Last year I’ve been to America twice. In the spring, Flo and I went on a three-week trip to Canada and the states. I’ve already been to America several times, but so far never to the East Coast. In grade ten, I took part in a student exchange with British Columbia, Canada and stayed there for a couple of months. In the same school year, my exchange partner from a city near Vancouver came to stay with my family in Germany. I did not only fall in love with Canada and its beautiful nature but we also got along really well, so I decided to spend my entire summer vacation with my Canadian host family for the next couple of years. Even our parents turned into exchange partners and accepted the long flight to meet each other. In spite of this close and hopefully lifelong friendship, I really wanted to see more of Canada so Flo and I flew to Toronto in late March of 2014.
Once we got off the plane, we suffered from a small “cold shock”. I just couldn’t believe how cold it was in Toronto. In Germany it had been unexpectedly warm for March and we were already used to wearing t-shirts. In Toronto, however, there were still huge heaps of leftover snow and Lake Ontario was still partially frozen!
Luckily, it was sunny most of the time and dressed with winter jackets, hats, and scarves we could complete our usual “sightseeing marathon”. ;-) I just can’t sit still on vacations and have to see and explore everything the city offers. Lying on a beach (of course not in this holiday!) is usually okay for me for one day but not for much longer! Fortunately, Flo is totally with me and is just as “touristy” as I am! :-)
From Toronto we took a bus to the Niagara Falls, which were of course not spared by the cold weather either. ;-) The falls where just gorgeous and the ice kind of turned them into a magical place for me. The sun was shining all day long and although it was just around 5 degrees it felt much warmer and we had a beautiful day! I heard that the Niagara Falls would light up at night, so we waited for some time, but unfortunately nothing changed. Maybe they are only lit up on the weekend and we were there on a weeknight.
Our next stop was Montréal, where we spent four days. It felt so strange for me that everything was in French as Canada had always been exclusively English for me although I went to a school with a French immersion program. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed Montréal, especially its old part.
We then crossed the American border and our next stop was Boston, where it was much warmer than in Canada! We could finally pack away our winter jackets and scarfs! :-)
After three days in Boston, we moved on to New York, where we stayed a whole week. The city was just so interesting and the choice of vegan food huuuge!! :-) It was really warm in New York and one day we had 25 degrees, which felt so weird after our temperature shock in Canada only two weeks before!
Half a year later, in September 2014, I then went with my mom on our long-awaited cruise to America. We’ve been on our first cruise in 2009 to the Canary Islands and since then we talked about doing another cruise in America. In late September, we finally fulfilled our dream and flew from Frankfurt to New York, where we stayed for 5 days before boarding the cruise ship. Usually I always follow Flo, who tells me where to go (my part consists in planning the trip at home), but this time with my mom I had to take over the role as the tour guide! :D Luckily, we didn’t get lost in the Big Apple and spent some awesome days in this huge and busy city! Our next stop was Hamilton, the capital of Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean. From there we moved on to the Bahamas, then to Miami, Port Canaveral and then back up the coast to Norfolk, Virginia and Baltimore, from where we went to Washington. After our two-week cruise, we went back to New York and took a plane back to Germany.
But now to the vegan part! Unfortunately, I didn’t have my blog back then so I didn’t take as many pictures as I would now, but they are still sufficient to give you a general overview of the vegan choices at the East Coast. :-)
In Toronto it wasn’t hard at all to find vegan food. Before visiting different places, I always check the recommendations on Happy Cow and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that they listed 176 vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Toronto! Besides, it’s also very easy to find vegan options in Toronto’s numerous malls, where we had falafel, Asian food, and pasta. The food court at Eaton Center in downtown Toronto even offers an exclusively vegan restaurant, the urban herbivore. Besides stews and soups, they also offer sandwiches, smoothies, veggie bowls, and baked goods such as muffins, doughnuts, and cookies. Their food is really yummy, however a bit expensive, which I think is okay because it’s all very fresh. Also in other malls and in the PATH, a 29-kilometre network of pedestrian tunnels (yes, it can get veeeery cold in Toronto and people want to spend as little time as possible in the cold), I noticed several restaurants that offer vegan options.
Even the hot dog carts in Toronto offer a vegetarian hot dog. I asked one of them if it’s also vegan and the owner told me they use “Yves” meatless hotdogs that are plant-based. However, the veggie hot dogs are probably cooked on the same grill as the meat so that might be a problem for some vegans. Still I think it’s great that they offer veggie hot dogs as it is the most normal thing in the world, which it actually should be!
In Toronto, I went to a Whole Foods Market for the first time and what should I say? I fell head over heels in love with this store!! I could have spent hours and hours in there! :-) Besides many products that we also have in Germany such as plant milk, yoghurt and tofu products, they offered a great variety of vegan baked goods, frozen and convenience products, and a huge buffet!
In Montréal, the vegan choice wasn’t as huge as in Toronto, but Happy Cow still listed 98 vegan and vegetarian restaurants. In retrospect, I think that Montréal has some great exclusively vegan restaurants, but that it is much harder than in Toronto to find vegan food at local food courts. But we still found pasta or other dishes that could be veganized by omitting one or more ingredients.
