Favorite Plant-Based Pros

A thing one often hears when being vegan and living on this planet is, “Ok, yeah, so maaaaybe you can be vegan and be healthy but there’s no way you can be like, a top-performing athlete.” Admittedly, ten or fifteen years ago, that argument made sense. Dr. Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn and others were out there preaching and showing their incredible clinical results with plant-based diets but there wasn’t anybody at the top of the athletic world that was meat free. But it’s 2019 and vegan pro athletes are everywhere, in a range of disciplines and I am going to make the prediction that it is on the cusp of exploding. Here is a list of our favorite, top-of-the-top plant-based athletes.

Chris Paul

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“34, recently turned plant-based, and feeling pretty damn good! Stay disciplined and take care of yourselves, it all starts here! #ESPNBody."

Chris Paul aka CP3 is one of the biggest names in the NBA and is an executive producer of Game Changers. He said he had been slowly shifting toward a plant based diet and went fully vegan in the spring of this year. He also, along with other NBA vegans DeAndre Jordan and Kyrie Irving, has invested in Beyond Meat. He was in the most recent ESPN body issue, showing that he hasn’t withered away in a protein deficiency just yet.



Cam Newton

On his YouTube channel with comedian Hannibal Burress.

On his YouTube channel with comedian Hannibal Burress.

Yeah that’s right, one of the NFL’s most dynamic quarterbacks went from pescatarian to vegan earlier this year. He’s still a very large man and as quick as ever, despite not having eaten red meat or chicken in a significant period of time. He’s posted some of his workouts on Instagram, showing he can still move serious weight. At the start of the season, he said he “felt like a rookie again” but has since gotten injured, causing an explosion of articles to be written blaming his diet for his injury. Which is obviously ridiculous. In any given week of the NFL there are 30+ players suffering injuries. The articles the following week never say anything about their diets. It’s football. The job is putting one’s body on the line physically for a living. Injury is an unfortunate reality of the sport. We’ll see what happens as the year progresses. Burnt Lentils and vegans everywhere are praying for a return to form. 





Alex Morgan

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"It didn’t feel fair to have a dog I adore, and yet eat meat all the time."

Alex Morgan is the incredibly dynamic co-captain of the US Women’s Soccer Team, with two World Cup Titles and a gold medal under her belt. She famously scored five goals in a blowout win during the last tournament in France. She’s been vegan for around two years, just did her second ESPN Body Issue and was recently named Peta’s “Most Beautiful Celebrity.” She’s at the top her game, inspiring millions of fans and animal rights activists alike.






Lewis Hamilton

Lewis is breaking barriers all over the place. He’s one of very few minorities in Formula 1 racing, he’s taking his racing celebrity and shifted that into becoming a fashion icon, teaming with Tommy Hilfiger AND he doesn’t eat meat. America isn’t into Formula 1 but worldwide, this guy has serious recognition. He’s dominated the circuit for the last few years, has emerged as the most famous face in racing and is one of the most influential vegans out there. He recently opened a plant-based restaurant called Neat Burger in London that is set to be a chain throughout the UK soon. In business, fashion, food and sports, Hamilton is killing it and I’m excited to see what his next move is.

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Novak Djokovic

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The Serbian tennis star is ranked number one in the world and has 16 Grand Slam Singles titles to his name, behind only Nadal and Federer. Djokovic doesn’t like being labeled a vegan and is always quick to say he simply ‘eats a plant based diet.’ But, he has opened a vegan restaurant with his wife in Monte Carlo and was also an executive producer of Game Changers, showing he’s pretty serious about the plant-based lifestyle. 



That’s the list at this point but like I said before, after this movie comes out, I think there will be more athletes giving it a try. Peak performers are always searching for an edge. A vegan diet, for some, may be that edge.

Favorite Fit Vegans

In honor of GameChangers dropping very soon, we thought we’d make a list of the fit vegans we think are definitely worth a follow. A major hangup for people shifting to a plant-based diet is they think they will lose gaaaainz, be weaker in general and won’t be able to perform at their athletic peak. A huge way to open minds is to be a fit vegan, showing the world that it is not only possible to be vegan and jacked, but that it may be an advantage. Nobody is doing more to blow-up the stereotype than these beasts.


