Friday, March 4, 2016

European Vegan Food Tour

Over our four week trip to Amsterdam, Prague, Budapest and Vienna, we enjoyed some delicious vegan food! One of our favourite parts of travelling is checking out the local vegan scene. Some think being vegan while travelling means missing out but we find the opposite is true. Being vegan means you get off the beaten path to find restaurants and local vegan specialities. As always, our number one vegan travel trip is the HappyCow Worldwide Veg Dining Directory available as a free website or smart phone app. The site has over 40,000 listings, and I have contributed over 740 photos and reviews!

Starting in Amsterdam my favourite spot was Vegabond a simple vegan cafe with limited seating and a well stocked vegan specialty grocery. They make a great sandwich with locally made cashew basil pesto cheese. The coffee and desserts are also terrific. The shop has all the required vegan staples; faux meat, non-dairy cheese (including my favourite Vegusto), cookies, candy, ravioli and pasta. We ventured further out and went to the Loving Hut which had some nice filling dishes including a devious crispy faux chicken and a great tiramisu for dessert. Another further out spot is Koffie ende Koeck which had a nice sandwich, baked goods and coffee. I had high hopes for the vegan butcher I had heard about; De Vegetarische Traiteur, but we were a little underwhelmed with the offerings. It is still a good place to check out and their frozen take home items look good. In fact, we more than once enjoyed their delicious faux chicken product available on a bagel at the chain Bagel and Beans. A local recommended we check out Golden Temple, a vegetarian spot with a fun atmosphere. The flavours combinations (Indian, Asian and Mexican) sometimes were a bit different than expected, but we did enjoy our meal. The pakoras were particularly tasty. We checked out the TerraZen Centre one evening for an interesting mix of Japanese and Caribbean food. The space is small but the staff are friendly and we had a nice time. A favourite spot around Europe is the vegetarian falafel chain Maoz, which we enjoyed a few times. The best part is the all you can fill toppings bar with the great cilantro sauce. Amsterdam also has a candy shop, Candy Freaks, with vegan options clearly marked. We picked up some great licorices and chocolate covered raisons, which I haven't had in years! Amsterdam is also lucky to have a vegan shoe store; VegaLife, where J picked up a new belt. We found over all that Amsterdam vegan spots were more casual and cafe like and the city could do with a nice fancy vegan option.

Cupcakes from Vegabond Cafe

Part of the reason we opted to go to Prague is that we heard the vegan scene is really growing. We picked out our airbnb to be closed to a vegetarian spot; Etnosvet and Etnosvet Cafe. The cafe is all vegan and was our regular breakfast spot for yummy grilled panini with vegan cheese and espresso. It is a small shop with a few seats at the window. The vegetarian restaurant (with vegan options clearly marked) is around the corner. The setting is fancier - a great spot for a nice dinner. I loved the mock Peking duck, and peanut satay the best. There are few vegan options for both appetizers and mains; it is just lacking a vegan dessert. Our other common spot was Moment Cafe, an all vegan spot across from a nice park and near the train. We loved the vibe and the great staff. We ate many meals here and often stopped in later for a coffee break too. It is a great place for breakfast, lunch or supper and they have lots of desserts. Items I particularly liked; vegan egg spread, waffles, seitan bagel, and the soups. They also have great daily special meals. Prague also has a small shop and restaurant called Puro which is affiliated with the awesome vegan grocery chain, Veganz. We stopped in a picked up a few vegan snack items. However, we found the health food store, Bioobchod, near our accommodations to have more of the items we were looking for. It is all vegetarian, with lots of vegan items. There was a great selection of violife and other vegan cheeses, vegan sliced meats like wheatly, and vegan snacks. It also has pasta, canned goods, and a bakery area.

After connecting on social media, we also met up for coffee with Randi, one half of the full-time travelling duo behind the Veggie Visa website. We had a great visit! "Veggie Visa’s mission is to discover vegan lifestyle options all over the planet. Whether it be a delicious restaurants to dine at, great places to shop, vegan recipes, or health and wellness information, the site is devoted to traveling the globe to bring you great vegan resources, tips, and stories."

Grilled Panini from Etnosvet Cafe

Now Budapest has quite a few vegetarian and vegan restaurants, unfortunately due to the holidays some were not open the entire time we were there and others were only open part of the time. We were grateful we booked an apartment with a kitchen as we used it a few times. We stocked up on items from the Bio ABC health food market and picked up fruits and vegetables at the Great Market Hall (central market). However, Budapest is home to one of the most amazing things I have ever eaten; vegan fried cheese from Napfenyes Restaurant and Pastry Shop. This delightful dish was recommended to us by our new friend Randi, of Veggie Visa. She does a nice review of this delicacy in her article; Vegan Food Tour in Budapest, Hungary. Napfenyes is also home to amazing vegan cream filled eclairs. I admit we packed a few (several) for the train ride to Vienna. This spot also had great pizza and salad options, plus J's new favourite, a vegan napoleon square for dessert. Another great spot is Kozmoz Vegan Restaurant, and the highlight was the layered chocolate pancake dessert. HappyCow lists Madal Cafe as vegetarian friendly but it did not have a lot of options other than a few raw dessert items. However, the espresso is excellent so we stopped there regularly. There are also many Hummus Bar franchises with a good selection of vegan friendly hummus, falafel, soups and salads. 
Vegan fried cheese!

And on to Vienna, the highlight here was not one but two all vegan grocery stores: Maran Vegan and Veganz. Veganz is a chain of all vegan grocers, the first of which we went to in 2012 in Berlin. The Vienna store is terrific and we picked up some European favourites including vegan ravioli. Maran Vegan is actually a larger store and has a larger deli and produce area. Both stores had expansive selections of vegan cheese, faux meats, snack items, pasta, bakery items, personal care items etc. Whenever we visit a vegan grocer I always pick up a new reusable bag for a souvenir, and I particularly loved the all black one from Veganz. With the lovely groceries we made dinner a few times in our flat, after long days of wandering. We regularly visited Swing Kitchen, and all vegan burger joint. We went to both locations and loved the burgers, sides, and the soft dipped ice-cream cones! It was a novelty to have such a yummy vegan fast food joint with a fun atmosphere. For a more upscale and health focussed option, we loved Tian Bistro a vegetarian spot with lots of marked vegan options. The baked potato stuffed with cashew cream, and the tempeh salad were our favourites. Pirata Sushi was also a good spot with a variety of all vegan sushi. 

Vegan groceries 


Margaret said...

I find posts like this so encouraging! I've wondered how difficult it is to be vegan in Europe (I've been as a non-vegan, and even then I noticed that EVERYTHING seemed to have meat, eggs and dairy). It's interesting that some countries like Germany, that are traditionally known for their meat consumption, have some of the highest rates of veganism. Hopefully it's a growing trend, and finding vegan food will keep getting easier!

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