A lady wearing black looking in the camera with a smile; Veg Out Magazine | Maggie Ortileb | Ep 86

Five Best US Cities for Vegan Foodies | Maggie Ortileb | Ep 86

Introducing Maggie

Maggie started VegOut in 2016 to show her veg-curious friends the delicious vegan options they could enjoy while dining out. Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, she now resides in Los Angeles (and is perfectly happy never scraping ice off her windshield again). She graduated with a degree in creative advertising from Michigan State University (Go green!) and worked in various industries—including nonprofit, hospitality, staffing, and financial services—before founding VegOut. In her free time, she enjoys traveling (and eating all the vegan food), hiking, and spending time with family and friends.

Now as you can imagine, with her work as a magazine editor, she needs to keep her finger on the vegan pulse so who better share their top five cities for vegan foodies? Maggie has traveled widely throughout the US and the world and as a vegan foodie herself she’s going to let you know all the top hottest spots to check out so you can enjoy your next visit to these places

In this episode we discuss:

  • Her top picks for cities
  • People who are doing amazing things in these places
  • Festivals and events that might coincide with your visit

Learn more about what we talk about

Other World Vegan Travel content connected with this episode

Connect with Maggie


Brighde: Thank you so much for joining me on the World Vegan Travel Podcast.

Maggie: Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.

Brighde: Yes. We’ve been trying to make this interview happen for quite a while now, so I’m so pleased to have you with us today. Before we get started on our topic, which is five must-visit destinations in the United States, would you mind telling us a little bit about what it is that you do in the vegan space?

Maggie: Yeah, so I’m the founder and CEO of Veg Out We are a nationwide US publication covering the best vegan things to eat, see, and do across the US we have a print publication and online content, and we’re on social media as well. So definitely follow along. It’s, it’s the guide, it’s the go-to guide for the things to do that are all vegan.

Brighde: Yes, I’ve, I, I’ve gone to your website and I’ve seen it all. Seen your website and it’s beautiful. I can tell that the magazine would just be amazing, but is it available in Canada by any chance?

Maggie: It actually is. Yeah. So we are in Whole Foods Canada, select locations so I’ll have to, after the show, I’ll send you some locations around you. But it is select locations in Canada

Brighde: Right. Yeah. We do have a few Whole Foods in Vancouver, but I’m sure if it’s gonna be anywhere in Canada, it’ll be somewhere in, in Vancouver. How long have you been doing that? That sounds so interesting. I can’t imagine what it must be like to create a magazine, a print magazine.

Maggie: Yeah, it’s wild. I’ve been doing it for seven years. It really started as just a small blog passion project and it’s evolved into a nationwide media company, so it’s been an exciting journey.

Brighde: Amazing. Wow. So you feature travel in your magazine. What does it look like when you are talking about travel in your articles for VegOut

Maggie: yeah, so our content has been a nice evolution. What started as mostly, you know, Los Angeles-based restaurant guide has really evolved into now covering a lot more cities as well as we recently started doing some international, travel stuff, each year we have our print magazine come up that comes out in April is travel themed.

So the entire issue is dedicated to covering travel topics, and destinations and that could be anything from within the US to international as well. And then the fun part is my team and I actually get to go to some of these cities and check out some of the restaurants and some of the resorts and things to do in those areas.

Brighde: Fun. Fun. And what was the last feature article that you had and where was it?

Maggie: Yeah, so we published an article on our website which was about the best vegan hotels in Europe. I actually spent some time in Europe just a few weeks ago, and so did one of my staff writers and we checked out a few of the hotels. But it’s, it’s crazy. It just, you know, more and more vegan-friendly vegan hotels are popping up all over the world.

Brighde: I’ve definitely seen that theme as well, and Europe particularly seems to be doing some amazing stuff. Can you share maybe one of your favorites?

Maggie: Yeah, so in Austria, there is a hotel called Maripop, and it’s a very super modern hip hotel in a small ski town in Austria. It’s not a hundred percent vegan, but if you let them know ahead of time, you can request for your room to be equipped with all the vegan toiletries, all of that.