Nimai Delgado

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IFBB pro bodybuilder Nimai Delgado is an absolute monster who has never eaten meat in his life, EVER. He grew up in a Hari Krishna community in Louisiana, eating a vegetarian diet all throughout his childhood. He made the switch to veganism in his early twenties and set about working towards his pro bodybuilding card, being the first vegan to do so. Breaking barriers left and right he was also the first vegan to be on the cover of Muscle and Fitness Magazine. Currently, he runs an 8 week online shred program here and also has a podcast called Generation V. I enjoy his social media because with his spiritual background, he’s an enlightened dude, doesn’t take things too seriously (and being a huge vegan he gets quite a bit of hate from bros) and he’s always keeping it positive, no bullshit, throwing salt or criticism. Just a nice guy who wants to help people go vegan, save some animals, the planet and happens to be really good at lifting heavy things and have a great perspective on life.

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Bianca Taylor

Bianca Taylor is not only fitness but also mental health inspiration. I think when she talks about being calorie and macro obsessed versus simply eating a whole-food plant based diet is SUPER important. More people need to hear that message. The pressure that can come with calorie counting and obsessing about food can be so mentally taxing and there’s no need to be so compulsive if one simply wants to be a healthy person. As she exemplifies, one only needs to eat plants. She also speaks on other aspects of mental health and about her battle with anxiety and depression, a great reminder that we all, at times, struggle. She dates Nimai and runs the female side of the veganfitness 8 week program. She’s badass and proves that showing up day after day and taking care of yourself mentally and physically pays huge returns over time. 

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Paul de Gelder

I’ve featured him before and I’ll feature him again, this Australian ex-Navy clearance diver is a recently discovered hero that I believe everyone should check out. A jacked veteran with half an arm and leg missing, his story of overcoming can connect with anybody. Besides working with the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, he’s an outspoken advocate for preserving our oceans and he does a lot of speaking engagements. I would love to go see one of his keynotes. Maybe someday he’ll come to Prague. His Instragram rules and is a mix of him smashing workouts, goofing off with celebrities and diving with sharks. It rules.







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Derek Simnett

Another vegan I am always and forever raving about. Derek Simnett’s channel changed my life, full stop. He changed my eating habits, the way I look at food, the way I workout and how I look at pull up bars. (still working on that muscle up though) Derek was a vegan and became a nutritionist but was finding that people weren’t taking his advice. He’s a small dude and was a runner at the time and said guys would basically just say, “yeah, veganism, eating vegetables, that’s cool and all for you Derek but you’re small and I want GAAAAINZ, so I HAVE to eat meat.” So, he set about proving that you can build muscle on a plant based diet and recorded it on his YouTube channel. Skip ahead a few years, he’s got his gains and crazy low body fat and he’s now a YouTuber with 200k+ followers. I owe a lot to his channel, love his positivity and hope to cross paths someday. 





Dom Thompson

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Dom Tompson is one of the few people I’ve come across that is jacked and does triathlons. Check out his Instagram and you’ll see that he’s a big dude, he moves serious weight, has the endurance to knock out a mile swim, 6 mile run and 20 mile bike ride AND he eats a ridiculous amount of fruit. He often puts the cases and cases of bananas and mangos he orders wholesale on his Insta-stories and it is impressive. He also has a vegan clothing brand Crazies and Wierdos that has some awesome apparel. I’d like to do a triathlon someday soon and Dom Thompson is definitely my inspiration. I want have decent muscle mass, I want to eat cases of fruit and I want to be able to knock out huge kilometer endurance feats like it’s a walk in the park.







I’m finding more and more inspiring, fit vegans weekly and will probably do a 2.0 list in the future. Following people like those mentioned can be that extra motivation I need to get into the gym or go hard for one more set. I will hopefully get in a muscle up like Derek, chisel my core to Nimai levels and knock out a triathlon like Dom this year.

Wish me luck.

Let’s get after it.

Cooking for Your Non-Vegan Friends

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After 3 soggy cauliflower pizza crust attempts, I finally made it for friends and family.

After 3 soggy cauliflower pizza crust attempts, I finally made it for friends and family.

One of the best ways to smash the ‘vegan food is boring’ stereotype is to cook for a conventional eating crowd. But it can be a challenge. Will my girlfriend’s father like the curried lentils and vegetables I eat most days? Probably not. So, what’s a surefire way to cook a plant-based meal even the most meat-and-potatoes consumer will enjoy? 

