The city of Roanoke VA has no shortage of great restaurants to choose from.
My wife Emma and I have been devoted vegans for 8+ years now, with decades of vegetarianism preceding that. So eating out when traveling in the Southeast has felt challenging at times.
But thankfully there were plenty of vegan-friendly restaurants in Roanoke for us to visit.
We managed to stay well-fed for days without repeating restaurants, or even types of cuisine. We even managed to find some top-notch vegan ice cream!
Whatever your culinary preferences may be, there are a slew of excellent options awaiting any foodie who visits Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
Read on for our rundown of the best Roanoke restaurants we tried during our time exploring the town.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Roanoke VA
Breakfast in Roanoke VA
A good breakfast out usually revolves around specialty omelets or egg dishes, buttery biscuits (at least in the South), and a strong cup of coffee.
But even though our diet is entirely egg- and butter-free, we still found some awesome places to eat in Roanoke every single morning we were there.
1. RND Coffee Lounge
1114 Main St SW • No Phone • roanokecoffee.com
HOURS: 7:00am to 6:00pm Daily
RND, a.k.a. Roasters Next Door Coffee Lounge, serves up some of the world’s best coffee varietals in a laid-back, cozy neighborhood setting.
They also manage to serve some tasty nibbles alongside that locally-roasted morning brew.
RND definitely has the feel of a local coffee shop. The place has more character than those big-name coffee chains, but also offers the quality and flavor that appeals to true java aficionados.
Breakfast-wise, we were able to sample two awesome vegan treats: a Lemon-Blueberry Poppy Seed Muffin and Vegan Chickpea Toast. Both hit the spot, and helped to fuel us for hiking up McAfee’s Knob.
Other appealing menu offerings here included Cherry Banana Bread, Avocado Toast, Cinnamon Raisin Coffee Cakes, and a variety of bagels.
2. Little Green Hive
16 West Marketplace at 16 Church Ave SW • 540-400-7890 • littlegreenhive.com
HOURS: Mon to Fri 7am-5pm; Sat 8am-5pm; Sun 8am-4pm
Proudly woman-owned and family-operated, Little Green Hive serves fair-trade, organic, locally-roasted coffee, as well as ridiculously delicious smoothies and juices.
In addition to their Grandin Village and Downtown Roanoke restaurants, they also have a third location in Daleville, about 13 miles north of the city.
The one we visited downtown had an awesome book exchange, where I found a great tome on unusual edible trees.
As for smoothies, Emma went with the Peaches & Cream (with peach, banana, vanilla, and almond milk), whiled I opted for the guiltier pleasure of Peanut Butter Cup (banana, cocoa, peanut butter, and almond milk). We both felt like winners!
On top of that, the Little Green Hive menu includes café fare such as wraps, paninis, and grilled cheeses, each with a flair for flavoring that seemed miles beyond something we might throw together at home.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants
Lunch in Roanoke VA
We’re normally light lunchers, treating the meal more or less as a snack to keep us from getting hungry between a substantial breakfast and a sleep-inducing dinner.
In this case, we just needed something small, tasty, and hopefully fun. And that’s precisely what we got!
3. Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje
416 Salem Ave SW • 540-682-8636 • tucostaqueria.com
HOURS: Sun to Thu 11am-9pm; Fri 11am-10pm; Sat 11am-10pm
Another fine Downtown Roanoke restaurant, Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje skillfully walks the line between fast food and upscale Mexican cuisine.
Their menu is fairly simple and standard, with typical dishes such as tacos and burritos. But because they use creative ingredients such as roasted corn relish and fried chicken, their food seems packed with personality.
We got the Veggie Tacos (with marinated portabella, squash, roasted peppers, onions, and salsa) with guacamole instead of avocado cream.
Another element that elevates this place above, say, Chipotle is the fact that Tuco’s has happy hour specials and pitchers of margaritas. There’s also a comfy outdoor seating area to go with a proper sit-down-and-be-serve interior.
Tuco’s is located within a stone’s throw of two popular Roanoke breweries. Lots of folks go to Big Lick Brewing Company across the street and order their food from Tuco’s to pair it with our #2-rated brewery in Roanoke.
READ MORE: Exploring The 12 Best Asheville NC Breweries
4. Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery
24 Campbell Ave SE • 540-492-5005 • threenotchdbrewing.com
HOURS: Sun to Mon 11am-6pm; Closed Tue; Wed 11am -8pm; Thu to Sat 11am-10pm
Our top-rated brewery in Roanoke is Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen, which is HQ’d in Charlottesville VA. Aside from their fantastic beers, the food here also has enough pizzazz to make lunch a special occasion.
Their Roanoke location is right in the happening heart of Downtown, at the corner where the open-air market and Center In The Square collide to offer all the culture and local synergy a place can muster.