 Every dinner is like a five-course vegan meal which is beautiful. And it’s some of the best food I’ve had. Cause sometimes you go to a vegan hotel and or a vegan restaurant, and the options are like, Okay, these are the vegan options. No, they had vegan cheeses, and yogurts, like they had everything the full spread.

And I was really,

Brighde: Yeah. It’s amazing. I definitely wanna check out that place. 

Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve not heard of that one. So let’s get started with our topic, which is like five must-visit cities in the United States. And obviously, you are from the United States and you’ve lived in different places in the United States. You travel widely for work and, you know, being a magazine founder you’ve gotta have your pulse on a lot of these kinds of new developments. So this is like an up-to-date list. So why don’t you tell us the five places and then we’ll go into each one in detail.

Maggie: Yeah, definitely. So number one, Los Angeles. You know, that’s where I’ve been living for the past eight years. I know it the best. I would say it’s the vegan capital of the US. Even if you go to a restaurant that’s non-vegan, they’re gonna know what vegan is.

There are just so many people on the West Coast, you know, who live a plant-based lifestyle. Number two on the list is New York City probably second to LA as far as how many vegan restaurants there are. And then Chicago is third on my list. I’m originally from the Midwest I’ve seen the vegan scene there grow. I used to go to Chicago Diner back in the day and now they have just a lot more options. It’s a different kind of cuisine that we’ll dive into in a little bit. And then Philadelphia is number four. I, I recently traveled there last year for a conference and I was really impressed with the vegan scene there and just the overall vibe of the city. It was really a cool city to check out. then number five is in Atlanta, and I actually haven’t been there since going vegan. However, it’s on my list to check out. I’m hoping to go there really soon. And we’ll get into the details of why I chose Atlanta a little later 

Brighde: I can’t wait. I’ve only been to two of those cities, LA and New York. I’m always keen to learn more. So let’s start with Los Angeles. Like why do you think this is such a great destination, for vegans to check out?

Maggie: Yeah, so Los Angeles, any neighborhood you decide to stay in while you’re there, you’re gonna find vegan options. Some neighborhoods, you know, are more vegan-friendly than others, but, really, I recommend getting a rental car, if you can, and just bouncing around and checking it out. What I love about Los Angeles as a city is each neighborhood is so different from one another. You could plan out each day being in a different part of the city and have a completely different experience. But there are just so many. I wish I knew the total number of vegan restaurants we have now. It seems like there’s one popping up almost every day. Just more and more options and really diverse as well. There’s everything from a French vegan bakery to a full Italian restaurant and wine bar, hundred percent plant-based. We really do have it all I have traveled to many cities and I keep coming back to LA because it’s just very, very spoiled in Los Angeles with the options 

Brighde: Was last in LA about four years ago, five years ago, maybe six, five years ago. Goodness me, for the Animal Rights Conference. But of course, I was just astonished, by the amazing options there. And of course, LA has such amazing weather, so people love to dine outside. What’s your top vegan restaurant if you had to choose? I know it must be like choosing a child

Maggie: Yeah no, it’s, it’s hard to choose because I feel like I have a favorite for every category and cuisine. I’d say my lasting favorite has been Crossroads just because it’s been around for years and they’re a higher-end, sit-down restaurant anything you order is gonna be great. What I like about it is there’s, most of the people who go there aren’t even vegan. It’s just a celeb hotspot. People are there to be seen, but it’s vegan. And so I, I love that. I love the restaurants where you go and even know it’s vegan and they just have delicious food. So that’s definitely one of my longstanding favorites. Next to Pura Vida, is Chef Tara, she’s from Brooklyn, Italian Roots, and she just kills it when it comes to vegan Italian food. The first time I went there, I was shocked. I hadn’t had food like that since before I went. vegan and anything again, Anything you order. Those are my favorite restaurants. your order and it’s good, you know, it’s a good restaurant,

Brighde: Yeah. Yeah. I, It’s funny that you should mention Pura Vita, because I interviewed Chris Tucker, a few months ago now, and we were talking about the best neighborhoods to check out and obviously Pura Vita came up.

