As the global community becomes more and more aware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle (and what can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle), businesses all over the world are stepping up to the plate and catering their selections to meet the growing demand for alternative menu options. Here at Oyster, our staffers have all sorts of different dietary requirements, so we understand the amount of research that can go into making sure you know where you can eat when you're traveling. That's why we’ve gathered up a list of the most accommodating cities for our special diet readers; whether you avoid gluten, abide by vegan guidelines, you name it -- these are the seven best cities in the world to visit!
Portlandia fans are probably already familiar with the now-famous local chicken skit in which a Portland couple asks seemingly one million questions about the specific chicken they’re about to order, which turned out to be named Colin -- or the equally-funny allergy pride parade sketch. But in reality, Portland really is one of the best cities in the world for vegan and vegetarian diners alike. There are a ton of g-free pizza parlors, bakeries, and food stalls all with vegan and vegetarian options. Try out Harlow in Southeast Portland, known for its delicious gluten-free breakfast options, such as the Lemon Babycakes: lemon poppy seed quinoa pancakes with strawberry compote, lemon cashew cream, maple syrup, and a choice of dairy or vegan butter…yes please!
Our Hotel Pick: Hotel Vintage Plaza, a Kimpton Hotel
Denver has a reputation for being a healthy, active, and progressive city with beautiful scenery and a fun culture. Locals enjoy hiking, cycling and otherwise dabbling in the city’s booming arts culture. And luckily for alternative dieters, not only is Denver awesome in general but it also has a ton of options for vegan and vegetarian eaters, as well as those who are allergic to gluten. Try out True Food Kitchen, where there is a fantastic brunch menu equipped with options like the “Inside Out” Quinoa Burger; it’s g-free and vegetarian, and is served with hummus, tzatziki, tomato, cucumber, red onion, avocado, and feta. Now if you’re more of a sweet tooth, Beet Box Bakery & Café is 100% vegan and has tons of g-free options, like the carrot cake with toasted walnuts and ginger frosting.
Our Hotel Pick: Crowne Plaza Denver
When you think London, you may think of high tea, bangers and mash, and fish and chips. But London has actually topped PETA’s list of vegetarian-friendly cities. With loads of vegetarian cafes popping up all over the city, and an abundance of ethnic food restaurants with plenty of meatless options, London has a strong vegetarian culture that just keeps getting better. If you find yourself in London and want to try out the meatless fare, we recommend The Gate, one of London’s most famous vegetarian restaurants. Opt for the Mushroom Stuffed Gnocchi, served with cheese gratin, sautéed spinach and mushrooms, blushed tomatoes, and cheese sauce. Or, if you’re especially hungry, they serve up a fantastic Middle Eastern platter with homemade pita.
Our Hotel Pick: Cadogan Hotel
Watch Our Video on London's Best Spots for High Tea
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is the northern culture capital of Thailand, and it has tons of yummy, natural vegetarian options. In fact, you can hardly walk 20 feet in Chiang Mai’s old city without spotting several veg-friendly restaurants. One of the best things about veggie fare in Chiang Mai is that you truly don't have to sacrifice any complexity in flavor . Free Bird Café is one of our absolute favorites in Chiang Mai; it serves up fresh, Burmese/Thai fusion. Try the Khao Soi; it’s a northern Thai specialty that the restaurant does particularly well. Khao Soi is a soup-like dish made with a mix of deep-fried, crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, potatoes, lime, ground chilies, and a curry-like sauce made with coconut milk. Free Bird has several gluten-free options as well, but Blue Diamond Breakfast Club has more variety.
Our Hotel Pick: U Chiang Mai
Ireland actually has one of the highest rates of Celiac Disease in the world, so Dublin restaurateurs make sure there are plenty of options for everybody. If you eat gluten-free and are traveling to Dublin, don’t worry -- you actually don’t have to miss out on their famed fish and chips. Beschoffs offers battered, gluten-free fish and chips that everyone can enjoy; the fish is prepared in separate oil with flour-less batter. Two other great gluten-free restaurants in town are Opium and The Farm Restaurant, serving up Thai/Vietnamese fusion and Irish food with international influences, respectively.
Our Hotel Pick: Dylan Hotel
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Austin is probably best known as a live music capital of the world. And as the city continues to build its reputation as a funky, fun and progressive spot, young people are increasingly flocking to Austin to live and work. What you may not know, though, is that Austin is becoming a mecca for vegans and gluten-free eaters as well. One of Austin's most famous vegan restaurants is actually a food truck called Vegan Yacht. The truck has become famous for its "freeto burrito," made up of organic tempeh chili and corn chips wrapped in a tortilla and grilled. Though Austin has more than just food trucks, we have to mention another of our favorites: Arlo's is another fantastic vegan option, serving up g-free burgers with house-made seitan bac'n, melted cheeze, mayo, ketchup, mustard, and all the fixin's.
Our Hotel Pick: Hotel Saint Cecilia
Asheville, North Carolina
It’s been described as everything from the “Paris of the South” to the “San Francisco of the East,” but no matter what you compare it to, there’s no arguing that Asheville is an awesomely artsy, hipster community at the forefront of new age culture. Self Magazine even dubbed it “America’s Happiest City.” A popular tourist destination, Asheville is home to tons of street performers, artists, festivals, and of course, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian food! Try out Farm Burger for local, grass-fed or vegan burgers. Customers design their own burgers starting with freebies such as roasted garlic, fresh jalapenos, and smoked paprika mayo, before adding toppings like bacon, cheese, sprouts, caramelized onions or basil tofu mayo for an extra charge.
Our Hotel Pick: Renaissance Asheville Hotel