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Best restaurants off-campus for vegetarians

Cory Shaffer/
Laken Kincaid writes about their recommendations for local vegetarian spots.

As reported through previous articles on vegetarianism, the meatless diet can be difficult to follow on a college campus. Not only is it difficult to know the ins and outs of the health implications such a diet may have, but the resources at John Carroll are slim to none.

However, as both a picky eater and an owner of DashPass, I can attest that there are some delicious food options close to JCU. While they took a while to discover, these hidden gems truly sparkle for those who are sick of vegan Tween burgers and protein shakes from The Nook. Although these restaurants are not overtly vegan/vegetarian, they offer multiple meatless options that are both delicious and clearly labeled on their menu. 


This low-cost establishment is a short drive away from campus in Cleveland Heights. On their scantron-esque “build your own” menu, they offer multiple protein options including black beans, Thai chili tofu, two different assortments of rice and – my personal favorite – pan-seared portobellos. As a plus, many of these options are also vegan. If none of those suit your fancy, you can also bypass this section and skip straight to the cheese and toppings. Barrio also is a great option if you have friends that still enjoy their share of beef and chicken as the build your own sheet has endless possibilities of flavor combinations for both the carnivores and herbivores alike in your life.

Melt Bar and Grilled

Although this restaurant is a bit more of a drive than others, it is well worth the mileage. Melt has so many offerings that it is impossible to get bored, even if you have food restrictions. If an item is not outright labeled vegan or vegetarian, odds are that the dish can be made to fit these categories by asking. 

Melt takes on the sometimes daunting task of making vegetarian doups to common dishes including tofu wings, chili and even a jackfruit buffalo “chicken” sandwich. These selections also meet the match when it comes to flavor as their meat substitutes truly resemble legitimate poultry or pork. While I have found love with the Vegetarian Wet Hot Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese, I am excited to try the vegetarian version of their chicken and waffles or patty melt next. 

BD’s Mongolian Grill

Like with a lot of buffets, BD’s Mongolian Grill is very customizable and therefore suitable for vegetarians who are trying to avoid the meat market. While there are some preset menu items, the fun comes from grabbing a bowl and creating your own dish to your liking. Personally, I enjoy grabbing some noodles and an egg here or there to bolster my choices. However, where this restaurant truly shines is with sauces such as the Korean BBQ and the Roasted Garlic, among other selections. My personal favorite is Sweet and Sour paired with some Japanese Teriyaki. You can also add some spices on top of the glazes to give your meal an extra kick. Although this may seem like a cop out answer since any place can be vegetarian if you can create your whole plate from scratch, this unique establishment has an international flair that should not be missed. 

Cilantro Taqueria

With two locations within ten minutes of JCU, Cilantro Taqueria is a must try. Both low-key and low-cost, this restaurant has both build your own items and pre-made selections guaranteed to make your mouth water. One of the many reasons that Cilantro deserves a spotlight is because one of their proteins is a dastardly phenomenal vegan chorizo that can put any bowl or burrito over the top. Other vegetarian options that you can fill your shell with include grilled vegetables and the standard tofu. There are also your classic options like a cheese quesadilla and chips with guac. However, my favorite dish at Cilantro is their Elotes. Multiple times this semester, I have either driven to or DoorDashed from Cilantro just for two ears of their decadent street corn. Whether you are going for a full lunch or just the appetizers, you can definitely find something to enjoy. 

The Haunted House

I could write (and probably will write) a whole article on The Haunted House restaurant. I have been to The Haunted House around a dozen times since first arriving at JCU and that number will probably skyrocket before I graduate. Not only is the theming well within my realm of special interests, but the food is something I would choose for a death row meal. Both the non vegetarian and vegetarian options alike are so unique, almost to a point where you question if the flavor profiles will work together or fight for dominance. Yet every time, the dishes wow me. 

Also, with a whole vegan section of their dinner menu, there are quite a few options for those with dietary restrictions. If you are inclined to try a meatless special, my recommendation is the Ecto Burger. Even when I do not feel like driving to Cedar Road, I have had this sandwich delivered straight to Bernet on multiple occasions. The impossible burger tastes like true meat and the vegan BBQ pulled pork is so innovative and delightful. Paired with a potion bowl (there are nonalcoholic options), your night is set in the spookiest and most scrumptious way.

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About the Contributor
Laken Kincaid
Laken Kincaid, Editor-in-Chief
Laken Kincaid is the Editor-in-Chief for The Carroll News from Beckley, West Virginia. They are a senior at John Carroll University who is double majoring in political science and communications (digital media) and minoring in leadership development. Laken has written for The Carroll News since the start of their freshman year and has previously served as a staff reporter, campus section editor and managing editor of the paper. They have received 18 Best of SNO awards, a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for Region 4 and two honorable mentions from the College Media Association. They have also been recognized by universities like Georgetown for their investigative reports. Additionally, they also write political satire for The Hilltop Show and feature stories on global poverty for The Borgen Project. In addition to their involvement with The Carroll News, Laken is involved with the Kappa Delta sorority, the speech and debate team, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Improv club and other organizations. They also serve as the news director for WJCU 88.7, John Carroll's own radio station, and as the president for John Carroll's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.  Laken also started their own national nonprofit organization known as Art with the Elderly which they have won the President's Volunteer Service Award and the Humanity Rising Award for. When not writing, Laken can be found doing graphic design for their internship with Union Home Mortgage or working as a resident assistant and peer learning facilitator on campus. Laken also enjoys skiing and watching true crime documentaries. In the future, Laken hopes to become a political journalist for a national news organization or to be a campaign commercial editor for politicians. To contact Laken, email them at [email protected].

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    Ed MishFeb 16, 2024 at 6:02 pm

    Allow me to put in a pitch for Foodhisattva, just down South Taylor from The Haunted House. They’re only open on the weekends, but their yummy vegan fare is not to be missed. Bangkok Tacos FTW!