Maggie: Yeah, Chris is a friend of mine, and actually that neighborhood where Pura Vita and Crossroads are in West Hollywood. That’s one of the hot spots. There are so many vegan restaurants around that area.

Brighde: I will link to that episode with Chris in the show notes there. So if you are looking to dig a little bit more into LA, then that would definitely be one to check out. And apart from food, are there any amazing events or festivals that people would like to maybe time their visit to coincide with or activities like I’m thinking a food tour or anything like that?

Maggie: We have a couple since we are so spoiled, we have a couple of vegan events that happen on a weekly basis. That being Vegan Playground, they actually just added another location. So I think they actually happen three times a week now. Different locations throughout the city, and that’s where a bunch of popups come out.

Pop-up, vegan restaurants come out and there’s just music and it’s a good time. Vegan Exchange, which is created by Vegan Street Fair is the larger event. Vegan Street Fair is a big event that happens once a year, so I definitely recommend coming out for that I believe it usually happens in the spring, they used to do one in the spring and in the fall. They’re doing their Night’s event in October. But then every week they also do Vegan Exchange which is kinda like the little sister event. The larger event draws vendors from across the country and then the weekly event draws vendors from around LA but it’s always a good time, live DJ, food, drinks, and all of that. And then there’s Smorgasburg, which is downtown LA, also a weekly market, not fully vegan, but it’s really cool because a lot of the non-vegan vendors also have vegan options, so it’s super inclusive. You can walk around the market and then go check out, you know, other spots downtown LA as well. Definitely recommend planning your trip around one of these festivals. And they are all food festivals you can’t go wrong,

Brighde: I get the feeling this episode is gonna just be perfect for the vegan foodies.

Maggie: Yes, so non-food topic, non-food wise. There are just amazing hiking trails. That’s one of my favorite things to do. You have to do all the super touristy things, even though it’s cheesy. You gotta go check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame, all the things that you gotta do as a tourist. But what I truly recommend as a local you know, maybe not staying in those areas but are super touristy. Finding a neighborhood maybe on the east side like Echo Park or even something on the beach south of LA you can get a more affordable combination if you go south of LA and just check out the beaches and the nature is really beautiful. 

Brighde: I’ve been to the beaches, I think, but I haven’t gone hiking. I love to hike, so yeah, that would be awesome. City number two, New York and New York. I know a little bit more than LA, but I’m sure you’re gonna share some awesome new things.

Maggie: Yeah. I go there for work and I was there last December. Not as familiar. And so there are still a lot of things I have yet to discover about New York. but I do have some favorite restaurants there. Some favorite things to do starting the list, is Overthrow Hospitality, they’re the restaurant group, and then they have Avant Garden, Cadence, Lady Bird, and a number of other kinds of cocktail bars, and vegan tapas-style restaurants. They just opened a location in LA, which is beautiful and delicious, and I’m in love with it. So New York though, Cadence is their newest or one of their newest. It’s a soul food restaurant led by Chef Shenarri Greens. Her food is incredible. She’s an amazing Chef. Then Lady Bird is probably one of my favorite spots. 

You feel like you’re in a cool, hip cocktail bar. But then again, everything is vegan, which is amazing.

Brighde: I’ve heard a couple of those names of restaurants before I had an episode with Angela Yvonne. She mentioned a couple of those places. If I understand there have been huge changes in New York in recent years. Quite a few restaurants closed down. Maybe because of Coronavirus, but also quite a few new ones have opened and it’s, there’s just some really, really awesome ones there now. That’s really cool. Is, is that fair to say?

Maggie: Yeah. definitely fair to say. And the same thing happened in LA where we saw a lot of our favorite restaurants go under, which was unfortunate, but we saw a lot of new ones emerge as well and take their spots. It really did seem like for everyone closing we had another one opening. And the same thing in New York. There have been a lot of new restaurants popping up in the

Brighde: So listeners will definitely wanna go to the show notes and check out the links for these most recent recommendations of really fun restaurants. Is there any other kind of recommendations that you would give for New York that maybe are not food-related?

