This unassuming upstate New York city is a vegetarian's dream! Here some of the absolute best vegetarian dishes you can find in Rochester New York.
Rochester, NY is a vegetarian’s dream. The unassuming city in upstate New York that I currently call home (for just a few more weeks!) is seriously one of the most diet-inclusive places I’ve ever been. The awesome variety of restaurants has easily become one of my favorite things about this city!
Not only are there a multitude of uniquely vegetarian/vegan restaurants to choose from, but most restaurants have their own vegetarian/vegan alternative menus. Options that AREN’T just salads or french fries, too! Also, quick side note: what is it with black bean burgers as the resident vegetarian option at like, all restaurants? I mean, it’s not that difficult to offer something just slightly more creative. But ANYWAY…
Back to Rochester! The list below is organized by restaurant with my favorite dish(es) from each one. Also, this list is by no means all-inclusive or complete in any way. While I would love to sample every vegetarian dish this city has to offer, I’m not quite sure how realistic that is. That said, if you have a personal favorite not mentioned here, be sure to drop it in the comments!
Ryan and I had struggled for a while to find a quality “night-out, fancy dinner” type of restaurant that served vegetarian options. I guess I never realized until we started looking that “nice restaurant” basically just equals “steakhouse,” which is super lame. Nosh, however, is vegetarian upscale. It’s not a vegetarian restaurant, but they have some pretty amazing options. Some of the best, if not the best food I’ve had in Rochester so far. Here’s what you should try:
Bahn Yu Burger
Their play on the flavorful Vietnamese sandwich, which is a slab of deliciously marinated tofu, topped with shiitake mushrooms, daikons, carrots, a drizzle of jalapeno mayo, all put together between two buns. Unbelieeeeevable flavor.
Cali Love Pizza
This pizza was so good. Like, so good. Flavors of garlic, avocado, tomato, onion, pepperjack and cotija cheeses on top of the most pillowy soft crust. Now I want to be clear about this crust. It was cooked absolutely perfectly. Have you ever had a perfect baguette, where it’s nice and crunchy on the outside, but extremely soft and warm on the inside? That’s what this crust was. My favorite part of this pizza though, was the arugula that topped the whole thing. It was dressed so wonderfully that the distinctive bite of arugula has disappeared and it was just TASTY.
The Red Fern
The Red Fern will always have a special place in my heart; it’s one of the first restaurants I tried up here, and it’s less than a block away from our apartment! The Red Fern is a strictly vegan restaurant and they have EVERYTHING you could want from a restaurant and more. From whole entrees, to desserts, to freshly-pressed juices, to a new special EVERY WEEK…. Thankfully we have some self-control, because otherwise we’d be at The Red Fern every week trying their new special. They always look so good!
I always shy away from wraps at restaurants because they’re so, so, boring. Lunch meat, lettuce, and tomato? No thank you. The Red Fern’s Warrior Wrap is the complete opposite of that, though. It’s bursting with flavor, and filled with more interesting ingredients. Instead of some sort of meat replacement, they decide to use mashed chickpeas as the bulk of this wrap, with kale and cucumber as the greens. Throw in some pecans, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, dill, and lemon mayo, and you’ve got yourself a fresh, yummy, healthy wrap.
I LOVE the versatility of lentils, and I love The Red Fern’s lentil burger and lentil loaf. It’s a good, simple, hearty meal. It’s a tasty lentil burger and a much welcome alternative to those black bean burgers I was talking about before. I’m SO over those. Sometimes you just need a different kind of taste and these lentil burgers do the trick.
The Weekly Special
Going out to The Red Fern for lunch on the weekend to try their weekly special is the perfect date! We’ve done this a few times and it never, ever disappoints. The Red Fern’s regular menu is definitely not small, but the fact that they offer a seasonal special every week allows them to keep things fresh and interesting and it’s a great way to celebrate different times of the year! This particular special we tried recently was a super yummy bratwurst special in honor of Oktoberfest!
Dogtown RULES. It’s an amazing hotdog joint with a multitude of vegetarian options and a vegetarian special EVERY Thursday! Their hot dogs are named after different dog breeds based on their toppings, all of which can be replaced with a veggie dog which is awesome. For example, the “German Shepherd” is topped with sauerkraut, sauteed onions, and mustard. I just love the theming here. I LOVE IT. But, the best thing about Dogtown is their garbage plates.
