36 Vegetarian Delights

No meat? No problem.

The chopped salad, babaganush and couscous tabouli dishes at Banzo are all perfect complements to the restaurant's creamy hummus and fresh pita.

The chopped salad, babaganush and couscous tabouli dishes at Banzo are all perfect complements to the restaurant's creamy hummus and fresh pita.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BANZO

Adhering to a special diet can be an exercise in patience. Every vegetarian has memories of scanning a menu and once again settling for the chicken Caesar salad, hold the chicken, as a last-resort kind of meal. Luckily, there are plenty of Madison restaurants that boast interesting, flavorful vegetarian dishes that satisfy your sans-meat cravings, whether you’re in the mood for Italian, Thai, Mexican or good ol’ American grub.    
 

608
212 State St., 250-5150
Strolling State Street and not in the mood for a brat? Open since May 2013 in the old Paul’s Club space, 608 rocks a killer quinoa white bean burger. The house-made patty is topped with greens, fried shoestring sweet potatoes, a just-sweet-enough caramelized onion jam and Dijon mustard cream sauce, all on a hearty pretzel bun. Veggie lovers will also dig the hearty grain salad with couscous, grilled zucchini, arugula, portabella mushroom and feta. $$   

Alchemy
1980 Atwood Ave., 204-7644
Seriously, what’s not to love about the Alchemy? With live music, local art and a community-minded approach to food and drink, this Atwood Avenue spot is a real winner. Vegetarians go nuts for the stuffed grilled cheese and the Matilda sandwich—a unique and glorious combo of grilled butternut squash, basil and Gorgonzola dressing. Of the pescatarian variety? Don’t miss Alchemy’s Friday fish fry. $$

Bandung
600 Williamson St., 255-6910
Madison’s only Indonesian restaurant, Bandung is a vegetarian’s wonderland. Don’t miss the tempeh, a traditional cultured soybean cake. Order it on its own or try it in the Sayur Lodeh soup—a tasty mix of five different vegetables swimming in creamy coconut milk. Bandung’s pad thai is some of the best in the city, or why not tru the Indo Mac n Cheese with a creamy red curry? $$

Banzo
2105 N. Sherman Ave., 441-2002
Banzo enjoys a much-deserved cult following for its fresh Mediterranean fare, sold from both downtown food carts and a brick-and-mortar restaurant on the near-north side. Dig into the namesake Banzo pita sandwich and you’ll see why. Stuffed to the brink with creamy hummus and fresh falafel, the signature dish showcases Banzo’s mastery when it comes to these two ingredients. Supplement your order with side dishes like couscous tabouli, baba ghanoush, hand-cut fries or the stellar chopped salad. $ BOM

Bunky’s Cafe
2425 Atwood Ave., 204-7004
The east side café is a go-to spot for vegetarian dishes without the fuss. With an extensive Mediterranean-Italian menu featuring everything from falafel and hummus to hearty pastas and veggie-filled sandwiches, Bunky’s covers all the bases. Better yet, dishes are made from scratch
and can be prepared vegetarian and vegan upon request. $$ BOM

Daisy Café and Cupcakery
2827 Atwood Ave., 241-2200
This sunny shop is known for unique cupcake flavors topped with quirky frosting designs. However, the café offers a robust, vegetarian-conscious menu for those hoping for something more substantial. Try the No-Meat Loaf or the New Mediterranean sandwich and curb your sweet tooth—at least until after lunch. $ BOM

Dhaba Indian Bistro
333 Greenway Blvd., #100, Middleton, 203-8822
Indian cuisine lends itself well to a vegetarian diet. Dhaba, located near Middleton’s Greenway Station, is no exception. Start with the zippy samosas, little fried turnovers stuffed with potatoes and peas. For an entrée you can’t go wrong with the aloo gobhi with cauliflower and potatoes cooked in tomatoes and spices. $$

Dobhan
2110 Atwood Ave., 242-4448
With an airy interior and eclectic menu, Dobhan has something for both adventurous and play-it-safe eaters. Most items are Nepali and Tibetan, but a few American staples and some Moroccan dishes like tagine pepper the menu as well. Try the steamed edamame for an appetizer and the coconut tofu or the bhat tarkari, a vegetable stew with Nepali spices, for dinner. $$

