We recently shared a list of the ten worst travel cities -- a roster on which Denver finished first -- as judged by inexpensive flights, short travel times to popular destinations and accessibility. But what if you're more interested in another type of accessibility -- such as the ease of finding vegan-friendly food? The folks at PETA, who know a little something about avoiding meat, have come up with their top ten for 2013 -- and one Colorado city made the grade. Check out the choices below, featuring text by PETA. Number 10: Richmond, Virginia
It's somewhat ironic that a city that's historically been a focal point of the tobacco industry is increasingly being known for health-promoting vegan fare. Richmond, Virginia, is packed with meat-free restaurants, including Phoenix Garden, Rooster Cart, Harrison St. Cafe, Ipanema, and RVA Vegan, a compassionate bakery. Not to be missed are the curried "chicken" salad and fried artichoke hearts at 821 Cafe. For late-night eats, both vegans and meat-eaters will enjoy Strange Matter, a live-music venue that doubles as an arcade and features cruelty-free dishes with such names as The Revenge and Famous Uncle Paul's Vegan Mango Donut Holes.
For more than a decade, vegetarians and vegans in the commonwealth have gathered each June for the Richmond Vegetarian Festival. Admission to the 2013 fest is free!
Number 9: Boulder, Colorado
A half-hour from Denver and a popular destination for outdoorsy types, Boulder has no shortage of hearty vegan options to fill you up after a long day of hiking. Vegans and meat-eaters alike love the customizable pizzas at Sun Deli & Liquor, which offers mouthwatering toppings such as Daiya cheese, dairy-free pesto, vegan chicken breast, and seitan sausage. Locals recommend the veggie pancake sauté and hummus pizza at Julia's Kitchen, and Tsing Tao offers a full menu of Chinese-style dishes made with soy meats, including orange "chicken" and Mongolian "beef." For lighter fare, try the mushroom-avocado tartar or raw manicotti made from zucchini noodles at Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant. Boulder's many vegan-friendly restaurants, bakeries, bars, and grocery stores helped it edge out other college towns, including Gainesville, Florida; Madison, Wisconsin; Athens, Georgia; and Lawrence, Kansas, to make our list of the top 10 vegan-friendly cities in the nation.
Continue to keep counting down the top ten vegan-friendly cities. Number 8: Las Vegas, Nevada
Vegans headed to Las Vegas won't have to gamble on whether they'll be able to find great eats while in the city. Hotel mogul Steve Wynn has upgraded the menus in all Wynn Resorts eateries, including room service, with vegans in mind. From Chick'n Parmigiano to vegan dim sum, Wynn satisfies every plant-based culinary whim.
Whether you're in the mood for sushi or pizza, Sin City has vegan versions of even the most exotic cuisine. Miko's Izakaya Sushi and Go Raw Café offer fish-free rolls with ingredients such as mock salmon and almond cheese. Opened in 2011, Pura Vida Bakery & Bystro proudly claims the title of Las Vegas' "first and only 100% cruelty-free kitchen," and the aptly named Slice of Vegas Pizza offers Daiya cheeses, Gardein faux meats, and vegan chocolate cake.
And while what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, you'd better remember to bring back a dozen cream-filled pastries from Ronald's Donuts for your vegan friends back home.
Number 7: Salt Lake City, Utah
In 2012, Salt Lake City was named the "Next Great Vegan City" by VegNews, and the local vegan fare has won accolades from PETA as well. City Dogs is a former finalist in PETA's Top Veggie Dogs awards for its customizable Not Dogs, and the faux-chicken sandwich at the Vertical Diner was named one of the country's best.
Sage's Cafe was one of the first vegan eateries in the City of the Saints, serving masterpiece dishes that resemble edible works of art. Another plant-based SLC classic, City Cakes & Cafe in the heart of downtown, serves everything from potatoes au gratin and Mac n' Chezah! to chocolate chip peanut butter bars and cinnamon rolls.
With the Sundance Film Festival in nearby Park City, film buffs seeking vegan snacks can enjoy a night at Brewvies, a cinema pub showing independent films. The theater features a variety of vegan snacks and beers and holds a crowd on even the slowest Salt Lake City nights.
From vegan Salt Lake cheesesteaks to pancakes stuffed with french fries and topped with dairy-free ice cream and chocolate sauce, the Crossroads of the West is quickly becoming the crossroads of all things vegan.
Continue to keep counting down the top ten vegan-friendly cities. Number 6: Seattle, Washington
No amount of rain can dampen the compassionate spirit sweeping over Seattle, which is rapidly evolving into a well-established vegan haven. The city's University District has been called one of the most vegan-friendly neighborhoods in North America. Standout restaurants include Araya's Place with its avocado curry with seitan, Chaco Canyon Organic Café with its eggless asparagus-mushroom quiche, Wayward Vegan Cafe with its tofuevos rancheros, and Pizza Pi with the Tropic Thunder pizza, made with white garlic sauce, Canadian "bacon," spinach, pineapple, red onion, and coconut.
With its motto "Strong Enough for a Carnivore, Made for a Herbivore," Georgetown Liquor Company aims to attract both meat-eaters and vegans. The kitchen prepares vegan eggs in any style, including smothered in house-made vegan hollandaise sauce. Seattleites also rave about the home-brewed beer and happy-hour specials at Highline, which features a full vegan menu with standouts like Beer Cheez soup and pulled BBQ hero grinders made from soy chicken. At this rate, it won't be long before Seattle's vegan-friendly joints outnumber its coffee shops.
