Say goodbye to naked side salads and gloopy risotto, because veggie-friendly food has come a long way. Melbourne's all over the revitalized plant-based dining scene. Our vegetarian eateries whip up dishes that are ethical and tasty in equal measures. Here are a few of the best, whether you fancy Italian or Vietnamese.
Lord of the Fries
The popularity of Lord of the Fries proves that fast food's not just for carnivores. These burgers, hot dogs and nuggets are all vegetarian or vegan. There's no skimping on big flavours though. The fries are thick, crispy and perfectly golden, served in a classic cone. You can choose from a veritable world tour of homemade sauces, from a 'Parisian' garlic mayo to the 'Indian' mango chutney sour cream. Hot dogs are fully loaded, like the 'Chicago' dog, which comes piled high with peppers, pickles, relish, tomato, onion, mustard and celery salt. This isn't your average veggie sausage.
Huong Viet Vegetarian & Vegan
Their name proudly proclaims the fact that everything on the menu at Huong Viet Vegetarian and Vegan is meat-free. If you've been longing for steaming bowls of beefy pho or sweet and sour pork, you can now tuck into vegetarian versions of these Asian comfort food staples. Start your meal with refreshing rice paper rolls, served with a house-made vegan shrimp sauce. Mock meats, noodle soups, and specialty dishes like BBQ fried rice burst with flavour thanks to fresh herbs and rich sauces.
Red Sparrow Pizza
Vegan cheese has a bit of a reputation, we'll admit. But we urge you to give it another go at Red Sparrow Pizza. One taste of the creamy faux fior di latte and you'll be a convert. The classic Margherita combines this with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil for a wholesome straight-out-of-Naples pie. Red Sparrow uses their very own Italian wood-fired pizza oven for added authenticity and offers a long menu of creative pizzas with cruelty free toppings. Try the white pizza, with its rich vegan mozzarella, rosemary, leek and potato. Pair your slice with a side quinoa and broccolini salad and a cold pressed juice for next-level nutrients.
There are a few meaty dishes on the menu, but Teta Mona is primarily vegetarian. This inviting restaurant offers down-home Lebanese soul food prepared with love by brothers Bechara and Antoine Taouk. You'll find the vegetarian standby of falafel on the menu, but these are made with green and yellow split peas rather than chickpeas in an unexpected twist. The fried cauliflower is dished up with couscous and lashings of garlicky tahini, while pumpkin dumplings are tenderly stuffed with chickpeas and spinach. You'll get your daily servings of fruit and veg in a single meal here, with everything tasting fresh off the vine.
Vegetarians often have to stare wistfully at bowls of ramen, which typically comes loaded up with pork belly, fish or other animal elements. At Neko Neko, the vegan broth is carefully made from 20 secret ingredients to give it the same level of depth that a meat-based broth would offer. Order the 'tan tan' ramen if you like it spicy, or the shoyu version for a little less heat. This veggie-friendly Japanese canteen also offers delicious dishes like tofu with shiitake mushrooms and savoury bean and potato croquettes.