Dumpling Haus
702 N. Midvale Blvd., 661-4287
The homemade dumplings and buns at this Hilldale Mall outpost are the stuff of comfort. The chalkboard menu makes it easy to see which items are meatless with brightly colored stars, and while the carnivorous options might outweigh the vegetarian, we’re going for quality over quantity here. The veggie wontons and the veggie bao really hit the spot. $

Eldorado Grill
744 Williamson St., 280-9378
Sure, Eldorado’s got a lot of tasty meat options on its Southwestern menu, but you’d be surprised at the bevy of vegetarian choices. Start with a cup of Taylor’s ten-pepper vegan chile or vegetable and goat cheese empanadas, and then fill up on the Thai vegetable fajitas—with carrots, broccoli, bok choy, red pepper and more tossed in a Thai dressing—or the quinoa and vegetable stuffed poblano, an Eldorado specialty. Any choice goes great with a taste from the restaurant’s unbeatable selection of tequilas. $$$ BOM

Graze
1 S. Pinckney St., 251-2700
Downtown gastropub Graze has amassed a loyal foodie following for its locally sourced fare and gorgeous Capitol views. While chef Tory Miller is deservedly recognized for his talent in preparing pork and beef, he and his kitchen crew merit just as much praise for meatless creations. The roasted beet salad is a must-try, with grilled mushrooms, butterhead lettuce, chevre-ciabatta, black mission figs, sunflower seeds, chili pepper, honey and a citrus dressing. For heartier fare, go with the toasted farro, a unique mix of grains, Oaxacan-style cheese, grilled lettuce, baby cucumbers and roasted cherry tomato vinaigrette. $$ BOM

Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.
123 E. Doty St., 284-0000; 357 Price Pl., 661-9400; 876 Jupiter Dr., 442-1333; 2980 Cahill Main, Fitchburg, 442-9000
If you think it’s hard to choose among the Dane’s signature and specialty brews, just wait till you try to pick an entrée. Pub grub here is decidedly vegetarian-friendly: More than a dozen dishes are indicated with a happy little carrot on the menu. The hummus plate and heaping Nakoma nachos are great for sharing, while you’ll want the Wisconsin Style Cheddar Mac all for yourself. And diners would revolt if the Inner Warmth Peanut Stew or the Capitol Falafel Sandwich ever got the ax. $$ BOM

Green Owl Café
1970 Atwood Ave., 285-5290
As it’s the only one hundred percent vegetarian restaurant in Madison, there’s really no excuse not to check out this charming Atwood Avenue spot. Don’t miss the Middle Eastern platter with a delicious combo of hummus, tabouli, baba ganoush, pita, olives and pickled vegetables. Other slam-dunks? The Izzy salad, one of the best Greek salads in town, the kale chips, oven baked to crispy perfection, and the TLT sandwich, with marinated tempeh, lettuce, tomato, avocado and vegan aioli. Many an omnivore has been pleasantly surprised by this place, too. $$ BOM

Ha Long Bay
1353 Williamson St., 255-2868
Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian specialties range from curries to fried rice to noodle dishes to pho. For a light and refreshing meal, opt for the vegetarian spring rolls, papaya salad and a bowl of vermicelli with tofu. Save room for the coconut sticky rice with mango or ice cream for dessert. $$ BOM

Harmony Bar & Grill
2201 Atwood Ave., 249-4333
Two words: walnut burger. The Harmony’s version of a veggie burger enjoys a loyal following of vegetarians and omnivores alike thanks to its deliciously hearty patty made with cheese, onions, walnuts, spices and an egg-and-bread mix to hold it together. Add cheese and onions (raw or fried) on top and order a side of house-made chips with blue cheese dip to really seal the deal. $ BOM

Himal Chuli
318 State St., 251-9225
A longtime State Street favorite, Himal Chuli offers a unique menu of Himalayan cuisine. Try the momocha, steamed vegetable dumplings filled with peanut paste, spices and herbs, and the katahar kabob, green jackfruit marinated with spices and sautéed with onions, tomatoes and cilantro. The roti, a flatbread, and dal, a mixed-bean soup, make for simple but delicious starters or sides. $$ BOM

Ian’s
100 State St., 257-9248; 319 N. Frances St., 257-0597
While this Madison icon is known around the country for creative and unusual pizzas, Ian’s also dishes up some tasty vegetarian options, like their new chipotle sweet potato and the spinach feta pesto, and, of course, the macaroni and cheese. Also popular is the made-to-order salad bar stocked with local produce. $ BOM

