A Vegan Guide to Ordering at Knoxville's Restaurants
Even though vegan options are getting more and more abundant at all kinds of restaurants in Knoxville and beyond, it still helps to have something of a field guide. This post was inspired by a reader who asked for really specific suggestions about what to order, and though I've done my best to include as many restaurants as possible, it is by no means comprehensive.
By the way, I also left out places where you can easily build your own pizza like Blaze Pizza and Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint, along with any Mexican restaurant where veggie fajitas are the only or best choice. Delicious as they may be, fajitas are fajitas.
Vegan Options at Knoxville Restaurants
The vegan menu at A Dopo is short but worthwhile: mushroom pâté with flatbread as an appetizer, and the pizza marinara for dinner. Simple, but the execution is excellent. Click here for a blog post and video I made about A Dopo.
There's an Aubrey's near my office, so it's been helpful to know what I can get there when we meet clients for lunch. I go for the kale salad without goat cheese. There are a number of other salads that can be modified slightly to be vegan. You can also add sides like steamed broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, cinnamon apples, and fries, both sweet potato and regular.
The tableside guacamole is hands-down the best in town. With a few vegetable tacos (minus the cotija cheese) and maybe a side, that's plenty! I could eat just the guacamole, honestly. Honorable mention to the black-eyed pea hummus and the chopped salad minus the cheese.
Located on Northshore at Papermill (in the business park with the Casual Pint), Barberitos is my favorite of the Moe's/Salsarita's/Chipotle ilk. Their tofu option is better than Chipotle's sofritas, and the staff is just really nice. Bonus points for listing a "Vegan Burrito" on the menu!
Barley's is pretty easy, actually. You can build your own vegan pizza
Now that Bida Saigon offers vegetarian broth, I'm going to be all up in that pho at every opportunity. Get it with fried tofu and don't neglect to add all the yummy herbs and sprouts they give you on the side! A little bit of chili oil makes it a rich, spicy, delicious experience.
The Bistro is probably my favorite restaurant in Knoxville. It's 5 minutes from home, has the best atmosphere in town, and offers vegan options for every meal. Classic southern food made with fresh, local ingredients is their trademark, so it probably comes as no surprise that my usual order is Hoppin'John with a side of sweet potato fries.
I've been to "The Burrito Bus" several times now, and I've been really happy with both the excellent quality of the food and the effort they've put into providing vegan options. Any of their burritos can be made vegan. From marinated mushrooms and roasted poblanos to sweet potato "chorizo" and vegan cashew sauce in place of cheese, they're definitely going out of their way to make their plant-based peeps happy.
If you get tired of fajitas, try the veggie enchiladas with guacamole instead of cheese!
The Kensington Garden salad with no feta is quite good, and you can always add on a side of fries (oh, excuse me, chips) or seasonal veggies if you like. The hummus is very good, but I'm not sure if the bread that comes with it is vegan. If you find out before I get a chance to ask, let me know!
Dinner Bell Fresh changes their menu ever day, but if you ever happen to go when they do the cornbread waffle with barbecue jackfruit, mac and cheese, cole slaw, and cashew crema, do NOT miss the opportunity. Heaven.
The vegan soul tamale is the undisputed king of vegan Mexican food in town, and it's one of their most popular options. Currently, all their sides are vegan, so go crazy and make it a meal!
Start with the vegetarian sambussa, then build a combination platter from your choice of 8 separate vegan dishes served with injera (the crepe-like bread) or rice. The Ethiopian coffee is delicious, by the way.
The Abu Vaden sandwich without feta is very good. At breakfast, I always end up with oatmeal made with soymilk and strawberries.
The mapo doufu at Kaizen is magical. Described as a "Sichuan tofu dish with toasted chili oil, fermented black beans, broad bean paste and fresh herbs served over steamed rice," it is probably the single best vegan dish in town, at least to my taste. They also have a number of other vegan dishes, including tofu fried rice, red curry squash, and ginger ponzu noodles.
Try the Thai Dye Pizza with tofu instead of chicken, and make sure to ask for no butter or parmesan on the crust! The tempeh and tofu hoagies are both good, but be sure to ask for no mayo and substitute vegan cheese!
Nama has tons of simple vegan rolls with just one featured ingredient, but I like the more flavorful rolls myself. Try the Crispy Veggie, Spicy Shiitake, Marley, Piña, and Veggie Futo rolls. If you'd like an appetizer, opt for the edamame or one of several salads (I like the seaweed salad, but the texture isn't for everyone). They have a number of non-sushi options, so don't be afraid to explore! Just be forewarned that bonito flakes are dried fish, and the miso soup isn't vegan :/
Depending on your appetite, I suggest that you go for the protein-heavy trifecta of tempeh bacon, tofu chorizo, and smashed potatoes made with olive oil instead of butter. For a real treat, ask for the Abuelita mocha made with almond milk.
Public House has veggie hot dogs, so you can pick your favorite combo or build your own. The seasoned popcorn and Israeli-style hummus make great side items if you're not into kettle chips.
There are many things at Sanctuary that I have yet to try, but so far my favorite has been the roasted beet reuben. I also had some cupcakes there that were pretty incredible.
The Animal Lover pizza at Sugar Mama's is the one I'm aware of locally that has vegan pepperoni, along with spinach, banana peppers, and onion. If you miss the pepperoni, this is the one for you! You can also get the hummus and some great local beers, and they usually have a vegan dessert option (the whoopie pies are my favorite).
Among the many options at Taste of Thai, the one I always seem to come back to is the penang curry.
As a former employee, I like to think I know the T-Head menu pretty well. I used to go crazy modifying dishes and making my own custom hybrids, but these days I only do that at brunch (add potatoes to everything!). At lunch and dinner, I stick to the Southwestern Salad with tofu and southwestern vinaigrette or the Roger Roger sandwich with vegan cheese. However, if you're looking for an off-menu tip, ask for the Vegan Kepner. For more, read my blog post Every Vegan Option at The Tomato Head.
A former employee and friend of the owner tipped us off to the "Create-a-Wok" with tofu—you can choose from the vegan red curry, sweet and sour, and vegetarian sauces, but she suggests the sweet and sour with spice added. Plenty of food for two meals, all for less than $10!
Woodlands has a whole separate vegan menu, so no need to worry about whether the vegetarian dishes have ghee. I haven't been personally (a failing I'll address ASAP), but it's endorsed by the K-Town Vegans Meetup group, so it would be a shame to leave Woodlands off this list.
You probably don't need me to tell you, since Yassin has been kind enough to mark the vegan options on his menu, but the spicy falafel sandwich is already vegan and absolutely divine. On top of that, the baklava is vegan. Rejoice!