It's never been easier to eat vegan in Detroit

Vegans, rejoice! Animal rights group PETA has declared 2016 #TheYearOfVegan. You might be surprised to hear that in their their guide to the top ten vegan-friendly cities in the country, Detroit came in at number four. The article highlighted some the more well-known vegan hot spots in the city, like Detroit Vegan Soul, Seva, PJ's Lager House, and Brooklyn Street Local.

Being named a top vegan-friendly city means more than just accommodating a niche lifestyle choice. Breaking bread together is an important part of culture, celebration, and relationships. Restaurants offer more inclusive to menus as people feel more comfortable talking openly and advocating for their right to eat what they want, where they want it. Providing options for various health, religious, and lifestyle diets in one restaurant encourages diversity of people and offers people a chance to understand another way of eating.

Many restaurants in Detroit can accommodate vegans by substituting or removing ingredients, but there's actually a lot of non-vegan restaurants offering vegan friendly options on the menu to accommodate omnivores and herbivores alike. Here's a small sampling of some of the lesser known spots to grab your favorite plant-based meal in Detroit.

Laika Dog inside UFO Factory

UFO Factory in Corktown is the kind of neighborhood dive bar every vegan wants. Very little light gets in, the live music ranges from local to world-renowned, and a red siren light rotates in the front window inviting you to walk into the unknown.

What makes them extraordinary is their bar food run by Laika Dog. They offer both vegan and non-vegan gourmet hotdogs and grilled cheeses, sides of fries and tater tots with all the fixings, a plethora of dipping sauces, and a bowl that can only be described by it's name: "hot dish." Grab a vegan Bahn-Mi dog after a late night or come for weekend brunch and wrap that dog in a vegan waffle with a Thai peanut and raspberry mint dipping sauce. After trying the vegan hot dogs, meat-eaters may walk away convinced Laika Dog is lying to us all.


Recently opened in Detroit's Historic Chinatown in Cass Corridor, Peterboro offers contemporary American-Chinese food and a downright cool vibe. The space welcomes all kinds of guests whether you're celebrating something special or grabbing a drink after work.

Asian food in general tends to lean towards being vegan-friendly, but you sometimes have to watch out for eggs or honey. Peterboro offers both vegetarian and vegan options in their small and large plates, as well as desserts. The seaweed salad is a delightful, fresh, and crispy appetizer with the perfect amount of pickled vinegar that makes you forget you're eating seaweed.

The mapo tofu is one of the most interesting dishes I've ever had. Based on the listed ingredients you aren't sure what it will look like—and indeed a bowl of mush is presented to you. Being a spicy-food nut, I love generous their use of szechuan pepper that makes your whole mouth and lips go numb.

Johnny Noodle King

My first trip to Johnny Noodle King was long overdue. A gourmet ramen spot full of pork, beef, seafood, and whole eggs couldn't possibly have a vegan option, right? Wrong.

This small, fast-paced lunch or late-night spot tucked away west of the Riverfront offers a veggie miso bowl with tofu, scallions, wakame, pea shoots, and seasonal vegetables. Most miso soup is made with fish broth, so it can be difficult for both vegetarians and vegans to enjoy this light and healthy dish unless cooking at home. Johnny Noodle King, however, fills this delicious void.

If you're using the provided scoop spoon, be prepared to make a mess trying to catch the falling ingredients from your mouth. Though that's possibly a personal problem.

Alley Taco inside Marcus Market

If you've lived near Midtown for longer than five years, you've witnessed the transformation of Marcus Market from a corner liquor store into a freshly painted, well-lit convenience market offering specialty drinks and a mini freezer of locally made ice cream sandwiches. But the best addition is the renovated kitchen towards the back now known as Alley Taco.

They tout themselves as "Detroit's best street-side Mexican cuisine," and they're certainly up there. You can have a uniquely made dish every time thanks to their ordering system of picking a base, filling, and toppings. A lot of Mexican spots can do a basic vegan burrito or fajita, but Alley Taco let's you pick from three kinds of vegan fillings: veggies (squash and onions), cauliflower (curry spiced), and fajita (peppers and onions). The options are endless and with a five for $5 taco deal that comes with homemade chips and salsa, you can go for lunch, dinner, and late-night snack all in one day.

Whole Foods Deli

Whole Foods has a plethora of vegan friendly options to stock your kitchen, from frozen faux meat to an entire case of vegan cheeses. But it's their deli section that goes above and beyond to provide fresh, creative vegan dishes side-by-side options for your meat-loving friends.

Grab a pound of the Tex-Mex red quinoa bean salad mixed with a delicious cilantro lime dressing, add some fresh broccolini and vegetables, and savor the vegan version of their chicken curry salad where real chicken is swapped with Beyond Meat Vegan Chick'n Strips. You can eat at the counter for a quick bite during lunch or spend time for family dinner in the dining area.

Read more articles by Jessica Meyer.

Jessica Meyer is director of engagement for Human Scale Studio, a consultancy firm transforming cities by putting people first.
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