For those who don’t know, the garbage plate is a Rochester staple: it’s the biggest mish-mash of food you could imagine. It’s served with burgers, hot dogs, (or both, which is called a “split plate”) sides of your choice, and piled high with condiments and sauces, and a couple slices of bread.
Split Veggie Plate
This is Dogtown’s vegetarian version of the garbage plate, and it’s DELICIOUS. By ordering the split veggie plate, you’re getting one hamburger and one hot dog (vegetarian, of course), which is the way to go, especially for first-timers. You get to choose two sides to go with that (home fries, macaroni salad, french fries, baked beans, coleslaw, sweet potato fries, or onion rings). My faves are french fries and macaroni salad. You must order it with “everything,” which means it’ll be topped with mustard, onions, and three-bean veggie chili. As if that isn’t enough, your garbage plate will also come with two little slices of bread, complete with a little bit of packaged butter. This is seriously one of my favorite meals ever.
Neno’s is more of quick service place than a sit-down restaurant, but we all need that kind of meal every now and then! It’s the perfect thing to get delivered to your workplace for lunch or pick up for an early dinner. (Unfortunately they aren’t open very late, otherwise I’d be ordering late-night grub from them like, every week).
Honestly, this burrito from Neno’s is one of the best I’ve ever had. I think what really takes it over the top is the fact that it’s smothered with guajillo salsa, salsa verde, Monterey Jack and a Mexican crema. All of that is on the top of the burrito, but it’s still stuffed with veggie goods on the inside, too! I love the light slaw that comes on the side, but the side of beans was honestly a little bit gross, lol. Still, I can look past that because the flavor of the burrito is so, so good.
Tap & Mallet
I think I can now confidently say that Tap & Mallet is my favorite restaurant in Rochester. We’ve only been a handful of times, but we order delivery from them alllllll the time. Their food is always really good, and they have TONS of unique vegetarian options. They also have a fantastic beer selection if that interests you, too!
These buffalo cauliflower wings are a fantastic appetizer, but also work as a small meal too. They are perfectly crispy and flavored with a buffalo sauce; you won’t even realize they’re not meat! You can also get the buffalo cauliflower on tacos, which I HIGHLY recommend. You’ll get three tacos topped with cabbage and your choice of regular or vegan bleu cheese. So yummy!
CLT (Coconut, Lettuce & Tomato)
This CLT is one of the coolest vegetarian renditions I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I think it’s my favorite meal. Somehow, they make shaved coconut taste like bacon. Like, what?! It’s got yummy bacon flavor without all the fat and grease that comes with it. This sandwich is served on some tasty multi-grain bread, piled high with that coconut-bacon, some greens, tomato, and finished with a garlic aioli. It’s a definite must-try in my opinion! The CLT is the bottom sandwich in the photo, while the top sandwich is the Vegan Beef and Cheddar.
I was all for Blu Wolf the first time I visited, but every visit since then has been kind of hit or miss. (In terms of atmosphere and service, that is). Their food, on the other hand, is superb. The problem is that their vegetarian options are unfortunately few and far between.
The Green Thumb Burger
This burger is absolutely fantastic. It’s a HUGE quinoa burger topped with tons of delicious toppings. We’re talkin’ avocado, lettuce, tomato, sauteed peppers and onions, and BRIE. Who does brie on a burger? Well, Blu Wolf does, and it’s pretty great. This truly has to be one of my favorite veggie burgers in Rochester. It’s big, it’s filling, and it’s yummy.
I just love Radio Social all around. It’s the coolest venue that houses an upscale bowling alley, bar, restaurant and even a few arcade games too! They even have live music sometimes. I mean, how fun does that sound?! It’s one of my favorite places to hang out on a Friday or Saturday night but they also have a fantastic brunch on Sundays! Their menu changes frequently (which I love because it keeps things interesting), but you can rest assured you’re always getting something absolutely delicious.
After two years of living in Rochester, this is my ultimate vegetarian meal list! But if there’s something missing from this list that vegetarians need to try here in Rochester, please let me know in the comments!