Whenever I’m planning to travel, I always make sure in advance that my destination has some vegan meal options. Having the food end of things ironed out means I can enjoy my vacation without worrying about what I’m going to eat or where. So when I Googled vegan stuff in Burlington, VT before heading off there with my mom this past week, I was pleasantly surprised.
Burlington is a beautiful city. Situated right on the waterfront of Lake Champlain, it has everything a tourist could want: waterfront parks, walking and biking trails, eclectic shopping and, of course, food. I used to go there all the time with my parents, usually via ferry from the New York side of the lake, and it was fond memories of all these things that brought Mom and I back for a short stay.
Out of everything there is to do there, I’d say walking and eating were our main activities. We walked on the waterfront. We walked around town. We went to the Shelburne Museum and walked some more. (There was a sci-fi and steampunk exhibit. How could I resist?) One afternoon, we sat for a bit and took a small boat tour of the lake on the Spirit of Ethan Allen III. With the exception of one brief shower on Monday, we were blessed with gorgeous weather. And even after days of trekking here and there, we still only scratched the surface of the many places there are to visit.
About those impressive vegan options. At first, I didn’t turn up much, but a more careful search uncovered a whole list of places with vegan food on offer. Our first dinner in town was at, of all things, a crepe restaurant called The Skinny Pancake. While they didn’t have a ton of vegan stuff, they did make a vegan crepe batter with chickpea flour and a vegan-specific crepe called The Vegan Monster that included their (very delicious) house-made seitan along with spinach and roasted red peppers. Though the flavor of everything was good, I wasn’t as happy with their food as I thought I would be. It was a bit on the salty side and the crepe had a dry feel to it. The promised “side salad” consisted of about a quarter cup of spring mix. I enjoyed trying something new, but other places in Burlington proved to be much better.
Take Magnolia Bistro, for instance. Mom and I were so impressed that we went there for lunch not once, but twice. Their menu is very vegan-friendly, including tofu scrambles for breakfast, two vegan burgers served on locally baked bread and many vegan salad and side options. I won’t gush too much here because I intend to do a full review of the place later. And I promise to go on about it then (with pictures)! But I do have to say that any restaurant with kale on their list of sides gets extra points from me.
Stone Soup is a cute little place tucked just off the main Church Street market. They combine a fixed menu of things like sandwiches and salads with a rotating selection of cold and hot foods served buffet-style. I was able to get not only a delicious green salad, but also some brown rice and seitan stew. I don’t know if they make their seitan in-house or not, but it was extremely good. What made me love it even more was that I didn’t wind up with a salty aftertaste in my mouth when I was done eating. I don’t salt much of anything any more, so food from restaurants often seems overly salty. Not so at Stone Soup! If we’d had more time, I would have gone back to eat there again too.
City Market deserves more than a little recognition for being somewhat of a cross between a local co-op and a Whole Foods. The atmosphere struck me very much the same way that Whole Foods does, but the layout was more intimate and homey. Their cold salad bar had just about everything you could want for a salad, including cubes of baked tofu. The menu of their hot bar changes from week to week, but there were plenty of vegan items to choose from, such as a fabulous combination of sauteed fennel and onions. I took a little of that one night as part of a complete meal and liked it so much that I dumped some on my salad the next day. Thanks to an in-store sushi section, I was also able to try vegan summer rolls with wasabi and pickled ginger. Let me just say that I’m officially in love with wasabi! Anything that’s spicy enough to make my nose run is good in my book.
Just before the last day of our vacation, I inadvertently discovered New Moon Cafe. The menu they had posted in the window turned me off at first; it was largely regular cafe fare with “build your own” salad and sandwich options thrown in. An Internet search led me to their all-vegan menu, something they really should advertise more outside the shop! The instant I read the ingredients in their macro bowl, I knew I would have to try it for lunch. Spinach, brown rice, carrots, sauteed zucchini and eggplant, chickpeas, baked tofu, sauerkraut and avocado with a tahini-maple dressing? Oh yes. It was one of those meals that was colorful, delicious and so amazing that I wanted to rewind time and eat it again. New Moon also features adorable mini “cupcake kisses” with several vegan flavors. That day, the “Beets Me” variety caught my eye. Somehow the inclusion of beets enhanced the chocolate flavor of the cupcake and its ganache topping, plus there were a few chopped nuts on top to add crunch. I’d like to go back and do a full review of this place; not only was the food great, but the whole cafe also had a calming, inviting atmosphere that made the experience a comfortable one.
A few days isn’t really enough to see all there is to see, do all there is to do and eat all there is to eat in any one place, no matter how much you pack everything in. Burlington is a lot of fun to visit, and I’m hoping to get back there sooner rather than later. It would be a fantastic place to visit in the fall when all the leaves are turning. Imagine walking down by the waterfront with the bright array of colors all around the lake, stretching across the horizon…
What’s your favorite vegan-friendly place to visit? Why do you love it (besides the great food, of course)?