But I have friends who avoid all meat and dairy, and I routinely field questions about the best spots in Bend, Oregon for someone who is on a strict vegan diet or who just enjoys vegetarian dining. While carnivores accompanying vegetarian companions can sometimes feel dread at the thought of forgoing critter flesh at mealtime, there are lots of restaurants in Bend whipping up vegan cuisine that’s sure to please the palates of meat lovers and plant-based diners alike.
Here are 10 vegan dishes from Bend restaurants you’re guaranteed to love whether you prefer to eat your animal friends or cuddle them.
Taco salad and dessert at Salud! Raw Food
I’m leery of any vegetarian restaurant that serves nothing but raw, vegan chow, and I’m also not a big fan of dessert. In theory, that should make me the last person in the world to enjoy Salud! Raw Food, but the truth is that I really dig this place.
Everything here is raw, vegan (though they do occasionally use honey), and organic, and you’ll find a plethora of wraps, salads, and smoothies on the menu.
My personal fave is the tropical taco salad made with organic greens, cabbage, cilantro, mango-pineapple salsa, spiced pepitas, and seasoned walnut taco “meat.” Yes, that’s “meat” in quotes, and while I won’t pretend it tastes like real ground beef, it’s pretty darned delicious, and adds a nice texture and flavor to the dish that meat lovers will find comforting. The whole thing is tossed with a chipotle-lime cashew cream dressing that’s zingy, creamy, and super flavorful. It’s also HUGE.
But make sure you save room for dessert. As someone completely devoid of a sweet tooth, I’m still a bit dumbfounded to realize how much I love everything that comes out of the desert case at Salud. Their “cheesecake” (again with the quotes) is particularly divine, with a crust crafted from almonds, dates, and a blend of spices. The filling is a mix of soaked cashews, raw agave, almond milk, and a variety of spices and essential oils, depending on the flavor of the day. Trust me when I tell you not to leave without sampling one.
Khi Mao Noodles at Noi Thai cuisine
I’m a big fan of the happy hour at Noi, so if you’re heading out on the town with a mixed bag of meat eaters and vegan pals, this is a great starting point. Most dishes can be prepared vegan, vegetarian, or with your choice of meat, but several dishes are designed to be vegan from the get-go. My personal fave is the Khi Mao Noodles (say that five times fast, then tell me how to pronounce it). These wide, stir-fried noodles are mixed up with basil, bell peppers, broccoli, bamboo shoots, and tomatoes. I added a bit of tofu, but meat-eaters can mix in other protein, while vegetarians can opt not to skip the egg that’s usually mixed in.
The noodles are unbelievably soft and tender, and there’s a great contrast of crunchy veggies and squishy noodles. The flavors are divine, too, with just the right mix of spicy and salty. You can pick the heat level from 1-5, and 3 felt like the perfect spice to me. The portion was big enough to be filling, but small enough I didn’t feel like I was gorging myself.
Peanut Curry and Lomo Saltado at Spork
Unquestionably one of my favorite stops on this quest for Bend’s best vegan food, Spork has a nice array of menu options and a staff that’s knowledgeable about how to make the non-vegan choices in vegan form.
Two things on the menu sounded too good to pass up, so I enlisted a vegan pal to help me try both. The West African peanut curry features peanut tomato curry with chickpeas, yams, cabbage, grilled onions & peppers, cilantro, and jasmine rice. It was flavorful, zingy, filling, and so generous I ended up with a nice pile of leftovers I devoured in secret several hours later so I wouldn’t have to share with my husband. Don’t judge.
Lomo Saltado is a Peruvian stir-fry that’s not typically vegan, since it includes both seared steak and a fried egg. But we wanted to see how Spork turned a meat-heavy dish into a palatable vegan option, and we definitely weren’t disappointed. The dish was hearty and saucy, with red potatoes, sweet peppers, onion, grilled tomatoes, soy, radish, green onion, and jasmine rice. Instead of tasting like something was missing, it tasted like a complete, perfectly-balanced, delicious dish that was every bit as scrumptious sans animal protein.
Pretty much ANYTHING at Next Level Burger
Think you can’t get a delicious burger unless it was previously mooing in a pasture? Think again, then get your butt over to Next Level Burger where they’re serving up some of the best plant-based burgers you’ve ever tasted. Actually, scratch that—they’re serving up some of the best burgers, period.
All items on the menu at Next Level Burger—from fries to hot dogs to burgers to milkshakes—are made from plant-based sources, so devout vegans won’t have to fret about that accidental piece of sausage slipping into your fry basket.
The standard Next Level Burger features a juicy patty with a whopping 26 grams of protein, along with lettuce, tomato, and onion on a sprouted-wheat bun. I picked the special sauce version for a few cents extra to get dill pickles, vegan cheese, and of course, the special sauce. The burger itself was delicious and filling, and the sauce left me licking the wrapper before trotting up to the counter to ask for more so I could dip my crispy crinkle fries in it.
You’ll find a surprising variety of burgers, salads, sides, and snacks on their menu, and the casual, unpretentious vibe makes it a fun spot for vegetarians and non-vegans alike.
The Karnabeet at Kebaba
I know I should probably focus on some of the flashier vegan options at Kebaba like the falafel, the tabouli, or the curried tempeh. And while those are all delicious middle-eastern dishes vegans and non-vegans will surely love, I honestly can’t stop thinking about their karnabeet. Like, seriously—I dream about it.