There’s no one way to do it but here are some guidelines.


Know your audience. Who are you cooking for? Are they allergic to soy? What’s their spice tolerance? Do they hate mushrooms? If possible, you want to have that information beforehand. It’s okay to ask a few questions about your guests to ensure you don’t venture into any problem areas. Once a bit of dietary preference information is gleaned, one can start to form a game plan.

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Next, be sure to keep it simple. Go with something you know you make well. When cooking for a group it’s not the best idea to get experimental. There can be beginners luck when trying a new dish but more often than not, the first run at something is just ‘eh.’ So, cook something that is in the wheelhouse. 

If it is an option, make them a Beyond Burger or sausages. It’s just so damn tasty. And it is really entertaining to watch people bite it, then look down, tilt their head, furrow their brow and say, “holy shit.” Take that Carl!

If using a different meat or cheese substitute, make sure you’ve tried it before. Inviting over people to make pizza and trying a new brand of shreds that blackens but doesn’t melt and tastes like sour almonds, could forever turn someone away from vegan cheese and there’s some good stuff out there! Check out our blog on it here. So, if deciding to use substitutes, go for what you know. 

You can’t go wrong with fully loaded tacos or nachos or burritos. Homemade guacamole, salsa, some beans, sauteed peppers, onions, maybe mushrooms, maybe cauliflower, maybe jack fruit, your favorite hot sauce, tomatoes, some shredded lettuce, a touch of creamy cheese, a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of cilantro and you’re gold. Whatever your favorite variation may be, tacos are universal when you stuff them with a ton of different things, playing with temperature, creaminess, spice and texture. BAM! An enjoyable lunch option that won’t give your friends those orange, ground beef grease stains in the corners of their mouths. 

Udon noodles with some simple sauteed veggies and a siracha sesame seed topper.

Udon noodles with some simple sauteed veggies and a siracha sesame seed topper.


Noodles are vegan. A lot of people are too busy trying to get the chicken fat stains out of there khaki pants to realize that 99% of noodles are vegan. A creamy, Italian-inspired pasta dish can be a real winner. Or some rice noodles in a big bowl of something Asian. They’re the type of ‘wake-up-call’ dishes that make people go, “oh yeah, I can order my favorite menu item, minus the chicken and I’m eating a good vegan meal.”

2019. There are numerous looming problems in the world but one thing is for certain, it is the greatest time to be eating exclusively plants.

With the emergence of inspiring chefs and unreal vegan products, it is getting more and more fun to share the knowledge and introduce people to the ridiculous variety and quality of vegan food out there.

Hope you all get a chance to cook and share a meal with someone you love this week.

We hope this helped.

Peace.

Plant-Based on a Budget (revised)

Plant-Based on a Budget (revised)

Following a plant-based or vegan diet doesn’t mean you have to fill your cupboard with goji berries and organic pine nuts at 45 bucks a pound. On the contrary, the cheapest things on the grocery list of the typical consumer are usually fruits and vegetables. Pound for pound meat is MORE expensive and while boxed processed stuff is cheap, switching to buying bulk whole grains and legumes could have a huge positive shift in overall health, while keeping it cheap, nutritious, and simple. 

3 Easy Health Resources

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Without guidance or a ton of motivation, the nutrition and health world can be such a muddy, contradictory place. It is a space where two intelligent people can be using scientific studies to argue polar opposite points. It can be overwhelming, confusing and it’s no wonder that a lot of people stop looking for answers and continue doing what they’ve always done.

Researching and wading through the information and marketing can be a nightmare. I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, trainer or expert in anything but I do want to live a long, healthy, happy life while having minimal impact on the wellness of the planet and the life of animals. So, where do I go when I have a question regarding health? 

NutritionFacts.org

NutritionFacts.org is a non-profit started by Dr. Michael Greger and is the first place I look when I have a question. They upload new videos and articles daily on more than 2,000 health and nutrition topics. There’s an app and podcast also available so one can get their nutrition education anywhere at anytime. I’m always on there searching the video database for specifics or just video hopping carnitine to Omega 3 vs 6 to store bought chicken to 3 straight videos on soy. (it’s been getting a bad rap but organic GMO free is FINE. Don’t believe the hype.)