Number 5: Chicago, Illinois
Chicago may not be the most historically vegan-friendly city on our list, having formerly been referred to as "Porkopolis" and "Hog Butcher to the World." But the winds have changed in the Windy City, and cruelty-free restaurants and festivals are sprouting up all over town. One of the most legendary vegan-friendly restaurants in the world is The Chicago Diner, which proudly boasts the slogan "Meat Free Since '83." Famous for its shakes and open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the diner is celebrating 30 years of serving comfort food staples, including biscuits and gravy, country fried seitan steak, and Macaroni & Teese. Newer on Chicago's vegan scene is Urban Vegan, a cozy Thai restaurant with tasty faux meats, including mock fish, shrimp, chicken, and pepper steak. Locals also love Ground Control, where almost every dish on the menu is vegan or can be made vegan upon request. The city is also the proud home to Chicago Vegan Foods, which makes and distributes vegan products such as Temptation ice cream, Teese vegan cheese, and Dandies marshmallows to grocery stores, restaurants, and cafés throughout the country. Yum!
Continue to keep counting down the top ten vegan-friendly cities. Number 4: New York, New York
New York City truly is the world's melting pot, and its diverse community keeps adding more and more vegan ingredients into the mix. Beyond Sushi offers a creative vegan take on Asian fare with dishes such as the Nutty Buddy, made with jalapeño peanut butter, and the Mexican-themed La Fiesta roll. For those looking for a more traditional slice of New York, 3 Brothers Pizza Cafe (winner of PETA's best vegan pizza award) bakes up specialty pies, including the Seitan Bacon Ranch and the Grilled Pesto Tofu as well as vegan pub-food staples, including buffalo drumsticks, mozzarella sticks, and macaroni and cheese. For dessert, don't miss Babycakes NYC.
For a romantic dinner, take your date to Blossom or Candle 79. Pairing specialty cocktails with gourmet dishes made from fresh, local, organic produce, these establishments epitomize ethical eating.
Number 3: Los Angeles, California
As more and more Hollywood stars go vegan, it's no surprise that the City of Angels is high on PETA's 2013 list of vegan-friendly cities. From Santa Monica to Pasadena, Angelenos can keep those beach bodies in shape by eating healthy vegan food at one of the many all-vegan chain restaurants overtaking the city, including Real Food Daily, Native Foods Café, and Veggie Grill.
Home to PETA's Bob Barker Building, Los Angeles is not short on happy-hour destinations for the vegan professional looking to throw back a beer after a long day. Mohawk Bend, Tony's Darts Away, and the Pub at Golden Road Brewing all offer a wide selection of fresh, local vegan craft beer as well as food, including buffalo cauliflower, hearts of palm "crabcakes," and vegan apple sage sausage. Not surprisingly, the Southland is home to the annual Vegan Beer and Food Festival.
To get the celebrity treatment -- and maybe even see some celebs -- be sure to have dinner at Crossroads Kitchen, co-owned by vegan chef to the stars (he's cooked for Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres) Tal Ronnen. Don't forget to visit the attached gourmet vegan cheese shop on your way out. And don't worry, vegan tourists: With all the vegan dining options at Disneyland, including vegetarian chili, vegan burgers, and veggie gumbo, Disneyland really is "The Happiest Place on Earth."
Continue to keep counting down the top ten vegan-friendly cities. Number 2: Portland, Oregon
Consistently ranked as one of America's best cities for hipsters by publications such as Travel + Leisure and TIME Magazine, Portland, Oregon, is a mecca for all things vegan. When it comes to cruelty-free living, Stumptown's got all the bases covered. It's got a vegan bike shop, compassionate salons, an all-vegan bed and breakfast, a cruelty-free massage parlor, and even plant-based personal trainers. Portland is home to what may be the nation's only all-vegan strip mall, which includes Sweetpea Baking Co., Herbivore Clothing (which sells everything from animal rights hoodies and tees to candles and body-care items), Food Fight! Grocery, and Scapegoat Tattoo. For those looking to live on the wilder side, Casa Diablo is the nation's only vegan strip club. After you get your party on, head over to Voodoo Doughnut, which serves vegan donuts 24 hours a day, with a line that always stretches around the block.
Number 1: Austin, Texas
Austin, Texas, may be in the heart of cattle country, but it's also the vegan food truck capital of the world. With mobile joints, including The Vegan Yacht, The Vegan Nom, and Guac N Roll, offering up cruelty-free eats, the vegan movement in Austin really has wheels. For those with more stationary tastes, Mother's Café & Garden dishes out a tantalizing variety of vegan delights, including tofu lasagne and banana walnut pancakes. Get your Tex-Mex on at Mr. Natural and Güero's Taco Bar, serving up vegan queso, soy taquitos al pastor, chalupa plates, and veggie albondigas. For Texans with a sweet tooth, Thai Fresh has vegan pastries and ice creams with unique flavors such as lemongrass, tamarind, and sweet potato pie, and Sweet Ritual is a vegan ice cream parlor featuring soft-serve and hard-packed ice cream, dozens of toppings (even vegan gummy worms!), and fresh-made waffle cones dipped in house-made chocolate and smothered in toppings such as Chick-O-Stick and toasted coconut. Yee-haw!
More from our Lists & Weirdness archive: "Photos: Ten worst domestic-travel cities for summer 2013 -- and why Denver was the best."
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