Known for coney dogs and square pizza, Detroit probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of vegan and vegetarian hot spots. But under that veneer of cheese and meat sauce, a plant-based revolution is growing.
From breakfast to dessert, these restaurants are proof that a meat-less lifestyle is totally possible in the Motor City. Whether you’re looking for a casual brunch, a posh setting for that big date, or comfort food just like grandma made, these vegan and vegetarian gems have something for every palate, occasion, and diet.
Detroit Vegan Soul
Craving Southern food with a conscience? Detroit Vegan Soul has West Village and Grandmont/Rosedale Park singing hallelujah for updated classics like smothered tempeh and “catfish” tofu. As with any soul food joint, the sides here shine — think maple-glazed yams, vegan mac ‘n cheese, and collard greens that taste as good as the real thing. And did we mention they make vegan “chicken” and waffles? Consider your cheat day officially scheduled.
Tucked away behind the N’Namdi museum in Midtown Detroit, this cozy neighborhood spot serves vegan and vegetarian fare in a family-friendly environment. Seva specializes in veganizing all your favorite foods. Try General Tso’s Cauliflower or a “TLT” made with tempeh bacon. Fitt Tip: Seva’s happy hour is one of Detroit’s best kept vegetarian secrets, with half-priced drinks and appetizers on weeknights. More incentive to hit the gym before work!
Brooklyn Street Local
Serving up breakfast and lunch in historic Corktown, Brooklyn Street Local provides a welcome reminder that you can put an egg on just about anything. Breakfast sandwiches and bennys, poutine, burgers… this place specializes in diner food with a modern, healthy twist. All their ingredients are super-fresh and sourced from Detroit-based farms and businesses, which means each bite of your Kale Caesar Salad is nourishing the community, too.
Just north of Detroit, you’ll find upscale plant-based plates at Ferndale’s GreenSpace Café. Omnivores go crazy for their house-made seitan sausage and cashew cheese board, and their “conscious cocktails” feature inventive mixes of raw organic juices and infused spirits. Best of all, GreenSpace was founded by cardiologist Joel Kahn, MD, so you can sip and savor to your heart’s delight.
Inn Season Café
Known as the grandfather of vegetarian eats in the Detroit Metro area, Inn Season has been serving up sustainable, meat-less meals in Royal Oak since 1981. Their comprehensive menu features stars like Budapest Mushroom Soup, Mediterranean pizza, and four(!) kinds of veggie burgers. And Sunday brunch is a must — treat yourself to vegan omelettes you’ll have to see to believe, maple tempeh bacon, and a killer breakfast burrito.
Legend has it square pizza originated in Detroit after a local pizza joint started baking their pies in the nuts and bolts trays used by assembly line workers. Pie-Sci in Woodbridge carries on this fine tradition with a whimsical menu of Detroit-style pizzas, with the option to make most anything vegan or gluten-free. Vegans rave about the dairy-free cheese (so delicious it’s uncanny) and the soda fountain that spits out corn syrup-free Detroit City drinks. Try the Insane Cauliflower Pizza with balsamic drizzle, “I Am the Eggplant”, or the Bob’s Burgers-inspired weekly specials.
Living Zen Organics
Squirreled away in the heart of Hamtramck, you’ll find a raw, vegan lunch spot run by the Buddhist monks at the Detroit Zen Center. (Yep, you read that right — lunch with monks!) Visitors can expect an addictive kale salad with tahini dressing, fresh soups, and entrées like Mexican Spring Wraps and stuffed tomatoes. Save room for a brazil nut brownie and be sure to stock up on kale chips, flax crackers, and the aforementioned tahini dressing for enlightened snacking.
Al Ameer Restaurant
We can all agree that falafel is great. But when it’s reliably the only vegetarian option on the menu, you may consider skipping that Middle Eastern dinner. Al Ameer offers a refreshing change of pace, with a FULL vegetarian menu and fresh-pressed juice blends. Aside from the friendly service, highlights include spinach pies, Beirut-style hummus with pillowy, warm pitas, and an inventive vegan kibbeh made with tomatoes and cracked wheat.
Russell Street Deli
The next time you’re at Eastern Market for fresh flowers and produce, brave the line at Russell Street Deli for a fresh and satisfying lunch. Vegans and vegetarians can depend on a generous menu of sandwiches like the meat-less reuben or a TLT (grilled tofu, lettuce, and tomato), plus a half-dozen rotating soups made from market-fresh vegetables. For the adventurous, the vegan Zombie Dog is a must, topped with spicy-sour kimchi and creamy house-made peanut butter on a poppy seed bun.
Good Cakes & Bakes
Vegan baked goods may get a bad rap, but Good Cakes and Bakes is out to change that reputation one cupcake at a time. April Anderson, a native Detroiter with southern roots, pours love and all-natural, organic ingredients into classic recipes from her grandmother’s kitchen. West Side locals rave about her red velvet pound cake, salted caramel brownies, and, of course, cupcakes. Stop by her charming bakery for a French press and a sweet treat, or pick up some cinnamon rolls on Saturdays to win major brownie points with your vegan pals.
Looking for a great place to grab a sandwich and hole up with your laptop? Cass Cafe has you covered. This art bar and restaurant in the Cass Corridor features casual vegan and vegetarian eats, Motor City Brewing Co. beers on tap, and an ever-changing selection of local art and live music. Kick back with a pint of Ghettoblaster and a lentil burger, or try the vegetarian lasagna (broccoli and spinach and mozzarella), a favorite among Wayne State students.
Chili Mustard Onions
If you’re a New Yorker, Coney Island is an amusement park. But in Detroit, a coney island is a type of diner. To be exact, it’s part Greek diner and part hot dog stand, specializing in meat-sauced hot dogs and beef gyros. Normally, we’d say good luck trying to order vegan, but Chili Mustard Onions in Brush Park, the brainchild of Chef Pete LaCombe, is “vegan done right”. Showcasing the fun side of plant-based eats with Detroit staples like bumpy cake, soft-serve ice cream, and coney dogs, Chili Mustard Onions is a must for vegans seeking a taste of the Motor City.
Neehee’s Indian Vegetarian Street Food
Indian cuisine is, more often than not, pretty close to vegetarian, but Neehee’s Vegetarian Street Food takes it to a whole new level. Their Troy and Canton restaurants right outside Detroit offer completely separate (and enormous) menus for vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free eaters, and even one for those from orthodox religions. No matter which menu you order from, expect your meal to be brimming with flavor. Take, for instance, their fried lentil savory doughnuts served with a tamarind-packed sambhar stew.
Ale Mary’s Beer Hall
While a beer hall might not be your first thought when it comes to vegan/vegetarian food, Ale Mary’s is here to prove you wrong. Known for hearty meals like their beer cheese burger, the restaurant recently released a vegan menu, complete with drinks, appetizers, desserts, and their newest innovation: milkshakes. That’s right — vegan milkshakes. You don’t want to miss this place, so add it to your list ASAP.
Everyone who has ever experienced Selden Standard adds it to the top of their favorite restaurant list, and rightfully so. This Midtown eatery is known for their small plates made with local ingredients that are so delish you’ll be dreaming about them hours after you’ve left the building! But the best part is Selden Standard has a section of their menu that is completely dedicated to vegetables (which is awesome for all of you plant-based peeps out there!). Whether you pick their roasted cauliflower, Herbed Flatbread, or Beet Elote… you cannot go wrong here. This place proves that eating veggies doesn’t have to be boring.
**Updated by Kelly Sundberg, October 2018