Only vegetarians know the struggle of reading through a menu to spot the “V” for “no animals were harmed for this delicious dish”, so that you’re not relegated to ordering potato wedges and green salad like the last time your friends wanted to go out for dinner.
Folks, it’s time to break the misconception that vegetarians only make friends with salads. While Australia might be the land of steak and mash or prawns on the barbie, in the last few years the Gold Coast has fast become a culinary playground for vegetarian foodies. Hurrah!
We’ve conferred with our local vegetarian experts to create a bucket list of must-try dishes from some of the best restaurants on the Gold Coast. From breakfast cafes to Greek eats, you won’t need to bring your own quinoa tofu salad from home next time you hit the town with friends.
So, vego foodies of the Gold Coast, how many have you ticked off?
Cashew-cheese Vegan Lasagna | Cardamom Pod Broadbeach
No restaurant does accessible and tasty vegetarian food like the Cardamom Pod. Their creamy cashew-cheese vegan lasagna will corrupt even the most stubborn carnivore. With a variety of fresh salads and hot dishes offered every day, their famous marinated tofu and sweet potato salad and creamy pumpkin-pear cheesecake have made the Pod one of the best restaurants on the Gold Coast for vegetarians.
Seafood Basket | Greenhouse Canteen and Bar
With its bold slogan of “cruelty free and killing it”, Greenhouse Canteen is easily be one of the best vegan restaurants out there, religiously delivering seasonal and creatively organic plant-based dishes. Watch as your meat-eating friends gorge into the seafood basket (no fish here, just battered mushroom fillets and seared potato scallops), or the classic hot dawg made of quinoa and beans, and drizzled with mustard sauce. So delicious they’ll forget that it’s not real meat!
Melitzana Mousakka | Hellenika
Just because you’re vegetarian, doesn’t mean you can’t do Greek food. Quite the contrary, in fact! It’s not only marinated olives and feta dips, Hellenika’s cheesy melitzana (eggplant) moussaka, saganaki, zucchini chips, or Horiatiki Greek-style feta salad won’t leave you hungry.
Navajo Breakfast | BSKT
Focused on healthy and clean-eating cuisine, BSKT’s Navajo Breakfast (flat bread, fried eggs, avocado, and beans) is a vegetarian’s response to the weekend bacon and eggs. If you opt for freshness and healthy flavours, we also recommend the raw vegan Pad Thai, followed by a serving of their famous CocoWhip (coconut whip soft serve), topped with homemade granola, AKA Veganola.
Purple Toast | Paddock Bakery
Carb up with freshly-baked bread and a cup of (really) good coffee at Miami’s superb Paddock Bakery. Our top vego pick off their menu is the Purple Toast, a homemade sourdough toast smothered with slow-roasted beetroot spread, drizzled with organic feta, and poached eggs. So Insta-worthy, too!
Vegan Pizza | Mandala Organic Arts Cafe
Who needs pepperoni on a pizza? Vegan Mermaid Beach restaurant, Mandala kills the vegan pizza-making game with its thin-crust pizza made with organic ingredients and a super creamy cashew-nut cheese that tastes almost as good as mozzarella. And, for $25 on Tuesdays you can binge on all-you-can-eat pizza. We recommend the pesto option, layered with fresh green vegetables and delicious cashew-pesto sauce.
Acai and Peanut Butter Bowls | Cardamom Pod Brickworx
Baby sister to the original Broadbeach location, the Cardamom Pod on Ferry Road has mastered the art of turning mainstream “dirty”dishes into healthy plant-based feasts. From its fluffy pumpkin pancakes topped with caramelised banana and homemade PB ice cream to their vegan Fusion Tacos, this Brickworks hotspot is nailing it with the perfect vegetarian (almost vegan) dishes on the Gold Coast. Not to mention they serve one of the prettiest acai and peanut butter bowls you’ll ever lay eyes on. Please tell us you’ve tried one?!
Chocolate Avocado Mousse | Maria Anita’s
Born to accommodate the gluten-free crowd, Maria Anita’s shows its love for the vegetarian community with bloating-proof homemade bread, and a variety of healthy desserts. Our favourite is their chocolate avocado mousse; so rich and so creamy that it feels like you’re devouring melted chocolate with butter! O.M.G.
