Are there enough vegan restaurants in your city? Chances are if you live in New York or Los Angeles, your answer would be yes. These largest US cities have upwards of 500 vegan eating establishments each. These 500+ restaurants aren't just places where vegans can find something to eat, we're talking actual vegan restaurants; places where a vegan can sit down and not have to think about whether it's "safe" for them to order food from the menu. Five hundred vegan restaurants! That's a lot of restaurants. How does your city match up? We'll get to that in a bit.
For the better part of 2017, Vegan Bits has been primarily focused on presenting some of the best vegan recipes available. Judging by the responses we have received via email (thanks, guys!) our audience has been very happy by this. Let's face it, recipes are great, but most of us like to dine at restaurants too. (As of the beginning of 2016, the amount of money we Americans spend at restaurants has surpassed that which we spend at supermarkets.)
Over the years, we have presented a lot of data about vegan demographics. Those prior articles have shown how many vegans there are in different states, countries, etc. But what about the actual number of vegan restaurants? Of course, we don't have to dine at a vegan establishment. Many people around the country don't have all that many vegan restaurant options available close by. For many people, the only option is to go to a "regular" omnivore restaurant where you'll either find one or two vegan items on the menu or more commonly, you'll have to cobble something together. Sometimes it more difficult that you might imagine.
A Bloody Mary garnished with a sausage
Earlier this year, my wife Jane and I were visiting friends in northern Minnesota. We went to a restaurant which had nothing on the menu for us. Not surprising, we're in a small town nowhere near a major metropolitan area. (We were over 200 miles from the Twin Cities.) We had to doctor the pasta dish, swapping out the seafood and butter, in exchange for olive oil and vegetables. That's the kind of thing many vegans have to do when they visit restaurants. Having to have a chat with your waitperson about tweaking the ingredients -- to "veganize" -- your food is pretty common for vegans. Did you ever think that you might have to make a few adjustments to your drink too?
Before ordering dinner, we ordered drinks. Jane asked for a Bloody Mary. If you don't know, the Bloody Mary that you order at a bar, or most anywhere else, is not vegan. It's not vegetarian either. The drink contains Worcestershire sauce, wich is made with anchovies. To get around this, when Jane wants a Bloody Mary, she simply orders a "vodka and tomato juice" and adds hot sauce and fresh ground black pepper herself.
When her drink arrived, much to her shock and dismay, it wasn't garnished with the typical stalk of celery and/or a skewer of olives or onions. Instead, it had a sizable sausage on a stick.
A Bloody Mary garnished with a whole chicken
Apparently, adding various meats to a Bloody Mary is pretty common in the upper Midwestern part of the USA. So much so, that bars and restaurants have been trying to one-up one another. It's become common to see skewers of meat in Bloody Marys there, but one restaurant has elected to add a whole 4-pound chicken as a "garnish" to their Bloody Mary pitchers.
I guess all I can say is I'm glad I live in a place where vegans can easily dine out. Even if you don't live in Los Angeles, New York, or other cities with a large number of vegan eating establishments. it's probably getting better for you too. There are many more restaurants offering vegan options.
Vegetarian Menus Have Grown by 66 Percent in Three Years
Back in late 2015, Forks over Knives indicated that:
In the past three years, vegetarian menus saw a “66 percent growth at restaurants while 51 percent of consumers agree they enjoy items that heavily feature vegetables.” The “Innovation on the Menu” report was published by Mintel Menu Insights (part of Mintel, a global market research company), which tracks food and drink trends in the United States.
And that trend continues today. The UK edition of Cosmopolitan highlighted 16 chain restaurants you didn't know do great vegan food. Back in the states, OneGreenPlanet recently highlighted 20 Meatless and All-Vegan Options You Can Find at Popular Fast Food Chains. You could even find vegan options in Iceland.
Vegan Restaurants Per Capita
So what about vegan restaurants in your town? Our friends at Datafiniti have amassed data regarding the number of restaurants in various larger cities in the USA. They break the data down in three ways.
This data shows the number of vegan restaurants that are in 50 of the larger cities in the USA. This is not a list of the 50 largest cities though. For instance, Allentown, PA ranks #231 in Wikipedia's list of United States cities by population.
Regardless, you can see that only a handful of cities on this list have a sizable number of vegan restaurants. Again, just to clarify, these are vegan restaurants, not simply restaurants that offer vegan options.
The tables above show which larger cities have the most vegan restaurants per capita, or more specifically per 100,000 residents. In this instance, Portland, while it only has 150 vegan restaurants has many more vegan restaurants than any other city on a per capita basis.
New York and Los Angeles -- the two cities that top the list (above) for the most vegan restaurants -- are ranked 4th and 5th, respectively on this per capita list. So not only are there many vegan restaurants to choose amongst for resident of these two cities, but there are a considerable number of such restaurants per 100,000 people. In other words, there is a high density of vegan restaurants in these two cities.
On the flip side, the list on the right shows a sparsity of vegan restaurants in various cities. That said, it appears that there is a growing interest of vegan options in the Twin Cities. Examples, here, here, here, and here, where PETA named the Minnesota Twins baseball stadium a top-10 vegan-friendly ballpark.
Finally, the table above is a list of the top 25 cities - large and small -- ranked on a per capita basis. So Santa Fe, NM and Bend, OR -- cities with only 19 vegan eateries apiece -- are ranked #1 and #2 of the cities with the most vegan restaurants per 100,000 residents, regardless of the city's size.
Los Angeles, even though it's the second largest metropolitan area in the US with a population of over 13 million, it still ranks in the top 10 among all cities. Every now and then Jane and I think about leaving Los Angeles and retiring elsewhere, but with such a large number of vegan eateries, it's hard to leave.
Curiously, some cities seem to cater more to vegetarians than to vegans. In Datafinit's findings, they noted the following:
While the rankings of vegetarian and vegan restaurants were quite similar when we considered the absolute number of eateries, some disparities emerged when we factored in population size. Ithaca, NY, Flagstaff, AZ, Grant’s Pass, OR, Corvallis, OR, and Champaign, IL ranked in the top ten for vegetarian restaurants per 100,000 residents, but are nowhere to be seen in the vegan ranking. These cities are more accommodating to their vegetarian residents than their vegans.
Thanks again to Datafiniti for provided all the tables. One thing worth noting from the data. Datafiniti clearly looked at cities at their immediate environs when doing these calculations. For instance. the city of Portland has only just over 600,000 residents, but the data indicates that Portland has almost 2.4 million residents. Similarly, Datafiniti indicates that LA has over 13 million residents, but the city of Los Angeles itself has slightly less than 4 million residents. Clearly, all of its adjacent cities (i.e. Santa Monica, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, Lon Beach, etc.) are included in this calculation.