Dr. Greger is the man and is doing the world a huge service by assembling a team and wading through all these studies and condensing it into easily digestible videos. AND it’s a non-profit organization. He could easily be charging a small fee or just using advertising and boosting his bank account but he never wants his ethics to be questioned. He’s an impartial reader of the latest science and relays that information onto the public. His Daily Dozen recommendations are major, laying out the twelve foods one should try to eat daily to get their daily recommended dose of everything. I love this man so much I might name my first-born child, boy or girl, Dr. Greger.

Simply eating a handful of berries every day, one EASY and DELICIOUS dietary tweak, may slow your brain’s aging by more than two years.
— Dr. Michael Greger 'How Not to Die'

Cronometer

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Cronometer is a site and app that helps track and count calories and nutrition data. It’s easy to use, measures 60+ nutrients and has a log of 300,000+ foods. I don’t track my macros or count calories but every once in a while I’ll write in what I’m eating for two or three days. The app gives me an easy to read nutrient and calorie profile of my consumption day to day and lets me know if I’m hitting my daily recommendations for vitamins and minerals. I did it a few weeks ago and noticed I wasn’t getting as much calcium as I’d like so I added more calcium rich foods into my diet.

For me, it’s a super useful tool to see if the meals I’m currently hooked on are giving me all the vitamins I need because, like most people, I go through phases of cooking the same 2-3 breakfasts, lunches and dinners. We’re creatures of habit. Cronometer helps me tweak my habits to make sure I’m on point.

Plant Proof

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Simon from Plant Proof is a physiotherapist who is getting his Masters in Nutrition. He’s written for numerous publications and worked with some big name athletes and recently Chris Hemsworth on a health program in Australia. The site has some great write-ups on vegan health, lifestyle and recipes. He also has a podcast with the same name and hosts experts from all sorts of disciplines and they discuss healthy living. Full of helpful information and easy to consume aka a win-win.

I really enjoyed his episode with Nimai Delgado, the legendary, vegan pro body builder. They dispel a ton of the vegan myths around fitness and plant based diets.

Another awesome episode was with the gastroenterologist Dr. Will Bulsiewiscz. They talk about the importance of the microbiome and the vegan influencers (mutiple) who had stomach issues and introduced animal products back into their diet, causing their followers to question their own dietary choices. It was a weird phenomenon.

Also he has an episode with Dr. Zach Bush who is one of my new heroes. He talks about modern food growing practices and how it’s killing the soil and ultimately the nutrition in the food we eat. Apparently, a tomato now has a tiny fraction of the nutrients that it did 40 years ago. He’s a FASCINATING speaker and his non-profit organization Farmer’s Footprint is helping farmers get out of the cycle of pesticide use and return them to a sustainable no GMO, no till, no pesticide way of farming that can make them more money, while giving consumers the quality of produce that our grandparents used to enjoy.

I’ve personally come a long way on my health and fitness journey. These three tools helped a lot, along with a few jacked vegan YouTubers What I Eat in a Day videos and the fact that I’m getting older and my lifestyle choices are reflecting that. While I’m glad I had those ‘staying out until 6 am Spanish nights,’ I don’t long for them. Now it’s all about getting up early, moving my body and smashing a nutrient dense smoothie bowl. Oh, how the times have changed.

I hope that was useful. I couldn’t recommend these resources more. They’re simple and straightforward. Give NutritionFacts and PlantProof a follow on social media. The knowledge they drop daily is game changing.

Peace.





Travel Essentials

I’ve been on the move lately. I don’t usually travel this much but the last month-ish I’ve been across Spain and the Czech Republic. And back and forth. And I’ll be heading back to Spain for August. Then return to Prague for the school year. It’s been a little hectic and I’m ready for a gym, work, cook, Netflix routine. It’s all about that balance of running around and being a homebody. Anyways, after this last month of shuffling, I thought it could be helpful to open up my backpack and show what I’m usually bringing on the trains, planes and buses to keep me semi-healthy and mentally stable because, when traveling, there’s no way to avoid the long hours of nothing, the lines of socks-and-sandal tourists and the brutal food. The privilege of seeing something new and exotic in this world requires a bit of sacrifice and suffering but a little preparation can save a positive mental state and ultimately a few days of vacation.

Here are a few of the things I do and bring to make the hours enjoyable.

