November 13, 2021

Best restaurants offering vegetarian food in Birmingham

3.8 min read

If you’re a vegetarian—or dine with someone who is—options for meat-free eating can be bleak in many restaurants. It’s even harder to eat out if you’re a vegan who avoids cheese, dairy, eggs, and other animal-based ingredients.

It’s not necessarily that there’s nothing on the menu—although in some places, you’re confined to potatoes and salads. Too often the options—or sometimes the single option—are limited to whatever sides the restaurant uses for its meat entrees (“the set,” chefs call them), or simply pasta with tomato sauce.

Maybe you find a promising-looking soup or entrée that, it turns out, is made with meat stock or flavored with an animal byproduct like fish sauce.

But don’t despair. There are places out there that offer multiple choices for meatless munching. You just need to know where to look.

In greater Birmingham, a growing number of new restaurants and food trucks cater to diners who have eliminated or are reducing the meat in their diet for health or personal reasons.

And don’t overlook cuisine from countries like China, India, and Ethiopia where vegetarian options on menus are as numerous as non-vegetarian. Restaurants serving Italian and Tex-Mex dishes also have vegetarian options, but they’re more limited.

Here is a guide to seven places in greater Birmingham where veggies and vegetable-based proteins play starring roles on the menu.

Underground Vegan (Five Points South)

Located in a second-floor unit on Magnolia Avenue, the black-owned, woman-owned restaurant’s goal is to source at least half of its food locally. Its vegan food is designed to appeal to all tastes like the Vegan Chopped Philly sandwich, and “wangz and nuggs” made with mock chicken. UV’s slogan: “We didn’t discover vegan food. We just make it taste good.”

(Underground Vegan/Facebook)

Silver Coin Indian Grill (Hoover)

With roots in a country where vegetarianism abounds, Indian restaurants are a prime showcase for meat-free cooking. Paneer—house made fresh cheese that resists melting—is the protein of choice for vegetarians (but not vegans). The menu at Silver Coin Indian Grill in Hoover includes more than two-dozen vegetarian appetizers, curries, biryani, and the crisp, gargantuan lentil-rice crepes, dosa.

(Silver Coin Indian Grill/Facebook)

RendezVous Kitchen (Roaming food truck)

Billing itself as “owned by women, powered by plants” RendezVous food truck specializes in mock-meat “corndogs,” tacos, and “chick’n” made with seitan (wheat gluten). Another lure: deep-fried Oreos with whipped peanut butter sauce. Schedules for the week are posted on its social media, but in general the truck frequents Birmingham-area breweries.

(Rendezvous Kitchen/rendezvouskitchen.com)

Red Sea (Homewood)

If you like eating with your fingers, Ethiopian food is your jam. Tear off pieces of the spongy Injera bread served with each dish, and use it to scoop the food. Vegetarian options include Atkilt (curried vegetable stew), Gomen (spiced spinach), and Fosolia (green beans and carrots in curry). Combos include two, three, four, or all seven vegetarian dishes.

(Red Sea Ethiopian & Mediterranean Restaurant/Facebook)

Red Pearl (Homewood)

Tofu, coagulated soy milk that’s pressed into blocks ranging from soft to extra-firm, is the vegetarian protein in many Chinese restaurants. Seven dishes on Red Pearl’s extensive menu feature tofu. More than a dozen other dishes include single- or dual-vegetable stir fries and hot pots, plus vegetarian noodle dishes, appetizers, and fried rice.

(Joe Babin/Facebook)

Golden Temple (Five Points South)

Open since 1973, Golden Temple is Birmingham’s OG vegetarian café. “We were doing smoothies before they were even called smoothies,” says Harinam Singh Khalsa, co-founder of the café, food market, and karmic-wellbeing store. The café, which is one of Birmingham’s rare completely meat-free restaurants, serves delicious soups, salads, sandwiches, and daily specials.

(Golden Temple/Facebook)

Johnny’s Restaurant (Homewood)

Yes, it would be a collection of vegetable side dishes, but that’s the point at a meat-and-three, right? Especially at Johnny’s Restaurant, where chef/owner Tim Hontzas sources from a single farmer, and cooks those vegetables without meat. Veggie plates come with two, three, or four choices from a chalkboard listing a dozen Southern, Cajun, and Greek classics.

(Johnny’s Restaurant Birmingham/Facebook)

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