Grand Rapids, Michigan is not typically known as a bastion of diversity-whether in culinary variety or any other aspect. Consequently, it often surprises people when they learn that while Grand Rapids does not have any entirely vegan restaurants, there are a number of restaurants that offer great vegan food. In some cases, the lack of vegan restaurants can work to the advantage of vegan diners, as it is often easier to go out with non-vegans if a restaurant offers “traditional” food in addition to vegan food.
These days most locally owned restaurants will accommodate vegan diets and will eagerly prepare vegan food upon request. However, I prefer those restaurants that have vegan options on the menu. The best vegan restaurants in Grand Rapids are:
Brick Road Pizza Co. (1017 Wealthy St SE / Grand Rapids, MI / Phone: 616-719-2409) – Brick Road Pizza Co. is the closest thing to a vegan restaurant that you will find in Grand Rapids. The restaurant offers top-notch vegan food and stands in a league of its own when it comes to variety and uniqueness. At Brick Road Pizza, vegans enjoy a full menu of vegan pasta, vegan pizza, and vegan sandwiches. Their vegan food is quite affordable-sandwiches are all under $9, pasta dishes are under $10, and pizzas vary depending on what is ordered. There are many popular dishes including the Vegan Pulled Pork Sandwich, the Vegan Philly Steak, and the Cheeseburger Pizza. In addition to regular vegan selections on the menu, Brick Road Pizza also has a pizza buffet every Tuesday night 6:00pm-8:30pm that offers a large selection of vegan options including three different flavors of vegan “chicken” wings (Buffalo, BBQ, and Sesame). All of this great food is served in a comfortable atmosphere that is entirely unpretentious-they even offer free Wi-Fi making Brick Road a great choice if you need to take a “working lunch.”
Marie Catrib’s (1001 Lake Dr SE / Grand Rapids, MI / Phone: 616-454-4020) – Marie Catrib’s is a popular new restaurant that offers a large selection of vegan food, making it one of the best vegan restaurants in Grand Rapids. The menu is easy for vegans to navigate as all vegan food is clearly labeled, which is something that can be a problem when dining as a vegan. For vegans, the best choices are Marie Catrib’s sandwiches. There are three options: the Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burger (served with greens, ginger-tomato chutney, and curried veganaise), The Larry David (a lentil and rice patty served with spicy tomato jam, grilled onion, spinach, and veganaise), and The Handyman (glazed tofu, grilled seasoned potatoes, roasted red peppers, fresh avocado, and garlic). The sandwiches can be ordered on five different choices of bread (white, whole wheat, rye, branny oat, and whole wheat herb). Marie Catrib’s has a hip atmosphere and is usually busy (which is a good thing), so expect to have to wait for seating during peak hours (lunch and dinner).
The Pita House (1450 Wealthy St SE / Grand Rapids, MI / Phone: 616-454-1171) – The Pita House is a popular choice for vegans in Grand Rapids as its traditional Middle Eastern menu features a lot of vegan food. Among the popular selections for vegans are the Falafel Sandwich, the Hummous Sandwich, the Veggie Pita, and the Babaghanooj Sandwich. All of the sandwiches are customizable via the Pita House’s large selection of toppings and they can be made into a “combo” with fries and a drink for only $1.99 more. Another great vegan option is the Vegetarian Platter ($9.49) that comes with four falafels, four grape leaves, pita bread, and your choice of Hummous, Babagahnooj, or salad. Pita House has four locations in the greater Grand Rapids area, but my favorite is the Wealthy Street location as it offers outdoor seating in the summer.
In addition to these three restaurants, there are a number of other restaurants in town that offer vegan food, however, their selections are limited. As in any city, the best bets are ethnic restaurants and there are a number of Chinese and Indian restaurants in town that offer vegan food, but you will likely be forced to choose between one or two dishes.