The outdoor patio at Three Notch’d seats you right next to all the action, making it a great place for people-watching while you drink and dine.
Inside, there are all the accouterments of a hip microbrewery, including huge casks behind a glass wall, a trendy-looking bar with quippy stuff written everywhere, and a slick loft seating area.
The menu offers many gastropub mainstays, such as jazzed-up tater tots, pretzels, dips, and an array of gut-busting burgers and sandwiches.
We got a Garden Veggie Burger on pita bread with fries, as well as a hearty salad. The waiter threw in a side of spicy relish that really kicked it up a notch, making it crystal clear that this place is worth another trip on our next Roanoke visit.
Dinner in Roanoke
With so much afternoon beer and snacking elsewhere, we generally stayed full enough to skip dinner. But since you’re only in Roanoke every so often, why not make the most of the area’s diverse foodie-friendly fare?
5. Taaza Indian Cuisine
1910 Memorial Ave SW • 540-342-4773 • taazaroanoke.com
HOURS: Mon to Fri 11am-10pm; Sat to Sun Noon-10pm
Found in the Historic Grandin Village complex (right around the corner from the Grandin Theatre), Taaza is a great place to get Indian food, particularly as a vegan.
This was the first Roanoke restaurant we chose for our visit, mainly because there was an entire vegan and gluten-free entrée section on the menu. We actually got to choose from nine different entrees, which never happens!
Both of our dishes— Okra Fritters and a saucy cauliflower, potato, and pepper dish called Aloo Gobi Capsicum—were delicious, served with the ubiquitous (and tasty) side of basmati rice.
Note that the Okra Fritters are sized more like an appetizer than entrée, which was perfect for our appetite.
Taaza has a rather upscale interior design, with a bar and soft-lighting, so it would make for a romantic date night place. But we couldn’t resist sitting on the patio area and watching the eclectic traffic of Grandin Village’s T-intersection cruising by.
6. Falafel House
1329 Grandin Rd SW • 540-206-2391 • Falafel House on Facebook
HOURS: Tues to Sat 11am-9pm; Sun 11am-8pm; Closed Monday
Some might argue that the exterior and interior decor of this Downtown Roanoke restaurant lacks charm, because it seems more focused on function than style.
But our experience at Falafel House quickly took us back to our years spent in the Middle East.
The kitchen, which was located right at the entrance, was being operated by a chef who was obviously the owner. Although he was diligent, he was obviously in no rush to serve food that wasn’t up to his standards.
From our table, while snacking on a couple of free Falafels he passed our way, we watched as he went through the intricate motions of putting together your basic Falafel Sandwich with French Fries.
He carefully applied pinches of seasoning, smatterings of tahini sauce, and scoops of tangy house-made pickles.
The meal, though rather traditional in nature, was totally reminiscent of the falafel stands we visited in Turkey, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. He even jotted down our order in Arabic!
READ MORE: The 13 Best Restaurants in Blue Ridge GA
Dessert in Roanoke
In our eyes, it’s almost always worth hopping in the car to get dessert in a spot that deals an ace every time.
It’s a special treat to find those places where the line winds out the door because locals know the reward is worth the wait.
7. Blue Cow Ice Cream Co.
1115 Piedmont St SE • 540-400-8558 • bluecowicecream.com
HOURS: Mon to Thu Noon-10pm; Fri 11am-10pm; Sat to Sun 11am-10pm
With three locations in Virginia, the Blue Cow Ice Cream Co is to ice cream what micro-breweries are to beer. This little ice cream shop makes small-batch ice creams, with some creative spins on classic flavors.
Even better for us personally, they keep two different vegan options on the menu at all times. We got to dig into their ever-popular Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream– a rich version with hints of coconut– and Salted Caramel, one of their rotating flavors.
In Roanoke, Blue Cow is located right at the foot of Mill Mountain, on route to the Roanoke Star. So it pairs beautifully with a trip up to watch the sunset over the city.
Right down the steps from the one of our favorite restaurants in Roanoke is the town’s River Greenway. I’m fairly certain our dessert tasted even sweeter because we were strolling along the picturesque river as we ate it.
This was only the beginning of our exploration of the restaurants in Roanoke VA. Though we returned home less than a month ago, we’re already anxiously planning our next visit.
There are lots of places serving up local favorites of the greasy spoon variety, and the gastropub scene is roaring all around the city. It reminded us a bit of the River Arts District in Asheville NC, where great beer, cuisine, and culture collide.
The historic Roanoke City Market is full of fresh produce from farms in the surrounding countryside, most of which are less than 25 miles away.
In short, the Roanoke restaurant scene has a winning combination of tradition and trend that keeps you at ease while also offering opportunities for culinary exploration. –by Jonathon Engels; lead photo by Emma Gallagher