Only about 1 percent of the US population follows a vegan diet of no meat, eggs or dairy products, but if you spend any time in Bali, eating vegan isn’t restrictive, it’s delicious!
Spicy sauces and a myriad of flavors, all with a distinct organic twist, grace the plate in Bali, where there are salads and raw foods galore, all in that pretty shade of jade. What a green oasis, and I’m not talking about the famous rice paddy steps of Ubud.
With thousands flocking to the “Island of the Gods” every year for spiritual awakenings, a la “Eat, Pray, Love,” it’s not surprising there are so many new, creative, veggie-friendly eateries serving up big plates of roughage, perfect for munching after meditation. On my recent trip, I dived in fork-first, but there were so many more spots I wanted to experience. If you trace my steps, you’ll end up at two not to be missed.
Clear Cafe: Ubud, Bali’s hippie haven, is chock-full of vegan/vegetarian restaurants, but Clear Cafe stands out. The grand, shaded entryway and Afro-Brazilian beats wafting onto the sidewalk beckon you in. From the beginning, the experience feels exclusive. You’ll check your sandals at the door, a nice reprieve after a long day of walking, and the cool mahogany floors are a treat for tired feet. The décor? Striking. Traditional and modern co-exist easily—witness the juxtaposition of a thatched roof against slabs of champagne-colored marble on the walls, the cylinder light fixtures dripping from the ceiling and beaming down on raw wood dining tables.
Much like the design, the menu reflects upscale simplicity. I went for the raw “putu pizza,” a far cry from a cheesy New York City slice, but its blend of homemade pesto, cashew cheese, spinach and vine ripe cherry tomatoes on a raw crisp made for the perfect balance of flavors: salty, savory and fresh. The “clear kale” salad was also a favorite, a happy blend of turmeric, ginger, jicama, thai cashews and spiced pumpkin seeds all atop a bed of crunchy kale – divine.
An added bonus? Clear Cafe uses only all natural ingredients from local Balinese farmers, and they subscribe to the idea that energy is transferred through food, so a level of fun and freedom lives in the kitchen to ensure each meal is charged with positivity. You’ll leave feeling full yet lighter. But not so fast. Stop by the café’s shop just outside to stock up on to-go treats like raw cookies, brownies and crackers.
Clear Cafe, Jalan Hanoman No. 8, Padang Tegal Kaje, Ubud, Bali 80571, Indonesia
Cafe Zucchini: Possessing a chiller vibe, Cafe Zucchini is a quiet sidewalk spot on the Seminyak strip. It’s the type of place you frequent often, as evidenced by the boho babes I watched strutting in and nodding “the usual” to the waitress. After my amazing meal, I can see why they keep coming back. Even though bountiful salads piled with chickpeas, beets and couscous called out to me from the display case, I went for a bowl of papaya, apple, toasted coconut and honey. It was so delicious, it disappeared before this shameful writer remembered to even snap a pic.
Earthy, comfortable and relaxed, Café Zucchini’s servers are easy-going and efficient; its refreshing breezes perfect on balmy Bali days. Wooden loft ceilings, painted with colorful odes to the restaurant’s namesake and a slew of abstract squiggles, keep things light and fun.
And the menu? It’s straight-forward, yet unforgettable. Highlights include polenta with rocket, pesto and roasted vegetables, and homemade sourdough sandwiches stacked with thick slices of avocado. Homemade ginger tea, amazing cups of java and fruit and soymilk smoothies provide the perfect liquid complement. Cafe Zucchini has its own shop, too. Cleverly dubbed “Zuttion,” after your meal be sure to browse the racks of eclectic threads perfectly appropriate for Bali.
Cafe Zucchini, Jl. Laksmana Basangkasa no. 37, (also known as Jl Oberoi), Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia
According to travelers, locals and a list compiled by www.ultimatebali.com, here are a few more eateries where you’ll want to eat your veggies:
Favored for its extensive salad bar, juices and in-house holistic clinic
Jalan Penestanan Klod, Ubud, Bali 80571, Indonesia
Zula Vegetarian Paradise
Committed to a mission, they won’t serve anything “with a face or a mother.”
Jalan Camplung Tanduk, Kuta, Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Sakti Dining Room at Fivelements
Dramatic bamboo architecture and desserts made from raw cacao and fresh berries make this a must.
Mambal, Abiansemal, Badung, Bali, Indonesia
Vegetarian dishes with an Asian twist: think papaya salad, wontons and pad thai.
46 Jalan Pantai Berawa, Banjar Pelambingan, Desa Tandeg, Canggu, Bali, Indonesia
The Garden Kafe at the Yoga Barn
Located in Bali’s renowned yoga studio, head here after your hatha session for special detox and ayurvedic rejuvenation menus.
Jalan Raya Pengosekan Ubud, Ubud, Bali 80571, Indonesia