Karnabeet is pan-seared cauliflower seasoned with tahini, parsley, and sumac. It sounds simple, but the flavors in this dish are like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Maybe it’s that Kebaba makes the best tahini around (totally true), or maybe it’s just that Kebaba has perfected the fine art of getting the perfect texture on the cauliflower. Whatever it is, your stay in Bend will not be complete unless you stop in and order this dish at Kebaba. Make it a double serving, then stop by the Visit Bend office and share with me.
The BBQ Tempeh Sando at Broken Top Bottle Shop
A chance to sample local beer from breweries along the Bend Ale Trail, plus a chance to get my barbecue fix despite my quest for vegan chow? Sign me up!
Then take me to Broken Top Bottle Shop, where you’ll discover a menu that’s super friendly toward folks with dietary needs ranging from gluten-free to vegan to pile-as-much-pork-as-you-possibly-can-on-these-nachos.
The vegan dish that really knocked my socks off at BTBS was the BBQ Tempeh Sando. It’s a soft, scrumptiously squishy brioche bun piled high with house-smoked shredded tempeh, vegan Georgia red BBQ sauce, and Carolina red slaw. You get your pick of sides, but I highly, highly recommend the crispy roasted Brussel sprouts with lemon zest.
It wasn’t until halfway through stuffing my face with this tangy, deliciously messy sandwich that I forgot I was eating a vegan meal and not something off the menu at my favorite barbecue joint. Added bonus: between their 12 rotating taps and the massive wall of coolers featuring every beer known to man, you will find yourself in Beervana when you come here.
The Cuban bowl at Laughing Planet Café
This is a favorite spot for a vegetarian friend of mine, so I’ve lunched here several times since the Bend location opened in 2014. There are oodles of vegan and vegetarian options on the menu at Laughing Planet, and while my pal is partial the Korean BBQ bowl with tofu, I’m a big fan of the Cuban Bowl.
The dish consists of plantains and sweet potatoes on a bed of brown rice and black beans, topped with pico de gallo and served with your choice of fresh salsa. It’s got that comfort-food combo of sweet, nutty, and zingy that makes me feel warm inside. Throw in a Highway to Kale salad (lacinto kale tossed with cojita cheese you can skip to make it vegan, plus organic carrots and a lemon-parsley vinaigrette, topped with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds) and you’ve got yourself a tasty meal.
Smoothies at Sarah’s Raw and Vegan Café
Admittedly I spent a lot of my vegan meal quest seeking out options that didn’t feel vegan. I wanted to skip places that felt like I might be denied entry if I wasn’t wearing a tie-dyed peasant skirt and boho braids. While I’m not suggesting those are requirements to enter Sarah’s Raw and Vegan Café, this place definitely has more of that vibe than any of the others on the list.
The focus here is on meal-replacement smoothies, though in the summer months they also offer a daily lunch special featuring items like raw mac & cheese (bites of yellow squash, olive oil, nutritional yeast), zucchini pasta ribbons, or collard wraps.
A platter of samples by the front door gave me the option to try a fun variety of smoothies. The Super Green is a tasty blend of coconut, hemp protein powder, Vitamineral Green, carrot, apple, spinach, celery, avocado, banana, dates, vanilla and sea salt. I also enjoyed the Women’s Passion, which features a blend of soaked almonds, dates, banana, goji berries, mulberries, Warrior Food, maca, eleuthero, satavan, vanilla, raspberries, and sea salt. My personal fave, though, was the Mesquite Magic made with soaked cashews, dates, banana, avocado, mesquite, maca, cacao, chipotle, vanilla, toffee, stevia, raw honey, and sea salt. It has a deliciously creamy, mildly-smoky flavor and turned out to be a lot more filling than I expected.
Falafel wrap at Mazza Bistro
Half the fun of ordering at this cute little middle-eastern café is trying to figure out how to pronounce the words. Manakeesh? Madjadara? No matter, it’s all delicious, and a great deal of it is vegan.
I almost didn’t order the falafel wrap at Mazza Bistro because it sounded so . . . I don’t know, ordinary. But I’m glad I did, since it turned out to be quite delicious. The cucumbers are cool and crisp, the sauce is creamy and tangy, the falafel is crunchy and warm, and the lavash bread that holds the whole thing together is soft and pillowy. Put it all together and you’ve got a pretty delicious wrap that’s both inexpensive and filling.
I also sampled the manakeesh (olive oil, roasted sesame seeds, zaatar paste spread on a pita, topped with cucumber, tomato, olives, onion and parsley). Non-vegans can get it with feta, but it was quite tasty without, and made a perfect appetizer to a tasty and bargain-priced lunch.
Edamame Bowl at Café Yumm
I’ve always been a huge fan of Café Yumm in Bend’s Old Mill District, and I became an even bigger fan when they opened their second location on Bend’s eastside.
Given my longstanding love of the Edamame Bowl, I wasn’t sure my fondness would hold up if I tried to make the dish vegan as suggested by countless vegan pals who pointed out this is an easy place to vegan-ify any dish. But I gave it a shot, and was pleasantly surprised.
The regular dish consists of organic brown rice, edamame, Yumm Sauce, shredded Tillamook cheddar, diced tomatoes, fresh avocado, sour cream, black olives, cilantro, and crumbled nori. It’s the perfect meal for vegetarians, but vegans need to ditch those pesky (albeit, delicious) dairy items. To do it, Café Yumm recommends substituting extra avocado, carrots, or cabbage. I figured I’d just ignore the “or” part and go for all three, which turned out to be a nice change. The avocado made up for the creaminess of the sour cream, while the carrots and cabbage weren’t quite the same as cheddar cheese, they added a nice crunch and pleasant bit of texture to the dish. As a sidenote, the Yumm Sauce is naturally vegan and can be purchased at the café to take home and spruce up all your own recipes.