The journey is part of the experience — an expression of the seriousness of one’s intent. One doesn’t take the A train to Mecca. Anthony Bourdain

To limit the suffering when I travel, to start with the obvious, I always have my kindle, maybe a regular book, laptop and chargers. Those are givens. An external charger is key as well, outlets can be hard to comeby and once that iphone is more than a year or two old, the battery life doesn’t last like it used to. (Anybody else have that problem? Conspiracy? No? Just me? Ok.)

flying to Barcelona.

flying to Barcelona.

Other essentials for me are a sketchbook, a journal and a few pens. Some days, more often than not recently, I can’t read for very long without my mind wandering or my eyelids sliding down. So, if my book isn’t engaging, I’ll switch to doodling and a podcast. Which is another thing I make sure to do, download a few varied hours of podcasts. 

After entertainment and electronics, it’s all about meals. 

The food and nutrition aspect depends on the type and duration of the transportation. Trains are super easy and RULE because you can bring a grocery bag of goodies or even take-out. So there’s no tips or hacks. Training between European capitals? Hit the supermarket and then your favorite cafe before heading to the station. (The only thing better than a Beyond Burger is a Beyond Burger on a train.) 

Planes are obviously more restrictive and much harder. Also, I can honestly say I’ve never had a meal in an airport and thought, “Wow, that was good” It just doesn’t happen. Not only is it way overpriced, the food is only sometimes passable, usually very disappointing. Have you ever eaten a quality airport meal? Let us know the what and where at ASAP please. 

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For that reason, I usually bring a granola bar or two (or three) and a few good sachets of instant coffee, preferably something like Four Sigmatic with superfoods in the mix. Some help you sleep or keep you mentally focused to get some work done. I eat before going to the airport and then typically post up in a bar or cafe near my gate, get a pint or coffee and draw or write, saving my stash of goodies for the flight. 


On a plane, I always, always, even if it’s vegan and free, skip the meal. Anthony Bourdain recommended it and I’ve become a practitioner. Unless flying first class in one of those VIP suites on Virgin or Qatar Airlines, they’re serving a microwaved TV dinner with no nutritional value. It isn’t worth the time. Usually I’m trying to sleep, so another thing I got from my hero Bourdain is to have a gin or pint in the airport. Then, on the plane I ask for hot water and add a sachet of sleepy time tea. The comedown from the one drink, plus the tea and listening to something historic and dense like the Revolutions podcast, works like a charm and is the magic routine I’ve learned can actually get me to sleep on an airplane. #sleepingiswinning

Budapest ———> Bratislava hummus and chips for days with my brother Dyl and his gf Marisa.

Budapest ———> Bratislava hummus and chips for days with my brother Dyl and his gf Marisa.

Travel is my number one passion so I’m super aware that the process of getting from one place to the other can truly suck. The inescapable long hours in a seat, pressed between two hefty, heavy-breathing strangers can be a legitimate test of the soul. The goal is to make it go by as quickly and enjoyably as possible, avoiding psychosis inducing boredom or ingesting something that leads to gut-wrenching illness. 

A little preparation goes a long way. A little gin, granola bar and coffee can save a life.

I hope this helped.

Keep moving.


One love.


-Mitch

Favorite Vegan Influencers 2.0

I still obsessively follow everyone from the first ‘Favorite Influencers’ post. I still love The Happy Pear, Rich Roll, Simnett Nutrition, Dr. Michael Greger and I still love my mom but I thought it was time to share a few more. There are so many inspiring people out there doing amazing things for the planet, the animals and the human race. I could, and probably should do a weekly or bi-monthly ‘Inspiring People’ post. The people I choose to follow on Instagram leave me so motivated to be better but also can put me in a bit of a vegan bubble and that combined with my vegan family, I seriously sometimes forget 99.9% of people are out there eating REAL hamburgers. Anyways, here are a few of the people that have been super inspiring to me lately. I particularly like them because of their mainstream appeal and with the exception of the one MD, I’m pretty sure their social media followings are majority just fans, NOT VEGAN fans. 

Here’s the 2.0 list.

