Among the signs of progress we’ve seen in Minnesota in recent years, one of the bright spots is surely the greening of our vibrant restaurant scene. New choices allow us to eat low on the food chain and support responsible restaurants that walk the talk, applying principles that reduce waste, save energy, and support local producers.
According to veteran Dave Rolsky of VegGuide, “it used to be that the word vegan was unheard of, and most restaurants had no idea what that meant,” adding that now “many restaurants make a point of explicitly labeling vegetarian and vegan items, or providing a separate menu.” Reliance on local producers, better packaging and efficiencies, and vegan spreads from bread to ice cream are now part of the landscape.
All in all, it is a great time to eat out, with restaurants greening in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota: From Northfield’s Just Food to Duluth grill and Whole Foods Deli, vegetarian selections, and green practices are catching on. We cannot do justice to all those great restaurants out there, but here is a sampling you might want to try:
Willowgate Chinese Restaurant, Roseville, willowgateonline.com
A family-run business around since 1983, Willowgate has a fantastic lunch menu allowing guests to order a main dish, rice, and sides—all for less than seven dollars! An entire section of vegetarian friendly food with a tofu or mock duck option and an atmosphere that is always very fun and welcoming.
Red Stag Supper Club, Minneapolis, redstagsupperclub.com
This new Northeast club is the state’s first LEED-certified restaurant, proving that wasteful and energy-intensive restaurant practice need not be the norm. The owners take “local” to a new level, offering Meet the Farmer nights. Locally sourced, organic ingredients include a variety of meats and sandwiches, but vegetarian options are available.
The Black Sea, St. Pau, blacksearestaurant.com
With fewer than ten tables, “Minnesota’s first Turkish restaurant” is very cozy—you feel right at home. The Black Sea has cheap, delicious food and a wide selection of vegetarian options. A personal favorite dish is the Meze Platter, which includes cabbage rolls, pita bread and hummus, olives and feta cheese, and falafel.
Namasté, Uptown, namastechai.com
A relative newcomer already famous for chai drinks and people watching, Namasté offers great Nepalese and Indian dishes with organic ingredients. The vegetarian section includes vegan-friendly dishes and a great outdoor patio to enjoy them.
Ginkgo Coffeehouse, St. Paul, ginkgocoffee.com
With a great selection of vegetarian food, as well as fantastic coffee and desserts, Gingko is a popular place for college students to come and study, or just to hang out and listen to some live music.
Seward Community Café, Minneapolis, sewardcafempls.net
True to its name, this community icon has enhanced the local vibe for decades with a mainly vegetarian/vegan menu, great breakfast, and an alternative casual crowd. Great baked goods include vegan items, and you can get the “Earth” on a plate.
Fasika, St. Paul, fasika.com
An Ethiopian restaurant in the Midway area of St. Paul, Fasika has a menu of vegetarian options including lentils in berbere sauce and curried vegetable stew. Use the traditional injera bread in place of flatware to grab bite-sized portions of food. Fasika is a great place to eat if you are looking to try something truly authentic.
Birchwood Café, Minneapolis, birchwoodcafe.com
Food, setting and atmosphere all reflect the true neighborhood style of this green leader. Wonderful dishes on a dynamic, changing menu and a casual but lively sensibility lend a great feel to the place. Vegetarian and vegan fare from named local sources are amazingly fresh, and luxurious desserts crown the menu.
Mesa Pizza, Minneapolis, mesapizzamn.com
This Dinkytown hotspot is hugely popular among local college students. With a wide variety of pizza by the slice, as well as whole pizzas and salads; Mesa is a great choice for a fast, cheap, delicious meal. With choices like Macaroni and Cheese, and Avocado Delight pizza and extended hours, Mesa has something to please everyone.
Galactic Pizza, Uptown, galacticpizza.com
Uptown’s Galactic Pizza is a prime example of what can be done to make the restaurant scene more earth-friendly. Pop on 3D specs and browse the menu for vegan and vegetarian ingredients, local produce and simply outstanding selections, enjoyed under their grassy tiki awnings or delivered by ultra-efficient electric vehicles. Add to that composting initiatives and local ownership, and this place has it all!