Maggie: I guess similar to LA, each borough, you know, is a little different and so I love spending a day in Manhattan just walking everywhere. That’s one of the best things cuz in LA you have to drive everywhere. When I go to New York, I love to just, walk and that’s the best way to see things and just stop by all the must-see touristy things. And then take the subway to Brooklyn and spend a day in Brooklyn and check out the coffee shops and the bookshops and the little clothing shops and resale stores. Brooklyn has a, an entirely different vegan community over there, lots of great spots as far as restaurants that hit up over there as well. I’m pretty simple when it comes to travel. I don’t, I don’t do these big events or these big things. I really just love walking around and taking in the vibe of the city. 

Brighde: Okay. City number three.

Maggie: Yeah so Chicago, So I was born and raised in Michigan, about two and a half hours from Chicago. So I would take the train from my hometown, and spend a lot of time in Chicago growing up. I know it pretty well. I have to say it’s really cool to have a Midwest city on this list. Because back when I went vegan 10 years ago, there just weren’t the options In Chicago.

You go to Chicago, you know, it’s all about deep dish pizza, and hot dogs, like you, couldn’t find great vegan options. And Chicago Diner, which I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, has longstanding, vegetarian restaurant diner-style food still exists, mostly vegan, I think you can request to add cheese. But they’ve been around forever. A couple of others have popped up over the years. when you go, Matthew Kenny just opened a restaurant there. Beautiful. Over Michigan Avenue Chicago. There’s, you know, everything from a vegan dive bar or vegan-friendly dive bar to a fully vegan soft-serve ice cream shop. just and donut shop. There’s just so much to eat. And then again, so much to do. Chicago’s one of my, of my favorite cities in the US to visit. Just because in the summertime, I will say in the summertime, do not go in the winter unless you like snow and cold. It’s not for me. There’s just so much to do and the people there are, you know, laid back and nice. And so I always just say it’s like a smaller, friendlier New York. It’s just got such a like casual Midwest energy and I mean it’s just from the art museum, checking out a Cubs game or whatever you like to do, there’s, you know, there’s something for everyone in Chicago. 

Brighde: Not been to Chicago. Would love to go. It’s very interesting what you said about Matthew Kenny opening a place there. This is off-topic a little bit but connected with Matthew Kenny. I’m working, currently working with our hotels in Rwanda. We stay at this two super, super luxury hotels.

They’re under the brand One and Only, which is a very luxury hotel brand for this trip that we are doing there. I was absolutely shocked when I was speaking to them, the Chef for basically the whole of Rwanda, and he was saying that the whole of the One and Only had just undergone vegan training conducted by Matthew Kenney. So I guess I knew he was doing this sort of consulting around the world, but I was just really surprised that it also happened to be the hotels that we are staying in when we go to Rwanda, this small country in Central Africa. I don’t know much about the guy, but he definitely seems to be doing a lot of things.

Maggie: Yeah, he is everywhere and that’s, yeah, that’s wild that he’s, you know, doing something in Rwanda, but he is everywhere. He has so many restaurants in LA, Chicago, New York, you know, partnerships around the world. I was just in London, went to one of his restaurants, and did stuff in pretty much every country. He’s opening something or, or working on a project. yeah, definitely, powerhouse for the vegan restaurants is pretty consistent. They’re a little more upscale typically, but you know what you’re getting when go into it.

Brighde: Any other recommendations for Chicago?

Maggie: One place I do wanna mention, which isn’t just Chicago. It’s a chain around the Midwest, based in Omaha, I believe, but they’re called Blue Sushi Sake Grill. And it’s amazing because I, I went, last time I was in Chicago, it’s amazing because it’s a sushi restaurant but they have a full vegan menu and they have like probably 20 plus vegan rolls. And so it’s just incredible. They have two locations in Chicago and it’s delicious.

Brighde: So what about our fourth city?

