We tried as many vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in Kyoto as we could during our two week stay, and there was a clear winner. My friend from Instagram recommended Vegans Cafe and Restaurant as the best restaurant in Kyoto, I could not agree more. Hands down this was one of the best meals I’ve ever had (vegan or otherwise)! I only wish we’d found it earlier in our trip so we could have gone again!
Vegans Restaurant and Cafe is located in southeastern Kyoto near one of the most famous shrines, Fushimi Inari Taisha. This shrine is known for meandering rows of vermillion gates (torii 鳥居) and fox statues. At the bottom tier it was packed with tourists, but as the endless rows of orange gates start to rise steeply up the mountain, the crowd thins out and it’s much more tranquil.
We made it halfway up the mountain in about an hour before we realized we had to head back down to make our lunch reservation. If you go, give yourself plenty of time and dress comfortably for a hike.
Vegans Cafe & Restaurant is a 10 minute easy walk from the shrine through an idyllic neighborhood. The restaurant does require a reservation so have a friend or your lodgings call for you a day or two in advance. The server in the restaurant was very friendly and had good English, you can always point at the menu too, it was very easy to navigate. The interior is bright, friendly and looks like a greenhouse. There is floor seating near a bookshelf with books for guests to enjoy, as well as wooden tables.
The owner of the restaurant was originally a yakiniku chef. Yakiniku is thinly sliced meat marinated in a special sauce and then barbecued over charcoals, it’s normally served on a skewer, and is very iconic in Japan. When the owner and chef went vegan he was determined to remake his signature dish in a meat-free version, and he nailed it. The roasted soymeat bowl was insanely delicious, served over hearty brown rice (grown on their organic farm!) and with scallions and chili threads.
Next we tried an amalgamation of two of my favorite things: curry pizza! Japanese curry is a rich soy-sauce based curry sauce and is usually served over rice or noodles. The homemade pizza crust can be thin or thick and the sauce is subtly used with ground soymeat, veggies, green shishito peppers, and vegan ‘cheese.’ One word for this vegan curry pizza: phenomenal.
Dessert absolutely cannot be missed at Vegans Cafe & Restaurant, and I recommend their soymilk shakes! We had the banana black sesame and the green tea, I am absolutely spoiled forever after that green tea shake…
One of my favorite parts of this place (besides how darn good it tastes) is their commitment to organic farming, which you can see emphasized in their menu and on their site. In fact, upstairs they sell their organic vegetables from the farm! We saw some locals who loved the place so much they would eat a meal, get takeaway, and then shop upstairs for organic produce.
Vegans Cafe and Restaurant (website in English & Japanese)