When the days are cold and cloud-covered during winter in Missouri, I gladly give up the light meals of summer for warm, comforting food like root vegetables from local farms, teas made with spices like ginger and cinnamon, and hearty servings of steamed vegetables and cooked grains. When I don't feel like cooking for myself, discovering a new vegan or vegetarian restaurant or trying a seasonal dish at one of my favorite spots can be just the thing to spice things up. Whether it's the new "vegetable-forward" restaurant in town with a cozy wood-burning fireplace in the dining room, or the vegan bakeshop all over Instagram with the decadent-looking desserts, we're fortunate that Missouri has plenty of places to try something new.
Although it's hardly a comprehensive list of all the amazing vegan and vegetarian restaurants across the state, here's a few ideas that'll hopefully inspire you to get out of hibernation and refuel with something plant-based during these winter months.
Beat the cold with a cuppa something new
If you're a vegan or vegetarian and live in St. Louis, you've undoubtedly been to Seedz Cafe in the tree-lined Demun neighborhood for some "Rawvioli" or a slice of their I-can't-believe-this-doesn't-have-dairy-in-it cheesecake. You may not know that Seedz has an outpost next door to the main restaurant called Seedz Provisions with a coffee bar and a small selection of goods-for-sale like locally made herbal tea, smudge sticks, kitchen goods, and chocolates. If you're in the neighborhood, it's the perfect place to escape the cold and order a fresh-baked waffle and a matcha latte or a chaga cacao chai made with plant-based milk and people watch by the window.
Unbakery and Juicery in Kansas City takes the (raw vegan) cake for most tempting flavor combinations whether you're craving coffee, mylk (non-dairy milk) or fresh juice. Keep an eye out for seasonal offerings like pecan pie toddy cold brew, spiced golden mylk with turmeric and provisions like apple butter overnight oats with spiced cashew cream. Paying a visit to this self-proclaimed "jungalow" with its crisp white walls, green plants dangling from the ceiling, and colorful textiles can also provide much-needed contrast to the dreary weather outside.
Go for a stick-to-your-ribs kind of dish
Thank goodness there's so much more to plant-based eating than just salads. LuLu's Local Eatery, a staple for vegan and vegetarians in St. Louis, has mastered adapting its menu to the season. For a dish that'll leave you feeling satiated, but not stuffed, try themushroom stroganoff from the fall/winter menu. With organic "gluten-less" pasta, roasted mushrooms and a rich, non-dairy cream sauce, it's the ultimate vegan comfort food.
A coffee shop may not be the first place you think to turn to for a hearty meal, but Pirates Bone in Kansas City's Morning Side neighborhood has a vegan take on traditional Mexican pozole on its weekend menu that'll warm you from the inside with its savory broth and earthy spices. Café Gratitude in Kansas City also serves a spicy vegan chili topped with gooey cashew ricotta cheese that's called "Plentiful" for a reason.
Shake up your same old happy hour routine
Happy hour is great, but why not try imbibing with something out of the ordinary like a kombucha tasting flight at Confluence Kombucha? Just look for the building in the Grove neighborhood of St. Louis marked with "KOMBUCHA" in all caps across the front and make your way past the usual line of people with glass jars in-hand waiting for refills of the fermented drink. Order a tasting flight so that you and a friend can sample all of the flavors of fermented drinks on rotation like plum blossom elderberry or prickly pear. Sip from tiny vintage glasses while you watch the chef in the open-kitchen whipping up your order of cashew "brie" or a platter of Japanese nukazuke (fermented vegetables) to share.
For a twist on a more traditional happy hour, swing by Tree House on South Grand in St. Louis and order a vegan charcuterie board with wild mushroom "pâté" and jackfruit rillette or the vegan cheese plate for a sampling of house-made cheeses and spiced nuts. Pair your snack with a herbaceous cocktail like "The Roots," which is made with ingredients like ginger liqueur, beet shrub, and lemon, or try the "Almond Milk Punch," a vegan play on a traditional milk punch with accents of cardamom and fruit.
Beat winter boredom by signing up for a pop-up event
There's something new and novel about checking out a pop-up restaurant that's only open for a limited time or convincing a friend to go to a workshop or retreat that incorporates a plant-based meal.
Several times a year, Blue Bell Farm, an event venue and eighth generation family farm just outside Columbia, hosts events geared towards the wellness crowd. This fall, they held a yoga retreat featuring a two-hour yoga and meditation class followed by a locally sourced vegetarian dinner, drinks, and music around a cozy fire in a far-from-rustic barn. Their events quickly sell out, but you can follow Blue Bell Farm on Facebook to watch for their next retreat.
Although her events are quickly making their way onto my regular rotation, I'm always excited to see what pop-up event Katy Hacker will host in St. Louis next. It didn't take much convincing to find a friend to go with me to her latest "boozy brunch" where Katy whipped up a four-course vegan brunch featuring dishes like savory sweet potato waffles and roasted pear with cardamom "cream" and delicately shaved dark chocolate. She hasn't announced her next event yet, but you can add your name to her email list so that you can be the first to find out about what she's planning next.
Again, this is not a comprehensive list of everything veg in Missouri. There are so many restaurants that cater to different diets that you will not go hungry. Below is a quick list of other options around the state that cater to plant-based diets.
Café Cusco - Springfield
Eden Alley Vegetaria - Kansas City
Frida's - St. Louis
Main Squeeze - Columbia
Nourish Café and Market - Columbia
Small Batch - St. Louis
The Wheelhouse Street Fare - Springfield
Michelle Myers doesn't believe in labels but we call her our healthy-lifestyle guru! She volunteers with local CSAs, ferments her own kombucha and might have a shopping addiction. A St. Louis native, Michelle can be found exploring Missouri with her husband, Shane, and furry friend, Stella.