My impression is that most people haven’t heard of Ghent, the city in Belgium. Up until a couple of months ago, I had no idea it existed. But you should know about Ghent because it’s shaping up to be one of the most vegetarian friendly cities in the world. In fact, in May 2009, Ghent was the first city in the world to adopt a weekly vegetarian day. The local government has recognized the positive impact of a meat-free diet and mandated every restaurant in town to have a vegetarian dish on their menu. Every Thursday, school cafeterias serve only veg-friendly options and civil servants and elected councilors are encouraged to abstain from meat for the day. Some restaurants also join in on Thursdays and offer a special vegetarian menu. But the veggie love doesn’t stop there. The city is also home to many vegetarian restaurants, and a few that are 100% vegan. We spent five days in this awesome city and ate out as often as we could.
On our fist night in Ghent, we went to Komkommertijd, an all vegan buffet restaurant that serves up salads, hot dishes, soups and desserts. The menu is different each day, based on the time of year and what’s in season. During our visit, we found a nice selection of vegetable, grain and tofu salads, as well as hot dishes like yam root and peanut puree, cauliflower tempura, vegetable spring rolls, potato gratin, roasted potatoes, and steamed broccoli. If you want to sit down and have unlimited access to their buffet it will cost you €12.50 Euros ($16.57 USD) for a weekday lunch or €15.00 Euros ($19.88 USD) on evenings and weekends. When we realized takeout was half the price at €7.50 Euros ($9.94 USD), we opted to load up some boxes and enjoy a meal outside on a bench overlooking the river. We had a nice meal with plenty of food. We crammed so much into our boxes, we had leftovers for the next day.
Tel: 09 269 02 10
On our second day in Ghent, we went for lunch at de Frietketel, a popular fast food joint known for having huge portions, great sauces and unique burgers. They’re not a vegetarian restaurant but the veg-friendly options outnumber the meaty ones. They have lots of interesting house made burgers, including their vegan hazelnut burger and pumpkin burger. On our first trip, we had a hazelnut burger and SMALL fry with vegan tartar sauce. As you can see, the portion of fries was just shy of gigantic. The XL was scary.
Another night, we returned to de Frietketel with friends. We didn’t order anything but they offered us a taste of their picks. The portions are so huge, there is no other option than to share. I had a chance to sample some soy meatballs in tomato sauce and another vegan dipping sauce. This time, I tried the veggie stoofvleesssaus sauce, which translates to veggie pot roast sauce. It’s essentially a vegan gravy sauce. And boy is it good!
If you visit de Frietketel, be prepared for massive portions of deep fried, greasy food. In true diner style, prices are low and they’re open late. Burgers are around €3.00 Euros ($3.98 USD), plus an additional €0.30 for vegans because they use a different bun. Be sure to specify, the default is not vegan! Fries are €1.80/2.00/2.30 for small/large/x-large ($2.39/2.65/3.05 USD) and sauces are €0.70-0.90 Euro ($0.93-1.19 USD).
De Papegaaiestraat 89
If you’re looking for a healthy meal, Avalon is a great choice and it’s 100% vegan. We enjoyed a lovely three course lunch, which started off with a basket of rye bread and a bowl of clear vegetable soup with celery and cauliflower.
The main plate was a mix of things, with a small portion of tempeh curry, Basmati rice, baked zucchini, broccoli with a creamy sauce, salad with sprouts and greens, and a baked tomato wrapped in filo. Everything was just perfect.
For dessert, we indulged in a chocolate banana and walnut brownie, topped with a coconut cream sauce, strawberry and fresh mint. Do I have to say how good it was…just look!
Avalon has a great pricing structure that allows you to customize your meal. We went for everything: a soup, main, dessert and tea, which was enough for both of us and cost €19.00 Euros ($25.18 USD). You can have just the main for €11.80 Euros ($15.64 USD).
Tel: 09 224 37 24
While in Ghent, I was looking online for restaurant recommendations and read that Lekker GEC, a vegan restaurant near the main train station, makes pancakes on weekends. Filled with excitement, we headed there on a Saturday morning. Sadly, the staff told us there wouldn’t be any pancakes that day. They didn’t give an explanation but some friends told us the workers are all volunteers and it seemed the pancake expert was off for the day. We were really craving pancakes so even though their pay-by-weight buffet was loaded with salad, soup and hot dishes, we couldn’t get into it. We ended up sharing a tomato soup, roll, and some veggies, pasta and beans. The plate cost us about €7.00 Euros ($9.28 USD).
Our friends and dining companions ordered the seitan stew with sides of salad and fries, which cost €11.00 Euros ($14.58 USD). They enjoyed it but agreed they were also sad about the lack of pancakes.
In an effort to sweeten up the morning, I ordered a chocolate milkshake for €3.50 Euros ($4.64 USD). It was good but could have used some more ice cream. I really like my milkshakes thick and this one was sucked down in a matter of minutes.
Lekker GEC’s biggest plus is its proximity to the train station. It was really nice to be able to run in and grab a box of takeout before hopping on the train and heading off to Brussels. Buying takeout from the buffet is cheap because you can avoid the €2.00 Euro ($2.65 USD) plate fee that comes with sitting in the restaurant.
Koningin Maria Hendrikaplein 5-6
Tel: 09 242 87 50
Greenway is another popular vegetarian dining option. We didn’t have enough space in our bellies to eat a full meal there but did stop by one afternoon and pick up a chocolate brownie for €2.50 Euros ($3.31 USD). Several people recommended we try one of their vegan desserts and we weren’t disappointed. The brownie turned out to be very rich and sweet, more like fudge than any vegan brownie I’d had before. What a pleasant surprise!
While in the restaurant, we took a peek at the food menu and noticed they had some vegan options, all clearly labeled. For example, there was a Thai wrap, pasta dish and Chinese wok on the specials board. The prices are average for the city, with mains costing around €10.00 Euros ($13.25 USD). The people in the restaurant were dining on big, colorful plates of food, so I think it’s safe to say Greenway is worth a visit too.
Tel: 09 269 07 69
I really can’t recommend Ghent enough. It’s a beautiful city with so many veg dining options. If you visit, you’ll have to pace yourself and plan ahead. Go, go, go!