Vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or just trying to fit in a meat-free Monday here and there? Plant-based blogger and chef Lexi Monzeglio shares her ultimate guide to getting your veggie fix in and around Johannesburg.
Col’Cacchio (Hyde Park)
This popular pizza brand also offers a great selection of vegan eats for those eating a plant-based diet. Look out for the leafy ‘V’ and order options like the pomodoro pasta with tomato and basil (try it with wheat-free pasta or zucchetti). There’s also the vegan margherita pizza with dairy-free cheese, the Lazio with vegan cheese, avo, roasted cherry tomato and pumpkin pesto, or the zucca with vegan cheese, butternur, beetroot, seeds and avo. For dessert, go for the Amistoso which is comprised of cashew cream, caramel pineapple, orange flavoured crumble and coconut shavings.
Leafy Greens Café (Muldersdrift)
Famous for its lunch buffet, Leafy Greens is probably the most well-known vegan restaurant around. If you take a little wander about, you’ll see Antonia’s veggie gardens where she sources most of the ingredients for the menu. The buffet has the most delicious little crackers with a bunch of fresh toppings on Antonia’s onion crackers (which you can buy for your own cupboard), a spread of salads, hot bakes, home-made hummus and other dips all served with fresh breads. Besides the buffet, you should definitely try the baked pizza, which rivals any so-called normal pizza in town.
En route to Leafy Greens. Photo by Lexi Monzeglio.
The Greenside Café (Greenside)
This is another tried-and-tested truly vegan favourite. Opening at 9.30am every day and closing at 5pm, this café is perfect for brunch and lunch. It’s a quaint, unpretentious little spot that makes you feel at home. The full English breakfast is the perfect plate of colour and will leave you feeling full and nourished. Also try the bean-and-rice burrito wrap.
A dish prepared and served at Greenside Café. Photo by Lexi Monzeglio.
Free Food Deli & Takeaway (Birnam)
If you’re on the hunt for a dairy-free milkshake then look no further. FreeFood has the best vegan chocolate shake in Johannesburg, if not the world. Everything on Ariel’s menu is gluten-, sugar- and preservative-free. Try one of their Big Bamboo Bowls – like the Kale and Red Jasmine Rice – for lunch, or grab one of the frozen meals from the deli to take home for dinner. FreeFood has one large communal table – bringing the European style of solo-dining to South Africa. You can head on over by yourself or with friends and sit around a shared table to eat FreeFood’s sustainable food. While you’re there, help yourself to a glass of water from the jugs on the table, which are infused with star anise for an unusual and refreshing flavour.
Dishes from Free Food. Photo by Lexi Monzeglio.
Lexi’s Healthy Eatery (Sandton)
The menu here feature very little to no animal products, as well as no refined sugars or products containing gluten. The breakfast rush kicks off with options like the Sunshine Glow bowl with seasonal citrus, coconut cream and a biscuit crumb, or a hearty-sounding polenta breakfast stack with mushrooms, grilled cherry tomatoes and polenta cakes. Come lunch and dinner, the dishes take on a more gourmet slant. Starter nibbles like beetroot falafel, carrot hummus and crudités are followed by main events like slow-roasted cauli-steaks, sweet potato and chickpea activated-charcoal burgers, and black rice porcini risotto with sautéed leeks and butternut puree. Desserts come refined sugar-free and include the likes of frozen chocolate ganache with shortbread crumb and sticky caramel.
A dish at Lexi’s Healthy Eatery. Photo supplied.
Licorish Bistro (Nicolway Shopping Centre)
Licorish Bistro is famous for its Cape Malay flavours and truly South African menu. Chef Karel Jacobs was also one of the first in Joburg to include vegan options on his menu. It is also, surprisingly, one of the more affordable options out there. Chef Karel developed some dishes for his menu to cater for the vegan and vegetarian market, while still staying true to the overall menu. He has a Moroccan vegan burger that is said to be one of the best veggie patties in town, a salad bowl and a stir-fry bowl. All are packed with flavour and quite substantial for reasonable prices. Due to its central location, Licorish is great for a mid-week lunch or office meetings. In the evening, though, the lights dim, the atmosphere settles in and it becomes a lovely spot for a romantic evening or a delightful night out with friends.
A plant-based dish at Licorish. Photo by Lexi Monzeglio.
Urbanologi (Ferreiras Dorp)
When Chef Jack arrived, so did a menu revamp – one that will have all vegans singing his praises for providing dinner and dessert in an evening setting. Obviously this is not a vegan restaurant, but there are a fair number of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, which are marked. Chef Jack and his team are also accommodating enough to swap out sauces or other elements that might not be strictly vegan, to accommodate those who would like to experience more than the usual side salad. Speaking of salad, the Urbanologi Summer Salad is no ordinary salad – the misoyaki-tofu dressing takes it to a divine level. There are a few other veggie options among the tapas, but most importantly there is a completely vegan dessert – the candyfloss, peach salsa, lemongrass and pineapple sorbet (R60).
Potato wedges at Urbanologi. Photo supplied.
Pop-ups and food stalls
There are a couple less permanent veggie options out there in Joburg – so, for those of you looking for weekend markets or once-off experiences, here are options for you.
This vegan food stall has been around for a good few years, and they are especially famous for their faux pulled ‘pork’, which is actually plant-based. Try their pulled pork nachos or their delicious pulled pork tacos. Word on the street is that vegan prawns are involved in some of their dishes and their baked goods are heaven-sent. You can find Vegeata on Facebook, where you can like their page for more information and updates