There's no denying it, Memphis has incredible food. We have everything from Gus's Fried Chicken, any of the diners, and - of course - the barbecue.
However, nowadays it's more and more common to see alternative dietary choices being made that don't include fried chicken or pulled pork. Gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan choices are becoming extremely popular for both health and personal reasons.
My family is no different. About six years ago, we went vegan. Yes, that means we don't eat things like cow's milk, eggs, or cheese. While my husband excluded animal product from his diet for for performance and health reasons (he's an athlete by trade), I did due to my lack of culinary skills in the kitchen. He is the cook in our family, so by default, I don't have a choice. *wink* (However, I still love cheese. ... so I have lovingly dubbed myself a "chegan" ... a cheating, cheese-loving vegan who has the occasional slice of cheese pizza or order of queso.)
The longer we live this lifestyle, the more people I come to know who choose to bypass animal products in their diet ... even if just once or twice a week where the meal is meatless or dairy-free.
It sounds hard to do, and it was, until we figured out the tricks to eating out in our meat-loving city. There are places we can't go if we hope to have an option (like Bonefish Grill. Bye-bye, Bang Bang Shrimp.) and places we can get a great meal that fits our lifestyle.
We can always control what we eat at home (try one of our meat & dairy free recipes here!), but going out is a different story. So I'm here to help you with a few of our family's favorite places around town that offer options for people looking to eat either a meatless or full-on vegan meal.
Because the most common question I receive about being vegan is, "so what do you eat?," I've sprinkled a few "Funston Favs" below to show what I normally choose at these locations.
Unfortunately, there are not too many fast food options my family has found that are animal-product free. If you're looking to go just meatless and not worried about dairy, try Burger King's veggie burger.
Believe it or not, Taco Bell is one of our family's go-to fast food spots for food on the run. Because who doesn't love a good, inexpensive taco? (Dollar menus for the win!) Order almost any item on Taco Bell's menu with beans instead of beef, and ask for fresco. When ordering fresco, they remove all dairy product and replace it with pico de gallo. Confession: While I still love cheese, nine times out of ten, the fresco item tastes way better to me than the one with cheese! Give it a shot next time, and let me know your thoughts!
Funston Fav: I recommend the black bean burrito (fresco!) from Taco Bell when in a drive-through mood.
Sit Down Restaurants:
Almost all Asian-inspired restaurants offer vegan and meatless options. If tofu isn't your jam to add to your meal instead of chicken or beef, try just adding extra veggies to any meal to give it more density and ability to fill you up.
Funston Fav: Green Bamboo in Cordova has a yummy flat rice noodle with mixed veggie option I can never deny. And my kiddos love their fried rice!
Mellow Mushroom and Huey's were both a fun surprise on our first visits there. Expecting to have to walk our servers through the specifics of how to fix our meal, their already meatless-friendly menus offered us options we weren't expecting. Huey's veggie burger is awesome (just ask for it without cheese!), and at Mellow Mushroom we stumbled upon both a tempeh (deep fried soybeans) and tofu hoagie. Ask for it vegan, and they'll remove the cheese. They also happily took a vegan pizza order without batting an eye. *see pizza section below for more on this.
Funston Fav: I can't leave Mellow Mushroom without ordering their pretzels, of course! We just order ours without butter or cheese. It's the perfect pairing with my tempeh hoagie.
If you are in the Cooper Young area, Imagine Cafe takes the guessing out of what to order. When you open their menu, you'll see things like a steakhouse burger, BBQ nachos, and a fried chicken sandwich, but you can rest assured everything is free of animal product.
Funston Fav: Make sure you try the buffalo wings from Imagine Cafe! I swear, they taste just as good ... no, better than regular chicken wings!
Seasons 52 and Lyfe Kitchen have multiple menus that offer all kinds of dietary options for people who eat vegan, gluten-free, and so on. Definitely try out one of these when you're in the East Memphis area.
Across the street from Lyfe Kitchen, is Memphis's best kept secret! Julles Posh and Co., tucked away in a strip mall in East Memphis, offers an all gluten-free menu cooked to perfection. I haven't had a single thing on their revolving menu that I didn't dream about later. Julles also offers pre-made meals to-go, catering, and meal plans for the whole fam.
Funston Fav: Try the kale & quinoa salad (my fav paired with tofu) ... I'm salivating thinking about it!
Head on over to The City Silo Table + Pantry in East Memphis for some delicious vegan cuisine! They offer to add chicken or an egg to just about anything you'd like, in case you're with someone who maybe doesn't stick to a vegan diet. Their kid's menu is fantastic, and when you're finished, check out the local goodies they have for sale as well!
LB Fav (Funston hasn't tried this yet, so this is LB's recommendation!): The Foxy BBQ Sandwich. It's saucy and delicious, and one of the best BBQ sandwiches around... even though it's meatless!
Ahhh, who doesn't love a good slice (or six) of hot, cheesy pizza? I sure do! But did you know grabbing a vegan pizza isn't so hard OR terrible tasting? It's less dense and doesn't make you feel like going into a food coma afterward. Ask for a veggie pizza (whatever toppings you'd like!) but without the cheese. Simple as that. Also, you can mention that the crust shouldn't be slathered and baked in butter, to increase the health factor.
Funston Fav: Papa Murphy's makes an incredible Mediterranean pizza vegan for our family all the time - remove the cheese and chicken, then replace with artichokes and you've got yourself a yummy and hearty (not to mention healthy!) pizza!
Have you had a great meat-less meal around town? Where was it?
*Note: If you have a food allergy, make sure to double check with these restaurants before ordering. While we do ask for items to be cooked without dairy products such as eggs, milk or animal stock, there may be times we may receive animal product cooked into our food that we are unaware of. Because we do not suffer from food allergies, our family does not stress too much about this.