Ghent, Belgium: The Vegetarian Capital of Europe!  0

When I first heard about Ghent’s status as the “Vegetarian Capital of Europe,” I was a bit surprised as Ghent is a relatively small city in northwest Belgium known for its medieval history, canal-side architecture, and historic museums and churches. Some describe Ghent as Belgium’s best kept secret. While foreign tourists often flock to Bruges, many Belgians choose Ghent if they’re looking for a weekend getaway. It’s a vibrant city with a relaxed vibe. It has much of the historic charm that Bruges offers, but the nice thing is you won’t find large crowds of tourists, which is one thing you will certainly find in Bruges, especially during the peak summer months.

As for Ghent’s vegetarian status, back in 2009, Ghent became the first city worldwide to adopt a weekly vegetarian day. The local government recognized the health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet and mandated that all Ghent restaurants offer at least one vegetarian menu item. This initiative was well-received by not only the restaurants but also by the local community, prompting many restaurants to eventually offer set vegetarian menus. Additionally, on Thursdays, the designated “vegetarian day,” schools serve entirely vegetarian meal in their cafeterias.

In additional to local restaurants offering vegan-friendly menus, there are also a number of entirely vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Ghent. Here are our top picks healthy vegan and vegetarian food in Ghent:

  1. Lekker GEC
  2. Avalon
  3. Greenway
  4. Komkommertijd

Upon our arrival at Ghent’s central train station, we literally walked across the street to Lekker GEC, an entirely vegan and organic café that is quite the hot spot among the locals. It is so popular that as soon as the doors opened for business at 12pm, a line of hungry diners quickly formed.

From the outside:

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The light-filled, rustic interior:

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It’s a buffet style café where you pay based on the weight of your food. A few items, such as soup and beverages are priced separately. There is a cold salad bar with fresh greens, raw veggies, pasta salad and multiple nut and bean based dips and spreads. I would love to get my hands on the recipes for their bean and nut spreads!

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The hot food consisted of a few different options including mustard seed-marinated endive, roasted broccoli, a sweet potato mash, and a seitan and bean stew. While the hot dishes had a hearty look and feel, they was nonetheless relatively light, using minimal oil or salt for seasoning. I especially enjoyed the seitan and bean stew.

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Avalon was located right around the corner from our hotel. We went on a Sunday afternoon for a late lunch, grabbing two seats by the window. Avalon’s food is top notch. The ingredients are fresh, the flavor combinations are unique, and it’s a decent value for your money.

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While €15.60 for this salad (below) may seem a bit pricey, the portions are quite ample.

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The menu is entirely vegan, emphasizing fresh, in-season, organic produce. The kitchen keeps things interesting by offering a menu that is constantly changing in order to incorporate the highest quality ingredients.

I loved the cashew cream sauce that topped the cauliflower in the plat du jour below. It added a perfect richness to the largely veggie-based assorted hot dishes: roasted root veggies, cauliflower, mashed sweet potato, chickpea and vegetable curry, endive, eggplant and a fresh watermelon salad topped with an assortment of seeds.

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I realize the veggie burger is probably one of the most prevalent and accessible vegan menu items that one can find when traveling. I also realize that I have already claimed to have found the best vegan burger thus far in the small town of Motueka in New Zealand’s north island. However, Greenway’s burgers have two key elements that place their burgers far ahead of the competition. The burgers themselves are loaded with recognizable vegetables like spinach, corn and sweet potato, and secondly, the burgers are sandwiched between the most delicious seeded buns from a nearby bakery.

Greenway’s almost entirely vegan menu offering a mix of burgers, sandwiches, soups and stews along with a few salads and desserts. It’s a causal, order-at-the-counter kind of restaurant, but the classy burgers below certainly don’t give off the casual vibe.

The one on the left is the standard spinach burger from the menu while the one of the right was one of the daily specials. It contained sweet potato, smoked paprika, and zucchini.

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We thoroughly enjoyed this mini 150-ml serving of Professor Grunschnabel’s coconut milk-based ice cream for dessert. All of Professor Grunschnabel’s ice creams are vegan as well as gluten-free, soy-free and lactose-free. Next time, I look forward to trying the coconut-based Madagascar Matcha!

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Komkommertijd is an excellent option for Saturday or Sunday brunch. While reservations are highly recommended, we lucked out and landed a table for two on a Sunday without a reservation. This popular vegan restaurant is about a 15-minute walk from the main city center, but the short walk is well worth it. Head through the main entrance into the inner courtyard and you’ll be met with a comfortable, light-filled courtyard and restaurant.

The food is entirely vegan and most everything falls under the “healthy vegan” category. It’s plant-based, nutrient-rich, and not overly processed or heavily salted. We enjoyed a leisurely brunch, trying a little bit of everything from the buffet. These two dishes below were my favorites: purple cabbage and carrots sautéed with spinach, mustard seeds, and onions. Both dishes were perfectly seasoned and complemented one another very well.

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If we had another day or two in Ghent, we would have certainly returned to Komkommertijd for dinner!