Read more $25 and Under guides here.
As a lifelong vegetarian, before moving to Milwaukee I thought I would be destined to order a salad or a sad sandwich at most restaurants. But Cream City surprisingly offers a diverse array of delicious vegetarian cuisine at prices that are often modest compared to their meat-filled counterparts.
$20 and Under
Dine With the Irish
Location: County Clare Irish Inn & Pub (1234 N. Astor St.)
I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that County Clare can turn quite a few of its most delicious options vegetarian with meat substitutes — you just have to look for the circled “V” on the menu. Their Reuben is fantastic with homemade seitan instead of beef ($11.85) and their grilled chicken sandwich with a faux patty will make you feel like you’re eating meat again ($10.70).
Try Hearty Meals at Comet Café
Location: Comet Café (1947 N. Farwell Ave.)
Herbivores will eat like kings and queens at this east side joint, with filling options like the vegan Salisbury steak ($13) and vegan mac ($12) dominating the entrees portion of their menu. If you’re looking for something slightly heathier, you have to try Comet Cafe’s artichoke melt ($10), a cheesy veggie sandwich on a brioche bun.
Check Out a Vegetarian/Vegan-Specific Restaurant
Locations: Celesta (1978 N. Farwell Ave.), Café Manna (3815 N. Brookfield Rd., Brookfield), Strange Town (2101 N. Prospect Ave.)
For a city known for its cheese and sausages, Milwaukee sure has a lot of plant-based restaurants. Celesta, for example, offers hearty vegetarian-friendly classics like a southern plate that features housemade seitan drummies ($15) alongside healthy vegetable small plates like the roasted za’atar cauliflower ($9).
Nearby on the east side, Strange Town mainly serves small plates, like their scrumptious and healthy mojo de ajo potatoes with warm tahini sauce, salsa and chili oil ($9).
Out in Brookfield, Café Manna has won numerous awards for its vegetarian fare. We’d recommend their creamy coconut potato koram ($17) and peace bowl with black quinoa, numerous veggies and coconut curry on top ($18).
$10 and Under
Grab a Bowl
Locations: Bowls (207 W. Freshwater Way)
Located in the Third Ward, Bowls offers a variety of smoothie, pudding, grain and greens bowls, all at mostly affordable prices. For dinner, I love their spiced sweet potato & eggs bowls with potatoes and sriracha ($9) and Soba noodle bowl with pineapple and a variety of other fresh vegetables ($9).
Order a Melt
Locations: Urbans Beets (1401 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.), On the Bus (400 N. Water St.), Beerline Café (2076 N. Commerce St.)
Most vegetarians are painfully aware of what it’s like to always have to order the veggie sandwich when all other options are meat-filled, but trust me, you’ll want to order melts from vegetarian-friendly local joints. We particularly recommend trying Urban Beets’ sweet potato melt ($9.25), On the Bus’s basil pesto melt ($8.75) and Beerline Café’s fromage panini ($6.75).
Feast on Breakfast Classics
Locations: Brewed Café (1208 E. Brady St.), Riverwest Co-Op Grocery and Café (733 E. Clarke St.)
Brewed Café, located in the heart of Brady, serves breakfast all day, including their Belgian-style waffle with bananas and powdered sugar ($8.25) and egg or tofu scrambler with fresh veggies ($9.50). Although they only serve breakfast before 11 a.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends, the Riverwest Co-op offers breakfast classics with a vegetarian/vegan spin; you definitely can’t miss their “Word’s Greatest Vegan Pancakes” ($8).
Dine on International Cuisine
Locations: Blue Star Café (1619 N. Farwell Ave.), BelAir Cantina (1935 N. Water St.)
Although its food is more styled after L.A. than Mexico, BelAir Cantina serves flavorful and cheap tacos ($3-5 each), especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when a few are bumped down to $2. North African Blue Star Café is more authentic to its home cuisine but also has a vegetarian bent. Their vegetarian sambusas ($1.5 each) especially blend authenticity and affordability.
$5 and Under
Take Vegetarian Chili to Go
Location: Beans & Barley (1901 E. North Ave.)
If you’re on the go and in need of a quick meal, stop into Beans & Barley and order the vegetarian chili from its carry out menu ($5 for a pint with a roll). This chili is made from scratch daily and is quite spicy.
Grab a Grilled Cheese
Locations: Zaffiro’s Pizza & Bar (1724 N. Farwell Ave.), Gouda Girls (1125 N. 9th St.)
In a deal that seems too good to be true, Zaffiro’s offers a grilled cheese platter complete with a sandwich, fries and massive salad for only $4. The food truck Gouda Girls, which now has a permanent spot in the Eleven25 building, also serves affordable grilled cheese sandwiches, like The Triple, which has Gouda, Colby/Jack and Havarti ($4.75).