We especially liked the “Aux Vivre” (yes, don’t forget they speak French in Montréal ;-) ), a small restaurant that exclusively sells vegan food. They offer a great variety of fresh sandwiches (tofu, coconut bacon, and souflaki-style seitan to name just a few of their options), smoothies, burgers, and fresh bowls. Having such a great choice, it wasn’t easy to pick a meal, but we finally decided to go for the bowls that looked super fresh and delicious. Flo chose the “Dragon” bowl with shredded beet, carrot, red cabbage, daikon, lettuce, sprouts, dulse, toasted sesame seeds, grilled tofu & dragon sauce, while I went for the “Bouddha” bowl (steamed organic broccoli and spinach, shredded carrot, toasted sesame seeds, grilled pumpkin seeds, grilled tofu & Japanese dressing). We both really loved their food and if we had left more time in Montréal we definitely would have come back!!
Not far from our hotel was the vegan fast food restaurant La Panthère Verte. This cute little restaurant has three locations in Montréal (Downtown, Mile End, and Plateau-Mont-Royal) and offers a great variety of sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and desserts. There are seven different sandwiches: Traditional Falafel, FalaFusion, BBQ Tofu, Tempehtation, VégéBurger, VégéPanthère, and ChicKebab. We picked the BBQ Tofu and the VégéBurger Sandwich, which were both really yummy. All sandwiches were served on pitas, which I first thought was a bit weird, but I really liked it. For dessert, they offered vegan tiramisu, brownies, cookies, and energy balls.
In Boston, we mostly ate in food courts so I can’t really recommend any vegetarian or vegan restaurants. However, we found some vegan convenience food at some local grocery stores in Boston and New York which was really yummy. “Macro Vegetarian” offers several precooked pasta dishes, mostly Asian, such as Pad Thai, Sesame and Spinach Noodles, and Buckwheat Soba to name just a few. You can find the “Macro Vegetarian” products in the refrigerator section besides sushi and other on the go products.
I still can’t believe how easy it was to find vegan food in New York. I really fell in love with this crazy city, not only because of its awesome vegan food!
I can really recommend the fast food restaurant maoz vegetarian that does not only have six locations in New York but also one in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Paris. They offer falafel in combination with a great variety of salads and sauces. You can either get a bowl or a sandwich, which you can both fill at the salad bar, where you can find the usual salad ingredients such as lettuce, tomato, and cucumber but also couscous, salatbeet, chickpeas, coleslaw, fried broccoli and cauliflower, and hummus. Once you are done with the toppings, you can complete your meal with one of their sauces that range from yogurt, tahini, garlic sauce, or red and green chili. Unfortunately, most of their sauces are only vegetarian but the tahini sauce is vegan and is really yummy! They also offer Belgian-style fries and vegan desserts, for example rice pudding. We’ve been to their location right next to the Times Square (558 7th Ave (Corner of 40th St)) twice. You can also find them at Union Square, Greenwich Village, Upper West Side, and Central Park.
Another vegetarian restaurant we visited was the Otarian not far from Columbus Circle. All of their food is vegetarian or vegan and most of it can be veganized without any problems. They use different symbols on their menu to tell their customers what food is vegeterian, vegan, or can be veganized, which I thought was very helpful. Flo, who eats mostly vegan at home but also vegeterian once in a while, chose the veggie burger and I went for a green curry with lots of fresh veggies such as zucchini, green beans, and cauliflower with lime rice. Although the curry doesn’t look very good on the picture, it was really yummy!
There are also many fast food restaurants that offer healthy food in New York such as fresh & co. Fresh & co has 14 locations in New York and although it is not exclusively vegetarian, there are tons of options for vegans and vegetarians. They have several quinoa bowls, sandwiches, wraps, and salads on their menu. Some of their food is also labeled as vegan like the vegan pullman sandwich, the spicy unchicken salad, and the portobello burger to name just a few vegan options. We had a quinoa bowl with kale and an unchicken sandwich and really enjoyed their food! :-)
Last September, my mom and I had lunch at Terri‘s, a little all vegan quick service restaurant in the financial district, not far from Wall Street. They offer super delicious sandwiches, wraps, and sandwiches. Besides, they also have a great variety of freshly made juices and smoothies as well as desserts. My mom had a huge Southwestern Salad with BBQ-“chicken”, guacamole, sweet corn, black beans, tomato, quinoa, red pepper, red onion, romaine, and chipotle-sour cream dressing, which was really good. I picked a meatball sub with daiya mozarella and a potato salad. Out of the vegeterian restaurants in New York, Terri was probably my favorite and I can’t wait to be back one day! :-)
Of course, I also had to stop by at Whole Foods! :-) We went to the locations at Union Square and Columbus Circle. There is a park near both locations (Central Park and Union Square Park) so you can buy some yummy food at Whole Foods and have a picnic outside. At Union Park you can even find metal chairs and tables so it’s a perfect lunch place. It’s super easy to find vegan food at the buffet at Whole Foods as everything is labeled and you know the ingredients right away. There was so much food I didn’t really know what to pick and ended up with a huge box of pasta, rice, veggies, and tofu! As if this wasn’t already more than enough, we treated ourselves with some delicious vegan coconut carrot cakes for dessert. :-)
During the rest of our cruise, we mostly ate on the cruise ship, so, unfortunately, I don’t have any recommendations concerning vegan restaurants in the other cities I mentioned. However, I had a really yummy sandwich on Ocean Drive in Miami. They didn’t have anything vegan on their menu, but I asked them if they could veganize one of their sandwiches and I got a sandwich with grilled veggies and a very good side salad.
All in all, it wasn’t hard at all to find vegan food in America, although it’s known for its burgers and steaks. We had an awesome time and I can’t wait to be back!! :-)