Wisconsin, the land of cheese and sausage, right? Well, I can’t argue with that, but nowadays you won’t be limited to just those options here in Milwaukee. We love our veggies too!
As the shift towards a meatless lifestyle for many has spread, countless establishments have popped up to cater to these dietary needs. In every area of town, you will find a plentiful array of vegetarian and vegan options to be enjoyed! On top of that, most restaurants will offer some version of a vegetarian or vegan meal, or at least a substitution. The creativity employed in the creation of the dishes that I’ve discovered while on my foodie adventures is astounding.
Disclaimer: I’m not a vegetarian! If you have read any of my other restaurant reviews, you’ll see that I’m not even close. I’ve actually been known to try just about anything that hits my plate. Still, I do love to include meatless meals into my own diet on a regular basis. I also have a lot of friends and family who are either vegetarian or vegan, so over the years I’ve become very in-tune with which restaurants in the area that I can comfortably take them to. Recently, it has become a lot less of a challenge to find vegetarian options in Milwaukee than ever before.
Below, you will find a ranked list of my favorite spots to find vegetarian dishes in Milwaukee. Many of the options are also vegan. Some of the restaurants included are entirely meatless, while others have included a few amazing dishes on their menu. So whether you are entertaining a vegetarian out-of-town guest or live a completely vegan lifestyle yourself, there will be items on this list for you! Either way, bon appetite!
15. Lulu Cafe
One of my favorite restaurants in Milwaukee is LuLu Cafe in Bay View. It was actually the very first restaurant I wrote about on Female Foodie back in January of 2016! But the food at LuLu stands the test of time. My go-to item on their menu is the Mid-East falafel pita (vegetarian). No need for substitutions here for a vegetarian meal, as falafel balls are deep fried chickpeas. This sandwich is topped with a fresh tabouleh salad and has a side of creamy feta-yogurt sauce. One thing to note about LuLu, is that you can substitute tofu for any protein for no additional charge. Also pictured is the Mediterranean steak pita (vegetarian), which has been subbed with tofu. The tofu has been marinated in seasoning, topped with feta cheese, fresh tomato, and Kalamata olive relish. Read my full post on LuLu Cafe HERE.
14. The Laughing Taco
This relatively new taco place in Walker’s Point will fulfill your hunger for a tasty vegan taco in a very inventive way! The Laughing Taco serves up a cactus taco (yes, I said cactus) called the nopalitos (vegan). The cactus is seasoned in a mild chile sauce, topped with cilantro and onion, and wrapped in a corn tortilla. You have to be a tiny bit of an adventurous eater for this one, but I promise it’s good! I also included The Laughing Taco in my list of the Top 12 Taco Spots in Milwaukee, which you can read HERE.
13. Wolf Peach (Closed)
If you follow my writing, you’ll know I’m crazy about an Eggs Benedict. At Wolf Peach, the “I’ll Have What She’s Having” is the perfect alternative for a vegetarian version! Instead of Canadian bacon, you have mushrooms. Top that with two poached eggs, hollandaise, and serve it on an English muffin. That’s my personal favorite item on their brunch menu, but I also enjoy the chilaquiles. If you’ve never had chilaquiles, they’re basically a nacho dish, usually with chorizo. At Wolf Peach, you are free to sub in soyrizo! Read my full post on Wolf Peach HERE.
Onesto is more known for their locally sourced Italian menu than being a vegetarian spot. But they really do have countless vegetarian options on the menu. Two of my favorite dishes on their menu just happen to be meatless. The wild mushroom ragu (vegetarian), with their housemade gnocchi, is to die for. Also a great option, their grilled eggplant canneloni (vegetarian) has basil ricotta, walnut, pesto, provolone, and sage marinara. Onesto is also a great spot to plan a dinner after a night on the town, especially if you’re in the company of friends who do not eat meat! Read my full review on Onesto HERE.
11. On the Bus
This is one of the newest spots that you will find on my list, located in the Milwaukee Public Market. On the Bus boasts a completely vegan menu, and I have tried almost every sandwich on it. As a person who does eat meat, I find their substitutions for proteins to be absolutely fabulous. Extra points for the adorable VW bus which houses their restaurant! Pictured here was the first sandwich I ever tried at On the Bus, the portobello truffle. It is topped with tomato, red onion, arugula, mozzarella cheese, with truffle oil on ciabatta. My other favorite sandwiches of theirs are the vegan Rueben and the Jamaican jerk. Also pictured here is the cacao berry bowl, a nutrient packed choice off their acai bowl menu. It is filled with acai, strawberry, almond butter, and apple juice, topped with cacao nibs, strawberries, and hemp seed granola. It’s perfect if you’re in need of a refreshing mid-day meal!
10. Grassroots Salad Company
Definitely not the “food court” food you’re used to. Grassroots Salad Company is located at Brookfield Square, and has been a beacon of plant based, organic light! You can build your own wrap or salad or opt to try one of the specialty listings on the menu. Pictured here is the Kriti wrap (vegetarian), made of Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, red onions, chickpeas, Wisconsin feta cheese, and Greek goddess dressing. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, be sure to grab one of their super juices. Find my full review of Grassroots HERE.
9. Swig (Closed)
One of my go-to spots for tapas, Swig is another great place to meet with a group of friends. I actually held my birthday party here a couple months back! Basically, I know it’s a place I can take people with many different palates, and they’ll still find something they’re able to enjoy. They have plenty of vegetarian items on their menu as well. I personally love their famous black bean cakes! They are topped with cilantro sour cream, scallions, and come with a side of salsa. I can’t help but choose them as one of my small plates every single time. Read my full review on Swig HERE.
