People often associate vegan diets with healthy eating, but that’s not always the case. To prove this point, we’re highlighting 12 greasy spoons across the country where delicious plant-based meals meet indulgence and excess. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
1. Champs Diner—Brooklyn, NY
The 20-minute wait surrounded by man buns is worth every minute after you’re seated in an oversized horseshoe-shaped booth. There are no misses on Champs’ menu, but if you want to get extra greasy, order the Hangover Hashbrowns (greasy hash browns with soy sausage, tofu scramble, vegan cheddar cheese, jalapeños, broccoli, scallions, and vegan sour cream).
2. The Cinnamon Snail—New York, NY
Once a popular New York City food truck (and still a food truck for events), The Cinnamon Snail is now located at The Pennsy building. Watch the action through the floor-to-ceiling windows as you chow down on the Beastmode Burger Deluxe (ancho chili seitan burger grilled in maple hickory barbecue sauce with jalapeño macaroni and cheese). Add arugula, smoked chili coconut bacon, and chipotle mayonnaise on a grilled pretzel bun, and this is about as greasy as it gets.
3. The Chicago Diner—Chicago, IL
No list of vegan greasy spoons would be complete without a stop into one, or both, of The Chicago Diner’s locations. This classic diner includes greasy plates such as the Scrambled Tofu Deluxe, Country Benedict, steak and eggs, and a plethora of signature milkshakes. Thank us later.
4. D.C. Vegetarian—Portland, OR
For your next trip to Portland, don’t miss the tiny pop-up trailer that houses D.C. Vegetarian. From the kitschy kitchen, the eatery produces authentic breakfast sandwiches such as the #2, which is seasoned tofu, vegan cheese, avocado, tomato, and roasted red pepper aioli on a bagel. With house-made vegan sausage, this is a $5.50 investment in happiness.
5. Eden—Scranton, PA
Scranton might be in the middle of Pennsylvania, but it’s only two hours from New York City. With this in mind, plan a day trip to the Electric City with a stop at Eden. Less a diner and more a walk-up and order/sit down and eat restaurant, the eatery serves greasy specials such as baked rye bread, a housemade 10,000 Island dressing, a blend of vegan cheeses, and Tofurky roast beef … all pressed to perfection on a panini grill. That said, if you ask the staff, they’ll tell you to order the Reuben.
6. Fare Well—Washington, DC
Fare Well’s all-day breakfast includes such decadent dishes as cookie-dough pancakes and breakfast tacos, but don’t leave without trying the Seitan Platter, which features Southern-fried chickpea seitan, crispy roasted potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and savory gravy.
7. Green New American Vegetarian—Phoenix and Tempe, AZ
Many omnivores have been known to dine at Green New American Vegetarian just to get the Big Wac, as it’s as good a diner burger as you’ll find anywhere. This burger comes with two hand-packed vegan patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions on a sesame seed bun. Sound familiar? And, as good as the Big Wac is … the chicken nuggets are even better.
8. Paradox Cafe—Portland, OR
Any café that has regular “gravy specials” is alright by us. Whenever we’re in town, we order the Mt. Tabor Taters, a veggie sausage with caramelized onion, jalapeños, red peppers, mushroom and tofu scrambled with spinach over seasoned red potatoes and topped with vegan cheese sauce.
9. Spiral Diner—Dallas, TX
Similar to many greasy spoon eateries, Texas-based Spiral Diner has a blue-plate special. However, unlike other restaurants, Spiral Diner’s blue-plate special is a veganized meatloaf with a choice of brown gravy or ketchup sauce and sides of Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes and gravy. You can also have the meatloaf as a sandwich for a hand-held experience.
10. Strong Hearts Cafe—Syracuse, NY
With two locations in Syracuse (one downtown and another near the university), Strong Hearts Cafe’s must-order plates include a Reuben sandwich, the loaded tofu scramble, and the “Eggs” Benetricked, a spicy tofu patty atop two pieces of smoky seitan and an English muffin covered in homemade hollandaise sauce. One more thing: don’t forget the John Lennon vanilla shake.
11. Veggie Galaxy—Boston, MA
This Boston eatery serves loads of vegan options with a wide variety to satisfy all customers. With so many choices, we’ve decided to make it easy for you: order the Buffalo “Chick’n” Burger Breaded & Fried (made with a housemade seitan cutlet, Buffalo sauce, cucumber, onion rings, blue cheese dressing, lettuce and tomato). Then, get extra greasy with a side of vegan mozzarella sticks.
12. Vertical Diner—Salt Lake City, UT
A quick walk from the University of Utah, Vertical Diner is where you’ll want to bite into some jackfruit and kimchi tacos because nothing says “greasy” like corn tortillas, shredded jackfruit, sauteéed vegetables, artisanal kimchi, garlic aioli, guacamole, and cilantro-lime tossed greens.
Eric C Lindstrom is the Director of Marketing for Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and the author of The Skeptical Vegan and 2018’s Mind Your Peas and Cukes: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Vegan Kids.
Photo courtesy of Champs Diner