When my girlfriend and I committed to going vegan in 2014, we were concerned about where to eat out in the Dayton area. Turns out, Dayton is very vegan friendly (and more vegan friendly than a lot of other Midwestern towns). Most restaurants have some vegan option, be it a black bean burger, portabella sandwich, or hummus, but over the last 3-4 years, we’ve found a list of places in the Miami Valley that are very vegan friendly, either with a dedicated vegan menu or by making a few easy substitutions to menu items. Below are our frequent haunts, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Start your day off right with a plant-based breakfast. There are a variety of places for vegans to brunch in the Miami Valley.
Although you might not suspect it from their name, Butter Café (1106 Brown St; Dayton, OH 45409) features an array of breakfast staples, including the best vegan pancakes in Dayton. And their lunch menu stars one of the Midwest’s tastiest vegan Reuben sandwiches. As of March 30th, 2018, the Café also offers a late night walk-up window on Fridays and Saturdays.
Christopher’s Restaurant and Catering (2318 E. Dorothy Ln.; Kettering OH 45420) has been a cornerstone of the Dayton area’s vegetarian and vegan set for years. While many establishments offer a tofu scramble, our favorite is the one at Christopher’s. And also Christopher’s has a full lunch and dinner menu and every Wednesday from 5-9pm, Chef Don prepares a new vegan special.
For an active weekend, start with brunch at Yellow Spring’s Sunrise Café (259 Xenia Ave; Yellow Springs, OH 45387). They feature a number of vegan breakfast plates, but make sure you try their homemade breakfast patties—they are unlike any other local vegan sausages. After eating, spend the day exploring Glen Helen or ducking in and out of the shops in town. If you find yourself still in the area at dinnertime, head back to Sunrise for their vegan dinner entrees as well as their craft cocktails.
Grub With A Pint
Speaking of drinks, our favorite vegan-friendly establishment is Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery (520 E 5th St; Dayton, OH 45402).
Lucky’s does pub grub at its best and offers a large selection of both vegan and non-vegan dishes, as well as one of the best craft beer lists in town. They have a dedicated vegetarian grill and deep fryer, make their own seitan, garbanzo bean burgers, and quinoa patties, and grow much of their own organic produce. In late 2017, Lucky’s added faux chicken to their menu, updated their bread selections so that all breads are vegan, and made other menu updates to enhance their vegan selections. While the seitan cobra burger is an old favorite, I now gravitate towards the vegan chicken and waffles, while my girlfriend craves the vegan friend chicken sandwich smothered in buffalo sauce and vegan cheddar. Not up for a full meal? Try the seitan nuggets or the vegan chili cheese fries. They also have reliable vegan selections for weekend brunch and feature Meatless Mondays specials every week.
Hairless Hare Brewery, located near the Dayton airport in Vandalia, is a great spot for pint before or after a trip out of town. About a year ago, they rolled out a vegan pizza line, making it a great spot for vegans and non-vegans alike.
Spent Grain Grill, located within Warped Wing Brewing Company’s taproom (26 Wyandot Street; Dayton, OH 45402), also features vegan-friendly pub food. Their loose grain sandwiches, made with spent brewing grains, are an innovative meat-free alternative to loose meat sandwiches. Or try one of their tacos. And don’t forget the tots.
Last summer brought Melt Bar and Grilled to the Fairfield Commons mall. This Cleveland-based regional chain offers vegan (and non-vegan) grilled cheese sandwiches and makes many of their own vegan proteins, such as their seitan, tofu bacon, and vegan meatloaf. Their regular menu flags a lot of vegan options, but ask for the vegan menu,which extends the vegan selections and provides a lot of items you might not think can be made vegan. Don’t pass up the vegan Buffalo wings with vegan ranch.
The delicious vegan cheeseless “marinara” pizza with added veggies including lemon vinaigrette dressed arugula (ask that the dressing is kept dairy free) from Old Scratch Pizza, located at 812 S Patterson Blvd, in Dayton can hit the spot if you’re craving a pizza.
Trolley Stop in the Oregon District, (530 E 5th St; Dayton Ohio 45402) They have a great vegan red beans and rice and some really nice seitan, especially in their tacos.
Dressed Up Vegan
Looking for something fancier than pub food? Check out Meadowlark Restaurant (Lamplighter Square Shopping Center, 5531 Far Hills Ave; Dayton, OH 45429). Although their dishes skew omnivore, their revolving menu always includes one high-end vegan entree, and the knowledge staff is adept and helpful at navigating possible substitutions to ensure a high level of choice in dining. Stay for dessert—Meadowlark makes their own vegan peanut brittle and vegan ice cream that is amazing.
Wheat Penny Oven & Bar in the Oregon District (515 Wayne Avenue; Dayton, Ohio 45410) is the sister restaurant to Meadowlark and specializes in high-end pizzas, as well as plated entrees. Start your meal with the eggplant fries (just skip the yogurt sauce). All of their unique pizzas can be made with vegan cheese (including vegan cashew ricotta). Not feeling pizza? Try the cauliflower t-bone, which is poached, then grilled like a steak.
