How many times have you been in the following situation with your non-vegan friends?
You’re hungry… so is your non-vegan friend(s). You’ve heard of this great place that serves only vegan food, but your good friend, who was kind enough to go with you to this other vegan restaurant before, doesn’t seem to be too excited about it now. They would prefer to eat non-veganfood. It’s totally understandable, especially when traveling; after all, enjoying the local cuisine is a highlight of any trip. The only thing is… if you’re in Japan! If you walk into a random restaurant, the chance they’ll have just one decent vegan dish is slim to none (no, I’m not talking about edamame or French fries!). In this case, what do you do? Probably one of you will need to compromise.
Sound familiar? I feel you… This post will make yours and your non-veganfriends’ life a lot easier when eating in Kyoto!
Why did I write this post in the first place?
Recently I thought a lot about the importance of supporting vegan-friendly places. Newsletter readers already know all I have to say about it (to those who were not registered to my newsletter at the time – let me know! I’ll send you a link). I won’t repeat everything I said, but the bottom line is: Yes, it is EXTREMELY important to support non-vegan restaurants and cafes that serve vegan food! It can only lead to positive results: making vegan food more available and making veganism more prevailing.
In Kyoto there are many places that are not 100% vegan, but do have a rich, permanent vegan menu. I tried to include as many as I could in this post, but there are many more to discover. One thing I didn’t predict was that many (though not all) of these places serve non-Japanese cuisines. Interesting, right? So, let me take you on a journey through the culinary world, going through Indonesia, Mongolia, Italy, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and then back to Okinawa and the rest of Japan. Let’s begin!
In the heart of Gion district, you can find this Indonesian restaurant. The owner’s sister is vegan, so their knowledge of vegan food is really high, and every dish that can be veganized is marked on the menu with a green star. Not only did I really like the food there, I also enjoyed the atmosphere. We had the vegan nasi tim ayam, which is rice topped with tempeh, krupuk, a delicious cracker made of starch, and finally a Nola’s coconut shake. They were all really good!.
It has Japanese-low sitting tables and a bar, as well as a bigger table with chairs for bigger groups. All around you’ll see colorful Indonesian masks and decorations, while Indonesian rock and pop music videos are played on the TV. The prices are around 1,000 yen (or less) per dish, so it’s very affordable. The owners, a husband and wife, are super nice. The restaurant is open until midnight, so whatever time you prefer to eat – it’s a great place to enjoy a meal.
Owned by Haru and Aki, this homey-restaurant sells Mongolian bread and Asian dishes (mainly Japanese). They offer vegan and non-vegandishes based on the local seasonal vegetables. The restaurant itself was built by the owners, so if you like earth-walls and curved angles – it’s a great place to explore. The menu is very long and rich, but admittedly I didn’t read it all. I only focused on the vegan options, which differs in ingredients depending on the season. As the vegan dishes can change daily, I recommend asking one of the ladies for more information.
Last time I was there with my partner, we ate the Buddha bowl and vegan monpan (Mongolian bread) filled with goodies. I really liked the fusion between Japanese tastes and other interesting herbs and spices that are not usually found in Japanese cuisine (like dill!).
If you want to try some unusual food in a good, lively atmosphere – MonPan is the place for you!
BTW – if you want to know more about the ladies operating the place, follow this link for a glimpse into their life story.
Like Japanese food? Like Italian food? This place offers a great fusion of both! Run by Mark and Ayako, Pettiroso has a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options, with special original dishes. When we went there we got to try many dishes, all together it was more than enough to fill our stomachs. For starters we had a little cold white bean soup, murasaki jagaimo (purple sweet potato) paste, eggplant in vegan dashi, and spinach in sesame paste. To follow, we had vegan agedashi tofu and a creamy hot pie, both were fantastic! Finishing with dessert, we had vegan chocolate-chip muffins with pineapple ice cream. Everything was delicious!
Although the owners are mostly vegetarian, they do serve fish, so if your non-vegan friends are really into a fish-dinner you can propose going to Pettirosso.
