Guest post: Finding vegan in the Indianapolis!  »

Finding vegan-friendly places to eat in a new city can be a difficult, frustrating affair; though nothing beats sitting on your patio, sharing a home-cooked meal and some family leisure time by the pool, it’s nice to be able to go out for a good meal. I discovered this recently when I moved to Indianapolis, Ind., a city not widely known for its cuisine or vegan-friendliness. Despite its (lack of) reputation, there are many fantastic restaurants in Indianapolis that cater to vegans and non-vegans alike, making them perfect destinations for families whose members have various dietary restrictions. Five of the best I’ve found so far are 3 Sisters Café, Jasmine Thai, Santorini’s Greek Kitchen, Yats, and ‘Za.

Jasmine Thai
Though there are many Thai restaurants in Indianapolis, my favorite by far is Jasmine Thai. Nestled in a shopping plaza on 96th Street and River Road on the North side of Indy, the cozy dining area and friendly staff provide a pleasant atmosphere. Nearly every dish can be made vegan by substituting tofu for meat and asking for no eggs. Jasmine uses fresh spices and vegetables in all their dishes and will add extra vegetables to any dish for $2, though I found that my Pad Woon-Sen was so jam-packed with veggies that I could scarcely have handled more. If you’re looking for a good, laid-back place to take your family or don’t feel like cooking and are in the mood for some good Thai food, look no further than Jasmine Thai. In addition to being vegan-friendly, it’s a great place to go if you have gluten allergies or celiac disease, because Thai cuisine does not use wheat.

Voted Best Vegetarian/Vegan Option in Nuvo's Best of Indy 2010 awards, Yats is Indy's preeminent Cajun/Creole restaurant chain. With locations in Broad Ripple, downtown, Fishers, and Greenwood, it's easy to find an accessible spot. The menus at each location rotate daily, so it's best to ask which items are vegan, though dishes like succotash are on the menu more often than not. Each dish comes with buttered bread, so letting the staff know that you're seeking a vegan option is recommended. Yats is a great restaurant to take a family if you're looking for a fast-paced, colorful night out. Also, the Broad Ripple location is just half a mile from Cantebury Park, making it a great place to bring take-out and spend some time with your children.

Santorini’s Greek Kitchen
Located in Fountain Square in central Indianapolis, Santorini’s Greek Kitchen is a family-owned authentic Greek restaurant with several vegan-friendly options, including lahanosalata (cabbage salad), soupa me bizelia (split pea soup) and spanakopita (spinach pie—make sure to ask them to leave out the feta). Popular vegan appetizers include hummus, tzaziki, baba ganoush and Santorini tomato balls. Santorini’s is the most expensive of these three restaurants, with appetizers costing around $7 and main dishes running between $12 and $18, but the food is fantastic and the atmosphere is friendly and inviting. Why not top off an evening out with the family by visiting Santorini’s? The friendly staff and energetic atmosphere will make you feel like you’re at a family reunion with your favorite family members.

Broad Ripple Village, a neighborhood on the north side of Indy, is a treasure trove of fantastic restaurants. It’s also where you’ll find ‘Za Pizzeria, a small late-night pizza joint that makes their dough in-house and uses all fresh ingredients. Their only menu options are pizza and breadsticks, so it’s very, very niche. They have a specialty vegan pizza, the VeganZa, which uses Daiya and a choice of two toppings for $22 for a 14-inch or $28 for an 18-inch pie. The atmosphere is light, with a small dining room painted in a bright orange. It’s not an ideal place to take a large group of people, but they do offer delivery, so you can easily enjoy some ‘Za in the comfort of your home.

3 Sisters
Another gem of Broad Ripple, 3 Sisters Café is a family-friendly eatery established in a beautiful old house. With creaky wooden floors and large windows, you’ll feel more like you’re eating at grandma’s than at a restaurant. The food is absolutely amazing. They serve non-vegetarian and vegan dishes, so you’ll have to pay special attention to the menu when you’re ordering, though vegan dishes are marked. Some of the most delectable available are the multigrain porridge, and the black bean burger. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the food and can help you find what you need.

If you know where to go, Indianapolis has a wide variety of fantastic restaurants that are suitable for both vegans and non-vegans, making them ideal places to take mixed groups. If you live or travel in the Indianapolis area, give each of these places a try; they all bring something unique—and delicious—to the table.

Joe Baker is a health fanatic who hates anything processed. His hobbies include adventure racing, Krav Maga, and horseback riding. Eating right makes these possible, so do it.

[“View of Indianapolis” by Edward Sachse, 1854, via Yale Digital Commons]

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