Corner Kitchen (613 E 5th St; Dayton, OH 45403), also in the Oregon District, is another vegan fine-dining staple. Like Meadowlark, they cater to all dining preferences, but they do a fantastic job of labeling dishes that can be made vegan and/or gluten free. A variety of small plate options pepper the menu, but for dinner, we like the polenta & roasted mushroom ragout.
Though Mudlick Tap House is fairly meat-forward, they also offer a great vegan option worth seeking out. Leave the cheese and aioli off the White Bean Tabbouleh Burger, or opt for a full entrée with the Sweet Potato and Kale Curried hash.
For the International Palate
Many international foods can be made easily vegan, especially Indian, Pho, and Middle Eastern. Similarly, most Mexican restaurants have vegetarian sections on their menu and can be made vegan by leaving off the cheese and sour cream. We like the taco salad and veggie huarache at Taqueria Mixteca (1609 E 3rd St; Dayton, OH 45403) or the veggie fajitas at any of the area El Rancho Grande restaurants (multiple locations).
Dayton’s only Ethiopian eatery, Nanya Café in Dayton at 5214 N. Main Street, is a great option for delicious fresh vegan dining. The owner herself is vegan, and happy to help you explore the menu. The Ethiopian coffee she serves up is also a don’t miss.
Thai food can also easily be made vegan, since most Thai restaurants include tofu as a protein choice. Thai 9 (11 Brown St; Dayton, OH 45402) offers the broadest vegan selection, since they never use fish sauce and have mock chicken and mock duck in addition to tofu. Thai 9’s atmosphere makes it an easy upscale dinner or lunch choice, even with non-vegan friends.
For take-out Thai, we usually stick to Siam Pad Thai (3027 Wilmington Pike; Kettering, OH 45429). They do use fish sauce and egg, but will happily leave them off and the dishes don’t suffer as a result.
Arepas & Co now has several locations around town and offers a variety of vegan options. The vegan empanadas a great late-night treats, but don’t skimp on the platters with the fried plantains.
Food Trucks and Quick Food
Several area food-trucks carry notable vegan options. Try Harvest Mobile Cuisine’s falafel fusion, which is a blend of burger and middle-eastern (but skip the tzatziki sauce). Drunken Waffle makes a throwback to childhood—vegan corn dogs, and Zombie Dogz carries vegan hotdogs in both their food truck and their storefront (1200 Brown St #150; Dayton, OH 45409). Although Pa’s Pork is an unlikely name for a truck with a great vegan option, they regularly offer BBQ tofu worth seeking out.
In addition to being a great place to pick up ingredients for cooking at home, 2nd Street Market (600 E 2nd St, Dayton, OH 45402) hosts several restaurants with vegan options, including The Chef Case and Azra’s Mediterranean Cuisine.
Vegans already know that Chipotle is a quick vegan staple, but a couple of other local fast casual restaurants also feature vegan-friendly grab-and-go cuisine. Fusian’s (multiple locations) roasted tofu replaces raw fish in their sushi rolls, and their company ethos is very vegan-compatible. The newly opened Bibibop Asian Grill (1200 Brown St; Dayton, OH 45409) also offers hearty fare with lots of fresh veggies in their take on a traditional Korean staple. Or try the very similar Kupbop at 3011 Woodman Drive in the Kettering Town Center.
Because Vegans Need Dessert, Too
Plant-based baked goods used to be trickier to find. Not anymore. We’ve already mentioned Lucky’s extensive vegan menu and it should be no surprise that they frequently carry vegan dessert. Butter Café also sells vegan cupcakes and cookies (we get them to-go and eat them at home later, since we’re always full from breakfast). Whole Foods is a vegan shoppers dream, and we always opt for their vegan donuts and vegan ginger snaps as a snack while we shop.
Need to caffeinate? Treat yourself to a cookie or muffin along with your vegan latte at Ghostlight Coffee (1201 Wayne Ave; Dayton, OH 45410). They have their own production kitchen and make a variety of baked goods, including vegan pies for the holidays (those are special order, so watch their Facebook page for details.)
And finally, treat your sweet tooth with a cupcake from Purely Sweet Bakery (3375 Dayton-Xenia Rd; Beavercreek, Ohio 45432). Once occupying a booth in 2nd Street Market, they’ve now moved into their own space in Beavercreek. You can special order cupcakes (including lemon cheesecake, buckeye, and more) and they do great cakes, including wedding cakes. You can also find them at Dorothy Lane Markets around town.
Dayton has a diverse and broad vegan community, so two other resources that we’ve found helpful are the VeganDayton Facebook and Meetup group (www.meetup.com/vegandayton) and Happy Cow. The Facebook group provides vegan tips, support, and events in a non-judgmental format. We’ve found it to be a fantastic source of news, including restaurant specials and food events. Happy Cow’s website offers a more comprehensive list of vegan and vegan-friendly places in not only the Miami Valley, but also across the country. Combined with a vegan filter on Yelp, we’ve used it to find fantastic vegan grub everywhere we’ve traveled.
Updated in March 2018.