Besides the food, there are three more things worth mentioning: firstly – their drinks menu is even longer than the food menu. I had a fruity Italian wine and enjoyed it a lot. Secondly – the restaurant is in an old Japanese house which has both Western style tables and a Japanese tatami area. It is decorated with many Japanese-style art works that makes the experience very pleasant. Thirdly – you didn’t think I’d ignore the music, right? Oriental music combined with reggae fit the atmosphere perfectly. Squisito!
Being an Israeli, I’ve eaten countless falafel balls throughout my life. I think it’s one of the first things you’re given when you start eating solid food (not really, lol). For this reason exactly, I can claim to be an experienced falafel eater – and the one served in Falafel Garden is great! Amir, the owner, really knows what he’s doing when it comes to food. I especially enjoyed the “Japanized” plate: falafel balls topped with tahini, a side of rice, and cabbage salad. It really satisfied my appetite.
There are many vegan and non-vegan options; Amir also has hummus, baba-ghanoush and pita bread on the menu! If you’re into Mediterranean food – it’s a great place to stop by. There is also a small section where you can buy tahini, olives and great black coffee to take home. Give it a chance if you’re around Demachiyanagi Station.
Located only a 5 minute walk from the West exit of Nishiki Market is this granola bar. It does sell dairy yogurt, however, they have many vegan options as well. Besides the clean modern design, I wish I could take a picture of the smell in this place. They make the granola in-store, so the whole space has an amazingly sweet and welcoming smell. I could stay there just for that (actually not – it really made me hungry!). I bet it will make anyone drool, non-vegans and vegans alike.
After visiting Hawaii in the past, there is absolutely no way I could say no to an acai bowl (though originated in Brazil). It was January when I ate here, so I had a little brain-freeze when eating all the frozen fruits, but it was definitely worth it! I bet going there on a hot summer day would feel like heaven. Besides acai, you can also try the matcha soy bowl, and many kinds of smoothies.
Burritos, nachos – you name it! This is the BEST Mexican food in the city. The owner is super nice and there are always good vibes. It’s a great place to eat, drink a cocktail or a Mexican beer, and make new friends.
Great food, great atmosphere, great prices – what are you waiting for? Go and eat!
Que Pasa has two shops in Kyoto.
One is East of the Imperial Palace:
And near Shijo-Karasum:
This tropical-atmosphere restaurant is on Imadegawa street, not far from The Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji) and Kyoto University. It’s a great place to try Okinawan food, whether you’re vegan, non-vegan, or anything in between. It’s decorated with an assortment of oriental elements, such as coconut lamps, bamboo walls, and Okinawan Shisha (guardian lions). The fact that it’s open to the street, and Latin music is playing in the background really helped me feel like I was on some island-vacation (and not taking a break from my studies, as I was).
They have a few vegan options, like taco-rice and nasi-campur, which comes as a set of various vegetables, rice and miso soup. If you manage to eat all that and still remain hungry, they also have a vegan dessert. You can either go there at lunch time or for dinner to enjoy the nice food with a good beer. Nifee debiru! 😉
Located on the Western side of Nijo castle, this place has a lot of variety for vegans. They serve vegan burgers, vegan pastries, vegan desserts, and many drinks you can enjoy (chai, honey cinnamon late*, and of course – coffee!). The thing I loved the most was the abundance of organic products. If your non-veganfriends like healthy-ish places – Café Phalam is a good choice.
One more point that’s worth mentioning: they don’t use plastic straws! I really appreciate businesses that take the initiative to provide non-plastic traws. Customers might be suspicious about it, but it is a brave move, and I support whatever business that takes this action. Well done!
*For vegans that consume honey.
As I mentioned before, these are definitely not the only vegan-friendly places in the city. More places I recommend you to eat with non-vegan friends in Kyoto are:
- Café Frosch – They usually have one vegan plate.
- CoCo Curry – some of their branches have a vegan menu!
- Gojo Paradiso – a cozy place for some hummus and a beer!
- Premarche Pizzeria and Alternative Junk – one of my favorite restaurants in the city!