1. Amy’s Place (3234 Main Street in University Heights): A UB classic, Amy’s serves hundreds of meat-eaters every day, many of whom don’t know about the restaurant’s extensive vegan and vegetarian menu. The marinated seitan or smoky tofu (with some help from the vegan garlic spread) can turn most of the meat-based dishes veg and the wide variety of lentil dishes provide lots of opportunities for the original vegetarian staple to shine. Probably most enticing is the house breakfast, vegan-style (lentils and broccoli with homefries and toast, seitan or tofu optional) which is only $2 ($4 with tofu or seitan) before 9am. They aren’t just for breakfast, so avoid the crowds and head here for dinner some time, don’t forget to take home one of their home baked vegan treats!
2. Lexington Co-op (807 Elmwood Ave in Elmwood Village): While plenty of the larger grocery stores in Buffalo have a good selection of natural, organic, and vegetarian foods, none of them can beat the Lexington Co-op for all your vegetarian needs. The hot bar has a great variety of foods on a rotating schedule, the prepared section has a variety of meals and sides, lots of desserts are available, and you can get the ingredients for making all your favorite meals and snacks. The (locally made) tofu here is the best in Buffalo and is probably put to its finest use in the tofu fajitas (every Tuesday!).
3. The Eight’s (888 Main Street in Allentown): Late-night bar food can be a real downer for vegetarians, especially in the city of chicken wings, but The Eight’s has stepped in to fill that gap with some exciting, hand-crafted vegan sandwiches and artisan pizzas. Only open after 4pm, but often open past 1am, The Eight’s turns some classic sandwiches on their head with homemade vegan meat substitutes: jackfruit-based, pulled-pork-style tacos; a mushroom-based philly cheesesteak; and a vegan beef-on-weck for special occasions, to name a few. There’s also a unique bar with lots of options and the sweet potato fries with agave-sweetened mustard are to die for.
4. Tokyo Shanghai (494 Elmwood Ave in Elmwood Village): If you are sick of veggie fried rice and floppy, flavorless tofu, Tokyo Shanghai is the place in Buffalo to get Chinese and East Asian food that isn’t the culinary equivalent of McDonalds. The sesame tofu, vegetarian dumplings, and vegetables in garlic sauce are great for takeout and, if you eat in, you shouldn’t miss the ginger, scallion, and yuba vegetarian duck. There’s also a full sushi bar with a few affordable and fresh vegetarian rolls. The delivery from here is good if you’re local, but eating-in nets you a friendly and upscale atmosphere and access to an expanded menu, full bar, and penny-saving lunch specials.
5. Merge (439 Delaware Ave in Allentown): For those nights when you need something a little more special, or when somebody with deep-pockets is paying, Merge puts out unique, seasonal, mostly-vegetarian food in a funky space with a hip clientele. The menu changes every few months, but this summer’s included vegan alfredo, a four mushroom hash, and vietnamese bbq’ed portabellos, to name a few dishes. Lunch is also available, with some great sandwiches (vegan po boy, falafel), salads (vegan caesar, aztec salad with tempeh), and their impressive vegan buffalo wings. You can also get just about anything you’d want to drink that isn’t made by Coca Cola here, from wheatgrass to jalapeno vodka to cappuccino.