Decades ago, when I was in my 20s, for ethical and health-related reasons I decided to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. And it was a lifestyle, not just a diet. In those days, to cut meat out of your diet meant living in a fragile subculture supportive of veggie living. It also meant subsisting on grilled-cheese sandwiches, rice and beans, and omelets. Even in Los Angeles, an ostensibly vegetarian-friendly city, it was tough to stick to the regimen, and ultimately I failed.
Fast forward to 2017, and the picture for vegetarians and vegans is much brighter, whether at home or on the road. And not just in Los Angeles.
Today, with around 8 million vegan or vegetarian adults in the U.S., maintaining a veggie-only diet has become much easier, as restaurants and grocery stores have embraced and aligned themselves with the lifestyle. It is the rare restaurant that doesn’t include on its menu options geared toward those who choose to dine meatlessly.
But not all U.S. cities are equally veg-friendly. A new survey by WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities using 15 indicators of vegetarian-friendliness, including the cost of groceries and the share of restaurants offering veggie entrees. These were the top-rated 25 cities:
- New York, NY
- Portland, OR
- Orlando, FL
- San Francisco, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Washington, DC
- Scottsdale, AZ
- Miami, FL
- San Diego, CA
- Anaheim, CA
- Madison, WI
- Austin, TX
- Las Vegas, NV
- Tampa, FL
- Buffalo, NY
- Houston, TX
- Chesapeake, VA
- Atlanta, GA
- San Jose, CA
- Albuquerque, NM
- Raleigh, NC
- Indianapolis, IN
- Philadelphia, PA
- Pittsburgh, PA
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its reputation as a meat-and-potatoes town, Chicago was the worst of the surveyed cities, followed by Newark, Laredo, Stockton, and San Bernardino.
But even the most meat-centric cities have come a long way since the bad old days when my only dining options were greasy grilled-cheese sandwiches and limp-lettuce salads. If ever there were a good time to be a vegetarian, this is it. Too bad I’m now irreversibly hooked on burgers and barbeque.
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
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