Zucchini Pizza | Justin Lane
This hip rooftop bar in Burleigh is perfect for a late arvo happy hour and chats with friends sharing an Italian cruelty-free feast. Our picks are the zucchini pizza with buffalo mozzarella and goat cheese, or the pumpkin ravioli if pasta doesn’t do it for you (Ahem, are you crazy?). Justin’s lemon and ricotta cannelloni is also an absolute must to end the Italian feast on a sweet note.
Ferrero Rocher Chocolate Slice | Blendlove
Southport’s Blendlove is one of our go-tos for those guilt-free sweet tooth cravings and a bit of gossip over a cup of tea. Must-eats here are the white chocolate raspberry slices and their raw version of a Ferrero Rocher chocolate slice. No sweet tooth? Then you must have tried their tofu scramble; it’s sure to satisfy your craving for eggs!
Blueberry Panna Cotta | ELK Espresso
Just a sandy-footed walk from the beach, Elk Espresso is the local’s destination for Sunday brunching with friends. Try their beetroot and sheep cheese vegetarian burger or, what should be on every vegetarian’s bucket list, Elk’s too-pretty-to-eat blueberry panna cotta.
Tempura Zucchini Flowers | Sparrow Eating House
A weekend destination for foodies and interior décor-enthusiasts, Sparrow isn’t just about fish and meat. Their tempura zucchini flowers stuffed with pumpkin and fresh ricotta are perfectly accompanied with a raspberry mojito or three. There’s good reason this epic vegetarian dish remains on the menu with every changing season. Have you ticked it off?
Have you ever dreamt of a cruelty-free dim sum feast? Steamed dumplings, faux-chicken drumsticks, faux-pork drums, and any other Asian-style dish you have yearned for since quitting meat. Any Gold Coast vegetarian worth their salt will have feasted on Yum Cha at least once at Mermaid’s Tian Ran or Easy House.
Who ever said Italian food is boring if you’re a vegetarian? Local’s favourite, Gemelli in Broadbeach and Gemellini in Nobbys satisfy plant-eaters with entrée bruschetta (pomodoro, mozzarella di bufala, Sicilian olive oil, and fresh basil); or our bucket list pick, the mixed funghi arancini with buffalo mozzarella and bianco truffle oil. Not to mention authentic wood-fired pizza like the Ortolana if you’re into garden veggies, or the truffle pizza if you’re all about delicacy. Buonissimo!
Pumpkin Pancakes | Grocer And Grind
This stellar Broadbeach cafe loves its vego friends, offering aesthetically pleasing fruit smoothie bowls topped with super food granola and incredible breakfast options like the Super Brekky Green Salad (AKA kale salad with poached eggs) or, the dish that every vegetarian should have devoured at least once, the gluten-free and egg-free pumpkin pancakes dressed with fresh fruits.
Corn Fritters | Commune
A cafe that boasts Meat-Free Mondays can only be a good sign for vegetarian bellies, right? Local favourite, Commune lures vegos and non-vegos with their selection of freshly-baked muffins—Nutella, dark chocolate, and Oreos will hit the spot. Or, our bucket list pick, a signature plate of Commune’s corn fritters; the perfect blend of fresh corn, coriander salsa, and cherry tomatoes.
Voodoo Dahl Jaffles | Hendrixx Espresso
The grooviest café in Palm Beach does vego brunch right with drool-worthy Voodoo Dahl Jaffles (lentils, roast pumpkin, and feta); and an incredible selection of sourdough toasts like the deconstructed avocado with beetroot ricotta relish; or pitaya and acai bowls topped with fresh fruits and perfect for a hot summer’s day.
Brown Rice Salad | Blackboard
Blackboard is not just about award-winning baristas and coffee or injecting Nutella inside deep-fried doughnuts. Although those are all winning ingredients in our books… if you’re a true vegetarian you should have devoured a flavour-exploding plate of Blackboard’s warm brown rice salad with kimichi, Sriracha hot sauce, and topped with a fried egg.
Calabaza Tacos | Bonita Bonita
Move over Guzman Gomez; if you’re craving Mexican food, Mermaid Beach’s Bonita Bonita does tacos like no other. Please tell us you’ve devoured a Calabaza Taco stuffed with pumpkin and corn mole, rocket, picked onions and fresh cheese, or perhaps the braised leek and queso (cheese) quesadillas. Vegos, harriba!
Know of another venue deserving of its spot among the best restaurants on the Gold Coast for vegetarians? Tell us in the comments.
Photo Credit: Hayley Williamson for Metropolist