Veg Out: 10 Ways to Eat Meat-Free in Memphis
Originally published May 2011. Updated January 2019.
Memphis is a city that loves meat (we’ve got several annual festivals devoted to the celebration of various meats). As a result, if you’re not a meat eater, it can seem little difficult to find places to eat.
But here’s the reality: these days, most restaurants in Memphis have at least a few vegetarian and/or vegan options. Still, if you’re looking for specifically vegetarian restaurants in Memphis, or restaurants that cater to vegetarians and vegans in the Bluff City, here’s a guide.
1. Imagine Vegan Cafe (2158 Young Avenue)
Imagine is Memphis’ first 100 percent vegan cafe, but their menu of comfort food (think fried chicken, mac’n’cheese, cake) is big enough to suit omnivores, too. The Cooper Young restaurant is casual and family-friendly. They also have plenty of baked goods – especially vegan cakes.
2. Cafe at Crosstown Arts (aka “Today and Always”)
If you go to the second floor of the Crosstown Concourse (up the neon orange-red staircase) you’ll find the totally plant-based, vegan-and-veg friendly cafe. They accommodate gluten free on many items, too. This place is cute, with a mid-century modern look, and it’s next to the Crosstown Arts gallery space. There’s a section for daily “Today” specials like smoked portobella steak and a section for “Always” menu favorites like chicken-fried tofu and Thai green curry. The cafe serves brunch, too.
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3. R. P. Tracks (3547 Walker Avenue)
While there are a lot of veg-friendly items on the R.P. Tracks menu, you can probably ignore them in favor of one thing: barbecue tofu nachos. I choose them over the meaty version every time. Tracks is right next to the U of M, so it’s part casual restaurant, part bar. The staff is friendly, and if there’s one item standing between you and being able to eat something, they’re happy to help out.
4. City Silo (5101 Sanderlin Ave)
City Silo is a sit-down cafe in East Memphis that offers creative clean eating. Not everything is vegetarian or vegan, but the restaurant goes out of its way to provide options for all diets and therefore has plenty of options.
5. Fuel Cafe Food Truck (mobile food truck)
Fuel Cafe’s brick-and-mortar location on Madison might be closed (in its place is a pop-up restaurant venue that you might want to check out) but their food truck is still going strong. They’re famous for their vegan tacos and grilled cheese sandwiches, plus other vegan- and vegetarian friendly Memphis items. Look for them at Court Square downtown on Thursdays for lunch and other local events.
6. Pho Hoa Binh (1615 Madison Ave)
Everybody loves Pho Hoa Binh’s super cheap all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, which is loaded with vegetarian and vegan curries and stir frys. For dinner, try their lemongrass tofu – it’s a local favorite.
7. Abyssinia (2600 Poplar Avenue)
Even as an omnivore, sometimes, there’s nothing better than the vegetarian combination from Abyssinia Ethiopian. It comes with lentils, greens, seasoned mashed vegetables and plenty of spongy injera. If you’re not vegan, be sure to get a side of their homemade cottage cheese – it’s way more like super creamy feta than the kind you buy at the store.
8. Mayuri (6524 Quince Rd)
During the week, this delicious Indian restaurants serve a full dinner menu, but I recommend going on the weekends (or at lunch) when they have their amazing buffet. It’s a little more advanced than the average Indian buffet – expect vindaloo, masala, curries and koorma.
9. Krewe of DejaVu (936 Florida Street)
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DejaVu is back in its original location on Florida Street downtown. Flip over the menu at this tiny Cajun and Creole restaurant downtown and you’ll find an entire vegetarian and vegan menu. Some of the same Louisiana favorites are there, but there are also plenty of veg-friendly takes on Southern classics.
10. Trolley Stop Market (704 Madison Avenue)
Trolley Stop Market is a farmer-owned market and cafe on the edge of downtown. While they’ve got plenty of locally grown groceries and Memphis-made crafts, the real reason to visit is their cafe. They’ve got plenty of vegetarian breakfast, sandwiches, meat-and-three plates and excellent pizzas.
11. Mama Gaia (Ballet Memphis at 2144 Madison Avenue)
Organic, clean-eating, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan…all of the dietary needs you have, Mama Gaia can meet them with their tasty salads, bowls, pitas, veggie burgers, smoothies, and yes, even cocktails. Check out their location, which is inside the Ballet Memphis Overton Square.
They also have extremely delicious vegetarian burgers and organic cocktails. What vegetarian place can boast that?
12. Two Vegan Sistas
While they no longer have an open-all-the-time restaurant, Two Vegan Sistas still does meal planning, catering, and bulk ordering that you can order online. They do have an new appointment-only location inside Crosstown Concourse.
Their cuisine caters to both lifestyle vegans and curious foodies. Owned by two real-life sisters with a goal to make healthy eating affordable and convenient, they feature plenty of raw meals, and I was super impressed with their cashew-based protein substitutes (I still think about that spaghetti). Read more about examples of their kind of food here, keeping in mind that you’ll have to order online here.
13. Blue Nile
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This midtown restaurant offers Ethiopian cuisine, which traditionally has plenty of vegetarian options. Go for the platter above, some wat (stew) with injera (the soft, spongey bread you use to pick up the food), and plenty of lots of fresh vegetables and tofu dishes.
This isn’t a complete list – there are plenty of other Memphis restaurants that are vegetarian and vegan friendly. For Memphis restaurant reviews from a real live vegan, you can’t go wrong with Vegan Crunk.