8. The National Cafe
Not surprisingly, you will find The National Cafe right there on National Ave! It’s a cute little cafe with a delightfully interesting menu. Stop in for a drink, grab a bite, or even order for takeaway. They are known for having a menu full of vegetarian and vegan friendly options. I personally love their baked s’mores French toast, with marshmallows, chocolate, and graham cracker crumble. It’s served with a chocolate hazelnut sauce, whipped cream, and candied nuts.
7. Comet Cafe
Comet Cafe is your classic diner, serving up great options for vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. While your friend enjoys bacon at the bar, you can try this wicked garden sandwich (vegan option available). Now hear me out, it’s a beet sandwich. Probably wouldn’t be your first choice upon looking at the menu. But I swear it’s amazing, and a must-try offering! The beets are grilled and their flavor pairs perfectly with the lemon-caper cream cheese spread on each slice of multi-grain bread. The sandwich is filled with arugula, shredded carrots, onions, walnuts, and lemon-thyme vinaigrette. Don’t knock it til you try it.
6. Urban Beets
This was one of the spots I was most excited to try. A grab-and-go cafe and juicery that specializes in plant-based food, meant to nourish the body and mind. Pictured here is the epitome of quick and easy, a vegan bagel with deliciously creamy pesto cashew cream cheese. They topped it with chia seeds for me for aesthetic appeal, although with a location like this, everything was beautiful as is! Urban Beets will make you feel major West Coast vibes, even when it’s zero degrees outside. Which it was the other day when I visited. I also chose the “hydration” juice, as it’s meant to flush the body of toxins and improve the immune system, and I was feeling a little under the weather. The green apple, cucumber, beet, and mint combined to make a fresh-tasting juice packed with vitamins!
5. Beans & Barley
Grocery store, cafe, deli, bar… Beans & Barley is a one-stop shop that has been in business forever! Since 1979, to be exact. I can’t skip the gift shop as I wait for a table, as there’s always some kind of local find that I just have to have. But the main event was this delicious tofu scrambler (vegan) I tried from their breakfast menu. Firm tofu scrambled with tomatoes, mushrooms, and scallions. It’s served with parsley shallot potatoes and your bread of choice (I chose the apricot scone they had that day). I can honestly say I enjoy this tofu scramble better than a regular egg scramble! And I chose it because I had heard countless other foodies rave about it! It definitely lived up to the hype. Side note: Beans & Barley was the first place I ever tried eggs Benedict, which spurred my massive love for it!
4. Beerline Cafe
This completely vegetarian restaurant was recommended by one of my vegan pals, so I knew it was going to be good. People love Beerline Cafe not only because of its low environmental impact, but because they serve lots of the comfort foods you might miss once you no longer consume animal products. Not to mention, they also serve a large variety of healthy salads, smoothies, and juices. Now onto the good stuff – I personally love their portobello cheesesteak (vegan option) the most. The marinated bell peppers, onions, melty cheddar cheese (I went with vegan), marinated mushroom strips, and onion sauce meld in a way that suggests they were all made for each other. The Beerline mac (vegan) can be made with wheat or rice noodles (I chose wheat), and is baked in their signature vegan cheese sauce. It’s then topped with paprika and scallions. Definitely on par with other non-vegan mac and cheese in the area, in my opinion. The final part of my meal was the baked potato soup, which was honestly more like a bowl of very blended mashed potatoes. Delicious ones, at that! It was creamy and extremely flavorful, topped with vegan bacon.
DanDan, known or its “Chinese soul with Midwestern sensibility.” This Asian spot, open for lunch and dinner, has a menu laden with options that can be made vegan. One of my favorites, the General Tso’s cauliflower (vegan). It is flavored with chili oil, scallion, ginger, and bok choy. In my opinion, it’s even better than your typical General Tso’s chicken. Another dish I tend to order is the egg foo young (vegetarian). Mixed in are seasonal vegetables and then they are drizzled with hot mustard and soy gravy. It will be like no egg foo young you ever have experienced!
2. Freshfin Poké
FreshFin Poké has been receiving a lot of hype in the foodie community lately, and for all the right reasons! Their fast-casual premium seafood fare has us thinking we are living on a coast. I especially love their zen bowl (vegan), which has shiitake mushrooms, sweet potato, avocado, carrots, cucumber, daikon, cilantro lime, and their classic sauce. The mix of textures and flavors cannot be beat. All sauces are prepared in-house each day, which explains why they’re all so delicious! That’s probably my favorite part of all their bowls. Each time I try another one, I’m convinced I have a new favorite! You can also build your own bowl and choose from tons of different vegan and vegetarian options. FreshFin is a favorite for takeout as well! Not just quick, but healthy too.
1. Cafe Manna
Cafe Manna is a casual, calm, and completely vegetarian spot. But in my opinion it has a sort of high-end feel (in a good way!). They were actually one of the first 100% vegetarian restaurants in Milwaukee! They have won countless prestigious awards, and for good reason. I love that at every meal, you get to start out with their homemade hummus. My absolute favorite dish that they serve is the peace bowl (vegan), twin pyramids of basmati rice and quinoa with seasonal veggies in a rich coconut curry sauce. It’s a warm and cozy dish that is perfect when you’re looking for a good hearty meal. If you’re in the mood for a lighter dish, you have to get the raw Thai rolls (vegan)! They are crisp and refreshing, with a zing of flavor (but not too spicy or anything). The macademia-lime filling inside adds a great amount of flavor and the mix of veggies and collards wrapping them is a lovely mix of soft and crunchy. The sauce is perfect for dipping!
I hope you enjoyed this list of vegetarian favorites. Whether you are well-versed in vegetarianism or are contemplating your first meatless meal, there will be something on this list you will love!