Plant-based eateries take sprout

Discover how plant-based dining is revolutionizing American restaurants, from trendy spots in NYC to hidden gems in LA. Explore delicious vegan dishes, industry trends, and insights from passionate diners and chefs.

4 min read
Plant-based eateries take sprout
Handout: Superiority Burger / Sunny Shokrae

By Pam Morales Worsham | For The Prep

From glistening cucumber poke bowls to lime-soaked cauliflower ceviche, the plant-based trend in dining is taking a bite out of the American culinary scene.

Gone are the days of slopped-on veggies with a side of tofu on a plate. Today’s plant-based eateries are blurring the lines between vegetarian and meat offerings while intriguing the palates of curious diners.

But is it the industry responding to demand, or is demand shaped by the industry?  Hard to say.  According to the Plant Based Foods Association, industry demand hit a staggering $8 billion in 2023, with 66% of the US population consuming plant-based offerings. Restaurants are certainly heeding the call with nearly half of US eateries now offering plant-based menu options. 

Some health-conscious diners are hoping for faster progress in the plant-based movement.

Florida resident Jessica Fleischman transitioned to a vegan diet seven years ago after watching the life-changing documentary "The Game Changers," although she occasionally incorporates vegetarian or pescatarian options, depending on availability.

“Eating out can definitely be a challenge, which is why I tend to be flexible. There is usually one menu option that works, but it’s not always the best one,” Fleischman told The Prep. “It really just depends on where you are.”

Handout: Superiority Burger / Sunny Shokrae

Small eateries serve up the impossible

Take New York’s Superiority Burger, an unapologetically 100% plant-based joint that commands a hefty waiting queue – yes, sometimes the wait time can be 90-minutes long – and for what? Delectable green-centric creations from James Beard-winning chef Brooks Headley, featuring signature dishes like quinoa-roasted chickpea burgers, crispy tofu-fried-tofu and mushroom-stuffed cabbage dripped in tomato-ginger gravy.

The East Village favorite also has crafted special offerings to satisfy the sweet tooth, with an array of desserts on full display. Rhubarb tarts, coconut cake and funnel cake embellished with blueberry preserves have all been reimagined for the plant-averse. 

Meanwhile, on the other coast, XO Bar is bringing Asian Flavors with a plant-based twist to Portland. The self-proclaimed tropical oasis pairs libations like fruity Tempests Rest with vegan jalapeño and cream cheese wontons and sesame ginger soy curls. All of this, inspired by the owners’ sailing trips throughout Southeast Asia.

Handout: Superiority Burger / Sunny Shokrae

Mixing it up for hybrid palates

Recognizing that not everyone has taken the veggie-forward plunge, some eateries are strategically integrating vegetarian dishes alongside meat-based offerings on their menu. South Carolina’s Port House, a quaint tavern built in 1896, prides itself on presenting a delectable variety for everyone in the family. Chef Nick Wilber offers a blend of veggie-friendly items like the crispy butterbean burger and butternut squash soup, while also boasting about the Brasstown beef cheeseburger and the roasted peperonta roasted pork loin. 

Charleston’s Leyla Fine Lebanese Cuisine has also taken an inclusive approach to its menu by having something for both vegetarians and meat lovers. The owners have been intentional about offering dishes that are not only delicious but also substantial, catering to all palates with green options beyond salads. These include cultural plant-based favorites like Mousakka and Mujadra, as well as traditional Middle-Eastern meat plates such as lamb shank and chicken shawarma.

This hybrid culinary approach seems like a natural evolution in the restaurant industry, spurred by the rise of flexitarian consumers – those who sometimes consume meat. A recent Numerator study revealed that 98% of US shoppers are buying both plant-based and animal meat products, with 79% of Americans aged 24 to 29 identifying as flexitarians. 

Plant-based budding in diverse communities

The plant-based revolution is also finding fertile ground within diverse communities. The Vegan Food Chefs food truck in San Francisco is reclaiming what it means to be healthy, Black and vegan with popular dishes like Cajun Mac and Cheese, Poke Fries made from fresh papaya and Bourbon BBQ Pulled No Pork. Like them, a lack of vegan dining options in Nashville is what inspired Black-owned The Southern V to open its doors and create a plant-based Southern-style eatery. The husband-and-wife team behind Southern V, Clifton and Tiffany Hancock, take pride in championing the African roots in veganism.

Hispanic plant-based eateries have also found a way to reimagine culturally iconic meat dishes as flavorful veggie-packed creations. Among them is Llama Love Vegan, the brainchild of owner Lucy Haro located in the heart of Los Angeles, specializing in vegan renditions of Peruvian cuisine with distinctive sauces inspired by her family’s indigenous Andean heritage. Saltado de Repollo, Tallarin Verde and Arroz con Flores are among the mouthwatering dishes offered at this delightful haven in Los Angeles.

Tacotarian in Las Vegas strives to deliver the same high-quality plant-based options in the realm of Mexican cuisine. Recognizing that some vegan customers prefer not to consume Impossible or Beyond proteins, they've developed their own signature plant-based proteins, seamlessly integrating them into their quesadillas, burritos, flautas and 13 different tacos.

Planting seeds: Cultivating the future of plant-based cuisine

The plant-based movement hints at a lasting cultural shift, as consumers increasingly seek alternatives aligned with their values. Health-conscious choices, cruelty-free substitutes and sustainability are likely driving this shift in dining preferences.

Now, U.S. restaurants have the opportunity to capitalize on this trend by integrating plant-based options into their ethos and evolving alongside this growing phenomenon.

Thanks for reading The Prep's Coffee Break. This article is part of our exclusive Hidden Menu content. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to editor Katie Parsons at