We've all been there: You are trying to figure out a place to meet your friends for food, but you get stuck trying to please both the carnivores and the herbivores in your crowd. The meat-eaters have choked down tempeh at all the usual vegan haunts, the vegetarians have spent countless nights consuming iceberg lettuce salads and French fries at your favorite steakhouse, and it's hard to convince the crowd to go to Pita Jungle again.
No need to fight, we can all get along! Here are five great Phoenix restaurants that can meet everyone's needs -- and that serve well-crafted vegetarian dishes that are way more interesting than that boring ol' Boca Burger. Each of these restaurants offers multiple veg-friendly main dishes, so everybody gets options. Bonus: Almost all of them have awesome patios, so you can kick back and enjoy each other's company (even if you don't enjoy each other's dietary decisions).
See also: Meet the Jackfruit
Windsor Windsor is a Phoenix favorite for its hearty, meaty bar food, but its fresh and wholesome vegetarian options are often overlooked. An array of salads catches our eye -- the mixed grains salad features butternut squash, goat cheese, zucchini, and currants, while the Country Vegetable Chop melds kale, crispy okra, Brussels sprouts, and avocado. But don't worry, there's more than rabbit food here. The Berkeley is a more inspired take on the boring black bean burger, and the Veggie Stack is a Southwestern-slash-Mediterranean main dish that will leave your vegetarian friends feeling fat and happy.
Carly's Bistro There are so many reasons to love Carly's. It's relaxed and unpretentious, and maybe the most accommodating restaurant on this list, if not ever. The food is simple but cozy, and the kitchen has been known to substitute artichoke hearts or avocado for meat on any of Carly's sandwiches without being even a little bit dick-ish about it. That's not to say the restaurant doesn't have plenty of tasty vegetarian options -- its soups and salads are consistently delicious, and the Europa sandwich (roasted red pepper, mozarella cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts on grilled flatbread) is basic and familiar, but still great.
Welcome Diner Better known for its fried chicken and biscuits than for its vegetarian options, Welcome Diner actually does a pretty good job of reaching across the party line when it comes to vegetarian options. First, the salads are perfect. This summer's pickled watermelon rind and fresh herb salad was probably one of the best vegetarian dishes we've tried this year. Don't worry, though, Welcome also offers plenty of hearty meat-free dishes that will help your vegetarian friends hold a gin and house-made tonic or two. The Pulled Jackfruit Po' Boy makes good use of our new favorite fruit, and the fried green tomato sandwich is a smoky, tangy take on a Southern classic.
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The Main Ingredient Ale House The Main Ingredient gets extra points for having a kickass dog-friendly patio, and even more extra points for having all-day happy hour on Mondays. TMI is super-relaxed and a great place to either grab a quick bite or sit and relax for a few hours. The soundtrack always contains very mellow hip-hop, which generally has the effect of making everyone feel relaxed and like they are eating at some much cooler and cleaner version of their own home. The food is bar food, but fun and regional. The green chile mac and cheese is baked to gooey perfection, and the veggie quesadilla is a fresh, filling blend of Oaxacan cheese and roasted vegetables.
Phoenix Public Market Cafe Phoenix Public Market Cafe has so many vegetarian options that it's almost impossible to decide between them. The great thing is, they are scattered across many different categories, and every vegetarian dish we've tried here has been just as thoughtful as any of the meat-based options. Sure, you'll find a few great breakfast items, some well-crafted salads, and of course, sandwiches, but they also offer two delicious and markedly different rice bowls (one with black beans, salsa, and avocado, the other with oyster mushrooms, toasted sesame, and cilantro.) Try the roasted cauliflower dinner -- served with mashed potatoes and chile aioli, it's the kind of hearty, well-seasoned, and filling vegetarian main dish we've been dreaming about.