Jacs Dining and Tap House
2611 Monroe St., 441-5444
An often-underappreciated eatery, Jacs on Monroe Street has a range of Mediterranean-inspired sandwiches, flatbreads and entrées. Vegetarians should get in on the wild mushroom and butternut squash risotto and the grape flatbread with blue cheese, arugula, walnuts and balsamic reduction. We award Jacs even more bonus points for their gluten-free options. $$

Lao Laan-Xang
2098 Atwood Ave., 819-0140; 1146 Williamson St., 280-0104
Both the original Willy Street location and the Atwood Avenue spin-off serve some of the best Laotian and Thai food in the city. The squash curry, a top seller, is a must-order no matter where you stand on the meat/no-meat divide. And the veggie eggrolls? No one can eat just one. $$ BOM

Lazy Jane’s
1358 Williamson St., 257-5263
The funky Willy Street spot is home to vegheads and omnivores alike. The reason? Good, simple, honest cooking, as evidenced by comforting breakfast dishes like the veggie frittata, with a different selection of fresh and local produce at every visit, and the buttermilk pancakes made with a thick homemade batter. Loyal patrons never stop recommending the SCC—scrambled eggs with scallions and cream cheese. Want to stop by for lunch? Jane’s soups are equal parts comforting and flavorful. Of course, the delicious scones hit the spot no matter the time of day. Just don’t forget your cash. $

Liliana’s
2951 Triverton Pike Dr., Fitchburg, 442-4444
French Quarter styling, live jazz and blues, New Orleans cooking and ... vegetarian food? Oh, yeah. Liliana’s offers a handful of meatless entrées, salads and soups with lots of Big Easy flavors—or opt for the smoked tofu “wings” that come with a variety of hot sauces or the roasted tomato flatbread with asparagus, Montrachet, pesto and balsamic reduction. And don’t forget dessert! Bananas Foster, crème brûlée, chocolate bourbon pecan pie and vegan chocolate cake temp omnivores and vegetarians alike. $$$ BOM

Marrakesh
5510 University Ave., 238-7111
Once you step inside Marrakesh you’ll feel transported to Morocco, thanks to the charming décor imported from the north African country and the aromatic smells wafting out of the kitchen. Owner Youssef Amraoui takes great care to present an authentic menu that includes several vegetarian dishes, like the vegetable tagine and vegetarian couscous. Many familiar appetizers are meat-free, including hummus, falafel and tabouli, but don’t miss the makouda (potato croquettes) or the mohamara (a blended dip of walnuts, artichoke, red pepper and spices). $$

Manna Café and Bakery
611 N. Sherman Ave., 663-5500
This east side eatery is a morning and lunchtime haven for its homemade goodies. If you’re an egg eater, opt for the Spinach Swirl Scramble, Away in Provence Omelet or Garden Goodness sandwich; if not, go with the Collins House Oatmeal Pancakes or Fantasy Sticky Bun French Toast. And sandwiches and wraps come packed with fresh veggies. Tuesdays through Saturdays, Manna also serves dinner, with a pita platter, sandwiches and an Israeli roasted veggie and pearled couscous dish leading the vegetarian choices. $$

Merchant
121 S. Pinckney St., 259-9799
You know Merchant for its killer craft cocktails, but consider adding it to your list of dinner go-tos when you’ve got a wide range of palates to please. Small plates and apps are great for sharing and range from cheese curds to flatbreads. The meat-averse shouldn’t miss the shiitake mushroom and farrow bowl or the homemade pasta dish with buttery mushrooms and chard. $$ BOM

Mermaid Café 
1929 Winnebago St., 249-9719
For breakfast or lunch, this cozy café serves a selective but tasty menu, prepared with fresh and locally sourced products. Opt for the ever-popular Oh Mighty Isis, a breakfast sandwich topped with tomato, avocado, egg, cheese and coconut curry aioli, or go with a cup of carrot soup paired with the Banh Meatless, the tofu version of the Bahn Mi, a Vietnamese-French fusion sandwich. $

Mickey’s Tavern
1524 Williamson St., 251-9964 
The Lonestar sandwich should be a must-try on any vegetarian’s bucket list. With southwest marinated tofu, avocado, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and pickles with chipotle aioli and dijon mustard, it really packs a punch. And of course, everything’s better at Mickey’s with a side of Sexy Fries. $ BOM