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Paul De Gelder

Paul de Gelder is a former Australian special ops soldier and Navy clearance diver who, while doing military exercises in Sidney Harbor, was attacked by a shark and lost a part of his arm and leg. I heard him on the Rich Roll Podcast and his story is hugely inspirational. These days he’s a keynote speaker and hosts a show on Shark Week for the Discovery Channel. The thing I draw the most motivation from is the fact that, after all he went through, he now is so focused on saving sharks and the ocean, which is why he’s shifted to a plant-based diet. Also, being formerly special ops, he’s JACKED and only eats PLANTS. His Instagram is awesome, part him in the water with sharks, posing with celebrities doing Shark Week cameos and him CRUSHING workouts with two prosthetic limbs. Freaking inspirationally motivating to the max. 


Dr. Garth Davis

Dr. Garth Davis is a plant-based MD who was featured in What The Health and is the author of Proteinaholic, a book that has been on my list for a while (I saw it has been translated to Czech, so maybe I’ll pick it up in both languages and use it to study.) Anyways, he’s got years and years and years of clinical experience, helping patients overcome health challenges through a plant-based diet and lifestyle. He’s all about the underlying science and is always posting the evidence behind his conclusions, as are other plant-based MD’s, but what makes me truly love Dr. Davis is how he gets in the trenches on social media and responds to all the bros out there posting about protein, carnivore diets and spreading falsities about veganism. I know that social media arguments never change anybody’s opinion but most doctors don’t give time to the meatheads and haters so when I see a post from Dr. Garth Davis and his caption starts off with, “So I just saw this guy post....” you KNOW I’m reading on. 


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Chef Chloe

Chloe Coscarelli aka Chef Chloe is the beast that shocked the culinary world by winning Cupcake Wars without using ANY eggs, butter, cream or milk. Vegan AF baby. She was also featured on Forbe’s 30 under 30 list but they put just about anybody on there these days (JOKES). She’s written three cookbooks, Chloe’s Kitchen, Chloe’s Vegan Desserts and Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen and she’s currently teamed up with NYC chef/restaurant scene legend Tom Colicchio on a vegan pop-up called You Are SuperNatural, in his restaurant Craft. She’s killing it and expanding the awareness of how good vegan food can be more than anybody. I wish I had an ounce of her talent and a teaspoon of her swag.

Damien Mander

Another Aussie and another discovery thanks to The Rich Roll Podcast. Damien Mander was also a special ops sniper and after working in the private military sector for a while, drifted around the world traveling and trying to find himself. Eventually he ended up in Africa and put his life savings into a non-profit he started called the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, training anti-poaching groups and working with local governments to protect endangered species. In the podcast he talks about a powerful moment being in Africa protecting animals, then sitting down to eat dinner and realized he was eating a dead animal. He saw the disconnect between what he was doing and what he was eating, the disconnection between his heart and his plate. Also, his organization started the legendary all-women anti-poaching unit called the Akashinga. He’s a legendary human, doing legendary work for the planet.

If you’d like to donate or get involved click here.

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Benny Cristovao

Benny Cristo, as he’s known,  is primarily a musician and a new discovery for me, thanks to my girlfriend who, like Benny, is from the Czech Republic. Benny is prolific. He was a European snowboard champion, is a jiu jitsu champion and now a hugely successful recording artist. He was recently on the Plant Proof podcast and I heard a bit about his story about how getting into BJJ and going vegan coincided. The story, as I remember it, was a few years ago he was a jacked power lifter and this much smaller friend at the gym was talking about veganism. Benny said he didn’t want to lose his gains and that it wasn’t for him. The friend then said something like, “well, if we wrestle and I pin you, you have to seriously check out veganism.” Benny, being much bigger and stronger, took the bet and then proceeded to get manhandled by a tiny vegan, leading him to first to jiu jitsu and eventually becoming an outspoken vegan advocate. He’s MASSIVE here in the Czech Republic, has endorsement deals with Puma and his very own vegan panini in a gas station chain because he’s constantly touring around Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He’s super positive, speaks a lot of English on his Instagram, is every Czech woman’s #1 crush and an all-around high-performing-badass-inspirational human. 

That’s it for 2.0. Check ‘em out, let us know what you think and let us know who you’ve been grooving on lately!

Travel Blog: Keweenaw Peninsula and Copper Country


It’s June in the Copper Country of Michigan. The grass is growing like something out of Jumanji —there’s a pop of what seems like every color on the spectrum dotting the landscape —a wayside trailer that would have been comparable to a rusty shipping container among a graveyard of dead trees a few weeks ago is now being swallowed whole by the surrounding forest and shrubbery. No doubt, Mother Nature just broke the knob off the control for growing season. To witness the transformation of the Upper Peninsula into a jungle-like haven for all things chirpy, buzz-y, and busy is an incredible sight. Which is why this place, and more specifically the Keweenaw Peninsula, are so near and dear to my heart. But we’re here to talk about food.

