of them are vegan.
Dairy Kastle (open March-October) offers up vegan chili dogs that are wonderful.
Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen has started having at least one type of vegan ice cream for sale in addition to their sorbets.
This list isn’t exhaustive but I hope it’s a pretty good start point to finding some excellent vegan food in Louisville. If I think of enough places/dishes that I forgot I’ll do a part two.
Update: A reader pointed out that I’d forgotten to list Funmi’s African Cafe which I wrote about recently. Funmi’s is amazing and the menu if chock full of delicious vegan options. Including many that have one of my favorite foods: plantains.