Maggie: Yeah, so Philadelphia, I was there last year for a conference and for Expo East, and they have an amazing vegan food scene. I was really surprised because Philadelphia, while it’s a big city, you know, it’s not LA it’s not New York, but they have such an amazing culture, not just in the vegan community, but the energy of the city in general, just fell in love with and it’s easily a city I would move to. They have quite a few vegan restaurants. There is an entrepreneur there who is really killing it with her chain Hip City Veg so it’s like a fast-casual vegan restaurant and they have multiple locations throughout Philadelphia and New York. then their sister restaurants bar Bar Bombon, which is like tacos and things like that, that kind of cuisine. and then Charlie Was A Sinner, which is like the upscale, kind of swanky cocktail bar You can get really nice drinks and really nice food. Those are the main restaurants to hit up. And then I was super surprised with, there’s a spot called Goldie and they do felafel, and they do milkshakes, tahini-based milkshakes. And I think the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life is their coffee, and tahini milkshake, and the whole place is vegan. I would just go to Philadelphia for that alone. On top of that, there’s, there’s a spot called Batter and Crumbs, and they’re basically like a vegan version of Starbucks. They do amazing coffee drinks and pastries and all of that.

Brighde: I didn’t know that Philadelphia was so good. I had heard of Vedge. There’s a sort of higher-end vegan restaurant there, which people rave about, but there are all of these other things too. Have you been to Vedge?

Maggie: Vedge has been on my list to go to for years and we didn’t go last time and we went to all these other places cuz that’s the place I had heard about. It was like, go to Philadelphia, go to Vedge you know, funny enough we didn’t go there, but we went to all these other spots. I was just so impressed by all the other spots. There’s a place called Monster Vegan as well, and it’s like a Halloween-themed monster bar and restaurant and it’s year-round. So if you’re into like Halloween stuff, it’s definitely put that on your list, but it’s like horror movies and everything like that. I would say Philadelphia and Chicago tend to be on. more comfort style, definitely like your fried foods and all of that. Because just the parts of the US they’re in, it’s, you know, grayer in the winter and I feel like we like to eat all the fried foods in the winter there. 

Brighde: Okay. The last city on our list, what is it? And tell us about it.

Maggie: Yeah, so I chose Atlanta and I chose Atlanta solely for one reason. So Atlanta doesn’t have, I would say, out of the big cities in the US they don’t have most vegan restaurants. They don’t even have necessarily that many fully vegan restaurants, but they have Pinky Coal who is amazing. is a vegan entrepreneur, and she is the founder of Slutty vegan.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but it’s a burger joint. She just continues opening locations across Atlanta. Just opened in Birmingham, Alabama. Got her eyes on New York, LA. I don’t even know how to keep up. She also owns Bar Vegan, which is in Atlanta. It’s like a fully vegan bar. She does so much to give back to the community and uplift, you know, People of Color through her foundation. Really, I would recommend visiting Atlanta just to check out what she has built, in the vegan community, as well as I just hear such good things about, you know, the people there and the culture there. It’s in the south it’s different than New York or LA and I feel like it’s just a little bit more charming in that way. And so it’s on my list to visit. I haven’t been since I was a kid and I’m really looking forward

Brighde: I don’t know so much about Atlanta. I was a big fan of the Walking Dead for years and years, and of course, that was based in Georgia. We are gonna be linking to all of these incredible places in the show notes and, I just can’t wait to go to all of these places. They just sound so awesome. All right, so Maggie, this has just been so much fun, So many incredible recommendations. Before you go, would you mind telling our listeners again how they can connect with VegOut.

Maggie: Yeah, definitely. Thank you so much for having me. So you can find Veg Out online vegoutmag.com. You can find us on Instagram at Veg Out Magazine. We’re on Facebook and Twitter as well. And then my personal Instagram is MaggieeOrtlieb. You can, you know, follow my journey as an entrepreneur there. And then look for a print magazine and stores across the US and Canada. We’re in Whole Foods, and Barnes and Noble. Target. 

Brighde: Thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time to be a guest on The World Vegan Travel Podcast.

Maggie: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

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