From strawberry rhubarb pie at Monty’s Blue Plate Diner to ramblin’ chili at the Weary Traveler, vegans in Madison have it pretty tasty.
“Madison may be the capital of the dairy state, but it makes a super getaway for vegans,” wrote Robin Tierney in a recent story on PETA Prime. “Just hold the cheese.”
Earlier this summer, Alliance for Animals and the Environment, Madison’s vegan group and the hosts of Mad City Vegan Fest, made it easier to find out just how delicious and wide-ranging the options are for dishes without meat or dairy.
Their newest website, MadisonVegan.com, sorts vegan-friendly restaurants by cuisine (American, Asian, bakeries and cafes, pizza, etc.) and by location: north, south, east, west and downtown. Adjoining suburbs, like Fitchburg and Middleton, are grouped with their closest area of the city.
Lynn Pauly, the co-executive director of AFAE called the website a go-to spot “when you’re in need of a vegan meal… vegan friends coming to town, tourists as well as locals.”
The vegan group designed a billboard, recently seen off of Stoughton Road near the Beltline, which will move around Madison for a year, to direct people to the website.
“The billboard and website are our way of saying thank you to the awesome restaurants that offer vegan options,” Pauly said.
Some of the vegan-friendly spots will be old hat to Madison vegetarians, like the veg-only Green Owl, vegan food cart Ladonia Cafe and the Willy Street Co-op.
Others might be surprising, like Willalby’s Cafe on Williamson Street, which serves vegan biscuits and gravy. Vegans can find cranberry wild rice at Buck and Badger Northwoods Lodge, sweet pea risotto at Liliana’s and jerk tofu at Jamerica.
“We are definitely in the middle of a vegan movement,” Pauly said. “Although Madison considers itself a progressive town, we’re not quite as progressive as we think when you consider how many cities are fast becoming vegan-rich for ethical, health and environmental reasons. Portland, L.A, Austin, Salt Lake City, New York and even Las Vegas have us beat by a mile.”
The menu guide has a leafy “V” icon indicating which restaurants mark the vegan or vegan-optional dishes on their menus. What it needs now are more reviews from local vegan diners, to offer tips like the one on Roman Candle’s listing: “be careful of the salad dressings if you don’t want to eat honey” or Banzo’s: “excellent food, even my carnivore husband agrees. This is our go to falafel place.”
Pauly said the site doesn’t charge restaurants to be listed, but does hope to monetize it.
“We hope to sell advertising next year,” Pauly said. “Our future goal is to produce a magazine-quality guide to insert in one of the weekly papers annually.
“Madison seems to be more focused on the locavore movement and we’d love to see it combined more with veganism,” she added. “We agree it is good to eat locally produced food, but for real impact, nothing compares to eating a more plant-based diet.”