If you think that Hawaii’s only mainstay culinary options include hefty plate lunches, Spam musubi and succulent Kahlua pig, you’re wrong. On the contrary, the island’s are overflowing with fresh fruits, locally grown vegetables and many healthy whole food options. As a former vegetarian myself, I’m very familiar with the best places in paradise to get your veggie on. Local health nuts, let me introduce you to the Top 5 Veggie Restaurants in Hawaii.
1 Veg Out
Veg Out is a funky, fresh vegetarian restaurant in up-country Maui. It’s 100% vegetarian with vegan, raw and wheat free options. Start with a medley of greens including Greek Salad, the Mexican Etsalada Salad and the house Veg-Out Salad. Then, order the Mufflata Sandwich that’s made with Cajun-style olive spread on house-made foccacia with breaded tofu, lettuce, tomato and onion. The Avocado Wrap is chock-full of island goodness: avocado, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, cheese and veganaise in a whole-wheat tortilla. For a little Eastern flair, try the Yellow Curry, Pad Thai noodles, or the Oriental Stir Fry with seitan. And, if Italian is more your style, have a Veggie or Pesto Goat Cheese Pizza on Spelt Crust. Talk about multi-faceted, veggie-friendly food! Mexican entrees are even available in the form of tofu tacos, meatless burritos and grilled vegetable filled fajitas. Next time you’re in Haiku, load up on Maui-style whole food that tastes great; hit up Veg Out.
2 Paradise Found Cafe
Nestled in the North Shore of Oahu, Paradise Found Café serves up fresh and local vegetarian cuisine. This kitschy spot offers breakfast, lunch, smoothies and such in the heart of old Haleiwa Town. For breakfast, try the Nana Nutty made with peanut butter, banana, walnuts, granola, honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon spread on a whole wheat toasted tortilla with a side of fresh papaya. For the savory bite, opt for the Mornin’ Sunshine that’s composed of three scrambled eggs and tempeh dressed with fresh salsa and wrapped in a wheat tortilla with mozzarella cheese. At lunch, nibble on the Tempeh Gyro, Falafel, or Ginger Basil Quinoa Salad. And, if you’re looking for a liquid lunch (of the smoothie variety), sip the Shorebreak that’s blended with banana, strawberry, papaya, spirulina, hemp protein, bee pollen, peanut butter, soymilk and apple juice.
3 Ruffage Natural Foods
This iconic mini-health food store and cafe in the heart of Waikiki is hard to miss. If you haven’t tried it, you’ve certainly seen it. It’s pink! Ruffage Natural Foods is the ideal lunch spot for any veggie food-friendly seeker. Order a whole-wheat sandwich packed with avocado, sprouts, tomato, sunflower seeds and veggie cheese. The veggie chili and tofu burger with vegenaise are also tasty highlights. Fresh smoothies are always a big hit here due to the fact that they are completely free of refined ingredients and made with 100% real fruit. Ruffage is also a great place to stock up on snacks like whole grain fig bars, quinoa crackers and raw nuts as well as bare necessities like herbs, vitamins and shower products. And, since Ruffage kindly indicates their gluten-free foods with a “GF” sticker, that makes them a trusted and convenient friend to vegans, vegetarians and the gluten cautious alike.
4 Kale's Deli
Kale’s Natural Foods is the one-stop shop for natural products and certified organic produce in the intimate East O’ahu neighborhood of Hawaii Kai. The recently launched deli offers delicious whole food, veggie, vegan and macrobiotic friendly options on its breakfast and lunch menus. From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, indulge in made-to-order foods like the Cranberry Kale, Big Greek, or Chop Chop salads. The Wakame Soba is made with buckwheat soba and organic tofu and the Mixed Macro Plate is a combination of mixed cabbage, whole grain salad, ginger miso tofu and roasted root vegetables. Smoothies are a serious highlight here. Start your day off right with the Natural Buzz that’s blended with Bananas, Instant Coffee, Organic Dates and Vanilla Extract. Or, give yourself the gift of green with The Green Earth that’s mixed with orange juice, kale, papaya, organic dates and banana. Kale’s also offers an in-house vegan baker who whips up daily treats like gluten-free pumpkin bread and oatmeal cookies.
5 Down to Earth
Highly regarded island-wide for its well-stocked organic and natural foods and products, Down to Earth is Hawaii’s only all-vegetarian food store chain. The full-service grocery store is the ideal place to pick up a veggie-friendly lunch. And, with three great locations to serve O’ahu, it’s so easy to be healthy. In addition to a well-stocked hot entree and salad bar, the deli offers up loads of smoothies, shakes and fresh juices as well as scrumptious sandwiches, subs and wraps. Select one from over 20 kinds of vegan and low-fat shakes like the Coconut Macademia Nut, Carob Peanut Butter, Green Tea, Chai and the Rose Scented that’s sweetened with Agave and Rose Water. Shaken sweets not your thing? No problem. Instead, start your day on a fruity note by trying one of the blended fruit bowls. If you’re ready for lunchtime, opt for the Indonesian wrap with marinated tofu, mung sprouts, peanut sauce, carrots and cilantro. Having been around since 1977, Down to Earth knows what's up and doesn't disappoint. We also love their website which lends regular health tips and shares healthful recipes.