By Bernadette Constance

In 2010, PETA ranked Atlanta No.4 on their list of “The Most Veg-Friendly Cities in North America.” Restaurants from more seemingly obvious choices like San Francisco, Seattle and New York rated lower on the list.

As a relative newcomer to the city, I embarked on a mini-culinary odyssey to find out why. Being a 17-year vegetarian, I chose to take along my more carnivorous friends to form more balanced opinions. Here are five vegetarian restaurants inside the perimeter worth checking out.

Healthful Essence
875 York Ave., Atlanta, 30310

Called “the spiritual creation of Chef Princess Dixon and partner Kwadwo Kephera,” Healthful Essence unites a delicious Caribbean style menu with a joyful customer experience in the heart of West End. With a big selection of raw vegetables and cooked dishes – like their famous Unfish Cakes, BarBQ Tofu and Jerk UnChicken – there is always something new to try and come back for. All foods are prepared and cooked vegan, using organic ingredients and fresh spices.

The helpful staff did not allow my friend and me to stand around and look clueless for long. They happily fed us samples and explained the offerings behind the “hot bar” at the counter. Reggae music and a laid back décor lend to the island atmosphere, and live music is available for special events. There are cooking and healthy-living classes, catering is available, and they offer free Wi-Fi. Special discounts on certain days of the week for students and senior citizens are just one way they show customer appreciation.

Café Sunflower
2140 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, 30309

Located in an unassuming Buckhead strip mall, Café Sunflower is known as the veggie restaurant to take ones’ non-veggie loving friends. They have a menu that makes you forget that standard “veggie burger” even exists (while still having one of the best ones I ever tried). It’s filled with Mediterranean, Asian, and American Southern and Southwestern influences, as well as delicious desserts. The décor is earthy but modern and they offer cooking classes, special events, catering and a shop full of Café Sunflower merchandise, including their popular cookbook, Atlanta’s Celebrated Vegetarian Restaurant, Café Sunflower: Recipes You Can Cook at Home.

Soul Vegetarian II
652 N Highland Ave., Atlanta, 30306
(404) 875-4641

In Virginia Highland or Poncey Highland (depending on who you ask) is a vegetarian restaurant with some unusual awards. Soul Vegetarian II’s mac and cheese just won “Madea’s Restaurant Wars,” a promotional contest for the Tyler Perry movie, Madea’s Big Happy Family. They received an overwhelming 38 percent of the votes against three other local non-vegetarian restaurants. Obviously, soul food fans don’t mind if it’s healthy, just as long as it tastes great. This affordable and cozy spot is a great place to meet up with people for a casual down home-style meal. While the mac and cheese certainly lives up to the hype, don’t forget the lentil burgers or the velvety soy ice cream for dessert. There is also another Atlanta location in West End.

Chat Patti
1594 Woodcliff Drive, #F, Atlanta, 30329

Next to an Indian grocery store and fashion boutique in Druid Hills, is Atlanta’s only Indian vegetarian restaurant. It features delicious, spicy and authentic home style cooking. North and South Indian, Chaat, Punjabi and a traditional Gujarati style buffet is available every day. They also have snacks and desserts, with a take away bakery section. For the uninitiated, the pictures on the wall and the in-restaurant menu containing only the name of each dish can be a bit daunting. But, the online menu has a vivid description of each menu option, so you can always check that out before going. Also, the staff is very helpful with recommendations.

Green Sprout
1529 Piedmont Avenue, Suite D, Atlanta, 30324

This Midtown/Lenox Hill area restaurant has a well-earned reputation of being one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in Atlanta. If you like your Chinese food spicy and robust, then look no further. The Stuffed Zucchini with Chili Garlic Sauce is life-altering and they will make Kung Pao Chicken as hot as you like. All dishes are vegetarian and most dishes are vegan or can be made vegan upon request. Huge portions, smiling service and affordable prices also make this place a “must visit” destination.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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