Monty’s Blue Plate Diner
2089 Atwood Ave., 244-8505
The Shoplifter’s Delight sandwich is a fail-safe sandwich choice: portobello mushrooms and fried Bandung tempeh are topped with slices of red onion, avocado and a drizzle of lemon-tahini dressing. The Meatless Loaf of the Gods and Ultimate Mac and Cheese are classic comfort foods. For the slightly more adventurous, try the vegetarian chili—it comes with a kick! $ BOM

The Nile
6119 Odana Rd., 274-1788
This Mediterranean eatery caters to vegetarians with a meatless menu offering eight options for lunch and dinner. The pitas are served warm and the falafel is just right—crispy on the outside and moist in the middle. The Vegetarian Delight is a popular choice—choose a combination of hummus, baba ganoush, yalenjee (stuffed grape leaves), falafel and tabbouleh. $$

Novanta
8452 Old Sauk Rd., Middleton, 831-7740
The thing that sets this Middleton pizzeria apart from its Hilldale Mall sister, Café Porta Alba, is the fresh mozzarella bar. First choose your cheese—either house-made mozzarella, Wisconsin burrata, Italian buffalo or Italian smoked buffalo—and then add on your desired accouterments. If you crave Neopolitan-style pizza, choose among four delicious meat-free options. $

Sa-Bai Thong
6802 Odana Rd., 828-9565; 2840 University Ave., 238-3100
With two locations, each offering both delivery and takeout and a tome of a menu, Sa-Bai Thong is a go-to for Thai cuisine. From curries to noodles to fried rice, dishes come with the choice of tofu. We recommend the summer roll and the Yum Ta-Wai, a healthy plate of steamed broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, sesame seed, carrot, squash and shallot with peanut sauce. $$ BOM

Taste of India 
2623 Monroe St., 218-9200
Head to this Monroe Street spot around lunchtime to take advantage of the buffet. And come hungry! The choices are plentiful,  and you’d be remiss not to sample multiple dishes. Check out the aloo gobhi and aloo spinach, and don’t skip the naan—we’re especially fond of the garlic and aloo varieties. $$

The Spot
827 E. Johnson St., 251-7768
The sophisticated offerings at this new-ish East Johnson eatery (it opened late last summer) straddles European and new American fare. The menu isn’t long, making the unique vegetarian offerings—including the baked artichoke ramekin appetizer, chickpea and pepper goulash and portabella stew—even more impressive. There are several tempting seafood dishes, too, if you’re into that. $

Swagat
707 N High Point Rd., 836-9399
Do not miss the lunch buffet at Swagat, one of the Madison-area’s beloved Indian restaurants. If you’re there for dinner, hit the easy button and opt for the vegetarian dinner for two. You’ll get a smathering of tasty apps, sides and entrées, ranging from fried samosas and soup to spinach and curry dishes to Malai Kofta—a classic north Indian dish made with savory dumplings. Whatever you do, just be sure that you order one of Swagat’s dosas, an Indian crepe. It’s huge! $$ BOM

Umami Ramen & Dumpling Bar
923 Williamson St., 819-6319
Say it with us: Spicy tofu buns. Soft, steamed Chinese buns nestle slices of fried tofu topped with pickled cucumbers and spicy mayo and scallion sauces. You won’t go wrong with this order, but plenty of other meat-free items tempt—from summer rolls, hiyayakko chilled tofu and a variety of salads to veggie dumplings (with smoked tofu, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms) and piping-hot bowls of veggie and vegan ramen. $$ BOM

Wah Kee Wonton Noodle 
600 Williamson St., 255-5580
While the menu, comprised of traditional Cantonese and other Southeast Asian dishes, at this Willy Street restaurant is lengthy, focus on the noodle dishes. They’re made fresh in-house by owner Albert Ng, who learned the technique from his parents in Hong Kong. Try the vegetarian iteration of the mo po tofu, white noodles covered in a spicy tofu sauce. $

Weary Traveler Freehouse
1201 Williamson St., 442-6207
In addition to a scrumptious roasted veggie salad at this welcoming Willy Street spot, you’ll find the sweet corn, quinoa and black bean salad, a baked local acorn squash dish and a south-of-the-border snack plate with homemade guac, spicy pickled veggies and vegan tortilla chips. But the Tom Ka Tofu coconut lemongrass stew and the Ramblin’ Vegan’s Chili are true originals. $$ BOM

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