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If you’ve been to the Keweenaw, you know it’s a place rather far off the “beaten path” —that the nearest city is, in fact, Chicago [eight hours], and not Detroit [10 hours]. For anyone that’s traveled here AND been vegan, they know the pickings would be trending upwards even if it was considered “slim”. That, although having it’s a fair share of top-notch and memorable restaurants, eateries, pubs, and wall dives, accomplishing the mission of discovering a tasty plant-based meal can pose a significant challenge. That’s why we wanted to create a resource that includes a breakdown of our best recommendations and insight on all-things vegan in the Keweenaw and Houghton/Hancock areas. Like the Keweenaw itself, there’s a bounty of gems to unearth when one need only look a small bit beneath the surface.

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Krunch Fast Casual

Since it’s inception, Krunch has been the most vegan-friendly joints in town. Because yes, despite it being 2019, I don’t think this part of the world is quite ready for a fully-veganized concept. Regardless, Krunch rolls out tasty treats at an efficient pace and at a price that won’t have you second-guessing the addition of a blueberry gelato shake. The menu is easy to grasp, provides a healthy bit of variety, and is well-executed behind the scenes. My personal favorites are the Cashew burger with regs fries and a shake of whatever you’re fancing during that moment in time -doesn’t matter, they’re all vegan, which is a huge bonus! Although this forces one to contemplate a shake every drive-by. Other things that would be worth ordering twice are the Curry Bowl, Teriyaki Bowl, the BBQ Portobello sammie, or the buffalo cauliflower bites. I feel like they used to have a vegan ranch at one point and have since swapped it out for straight buff sauce. If given the choice, I’d say just mix up a lil’ of both and toss it in. My only complaint? The hippie in me thinks they use too much plastic. But then again, by being the leading vegan option provider in town, Krunch is already miles ahead of the competition when it comes to making sure Leonardo DiCaprio and the bees stay happy. Don’t forget to tip!

Studio Pizza

Like most places in modern America, there’s always a ton of options when it comes to pizza -and everyone has their favorites. As you start to head down the plant-based rabbit hole, finding a GOOD pizza in the land of literal Packer cheeseheads can be a steep challenge. Enter Studio Pizza, the tiny one-counter operation that situated inside the Orpheum theatre in downtown Hancock. For you locals, it’s the place that’s straight across from what used to be coined as the mythical urban hangout spot known as “The Wall” -aka the meet-up point to smoke butts for kids who once-upon-time-went to that school. When ordering Studio, it’s recommended to call ahead for delivery as they offer rather limited seating. Other than the potential poltergeist haunting, Studio is one of the places that are pros at slinging out a consistently delicious, first-rate ZAA. They have vegan cheese, unique topping choices, and gluten-free options --but we do recommend playing a “skip-out-on-gluten-free-card” because the Chicago-style crust is one of those things worth letting your hair down for. The menu offered is actually quite extensive given the size of the locale, so if you’re feeling a calzone or a thin crust, give it a healthy go. Our specific recommendations would be either the Veggie Supreme with light cheese and double veggie [for those lax Thursdays when you need a belly high-five to keep the momentum going] or the slightly more intense, spicier “El Diablo”  speciality pizza, with light vegan cheese and added mushrooms [For those friskier weekends as you head out on the KBC Brewing deck]. There may be some complaints from others about the steep price, but you simply can’t ignore the time-tested logic of “you get what you pay for” or in other words…if one wants quality, one must pay. Be sure to save a few side dollars for Studio, you won’t be disappointed.

The Den

The Den and “Woodfired Grill” is one of the newer additions to the area -having recently launched in 2018 by the same owner as Krunch. Like it’s little sister down the road, The Den offers a wide variety for both vegans and non-vegans alike. Where Krunchs’ strengths lie in its ability to provide a swift burst of hangry-relief, The Den’s qualities shine more on creating a rustic-ly cozy and sleek atmosphere where you can get anything from a quick pint of local dark brown and a Tapas-style treat to a continuous train of high-end cocktails complete with apps and a fine-dining entree. Although most of their fancier features are aimed at the carnivorous population it’s fairly simple for a humble herbivore to find some belt-stretching goodness for their very own. It may set your pocketbook back a bit more than your average U.P dine-out, but again, it’s another highlight to the notion that quality is worth paying for. We recommend the Beet Burger, with a close second being the “Impossible” Meatball sub without cheese and adding mushrooms / extra sauce! If booze is your jam, we really enjoyed both the “Dark-n-Stormy”, a rum-based ginger lime spritz, or the “Siren’s Call”, a euphoria-inducing infusion of gin and fresh lemon juice. A classy joint for classy folks that’s worth a visit.

Cafe Rosetta

As far as I know, Cafe Rosetta has undergone a number of significant changes since my time here as an undergrad at MTU. I’d like to say they changed owners at one point. And the menu concept. They even upgraded their space by moving to a larger operation one door over. Now -if you’ve been versed in anything written by Anthony Bourdain or dramatized by Gordon Ramsey, you know that all of the things are often the pitfalls of doom for restaurants. Rosetta has not only withstood these obstacles but consistently been able to produce a ton of tasty features, for all kinds of eaters to jump on. For those of on the plant-based train, we’d highly recommend any of the soups du jour's they might be serving that is accompanied with the familiar and bliss-including “V” symbol. In the words of a wise master, “they got mad soup game yo.” And you can never go wrong with an oat milk latte or cold-brew for the road. Watch out though, the cold-brews they serve pack a bomb of a caffeine roundhouse kick. It’ll make you wish you snuck in a to-go for the vegan burrito bowl and whatever dessert nibbles they’d been pushing on special under that same recognizable “V”.

Keweenaw Coffee Works

Although Keweenaw Coffee Works isn’t necessarily a provider of vegan foods, they do offer a number of locally roasted, artisan coffees out of a gorgeous space in downtown Calumet —definitely worth the trip up North. Friendly service, very modern, “hipster” cafe vibes and, I may be biased, but the coffee is second to none, even when compared to more high-end options like Intelligensia and the more locally-based roaster Velodrome, which operates out of Marquette. The perfect sport for posting up, getting productive, and cranking through some projects on the laptop while sipping a pour over of KCW’s finest “Borealis” or “Yooper Blend” selections. Be sure to snag a bag of whole beans on the way out. Heads up, they might also have some vegan snacks in the house!

Milly’s

Milly’s is a newer establishment to the area, having recently been launched in the same location as it’s previous successor, Jim’s Pizza —albeit with a few “extreme-home” makeovers. Specializing in “Detroit-style” pizza, Milly’s offers an ever-changing selection of entrees at a price that’s certainly fair deal considering the area and level of quality. Although they do not offer vegan cheeses, they do have gluten-free options, a surprising variety of fresh salads, and a wide selection of unique, often locally-sourced items, that rarely make it onto a menu in the Upper Peninsula. For vegans, the ability to order a cheeseless-zaa with roasted garlic, shiitakes, artichokes, pickled jalapeno, Calabrian chili oil, and honey is something that just wasn’t on par with reality a year ago. Side note: they offer pizza by the slice, another innovation that’s first of its kind for Hancock.

Rodeo Mexican Kitchen

One of the few locations dedicated to solely Mexican and Southwestern-inspired cuisine. Now, it’s probably not AS authentic as that street-side food truck tacos being slung by the locals you may have had in Austin, TX or New Mexico, but it’s pretty freakin’ good all things considered. The menu is “Chipotle-like” where you customize a meal by first selecting a pre-build of tacos, a burrito, bowl, or a salad. They also have some other fan favorites like Posole, a Mexican-spiced stew, that’s heaped high in a crunchy, tortilla boat. Naturally, the spices are a bit dialed back to accompany the local clientele’s Finnish and Euro-based tastebuds, but we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Don’t be afraid to go hot on the salsas!


OTHER JOINTS WORTH CHECKING OUT


Gino’s

A staple in the town of Hancock since the roarin’ 20’s, Gino’s is a local gastropub/dining hall that serves local tap beers and a variety of reputable foodstuffs. They are best known for their bolognese spaghetti sauce and pizzas, which means there isn’t a ton of vegan options, but they do from time to time offer some tasty plant-based nibbles. Plus one can never go wrong ordering a fat pint of local KBC with with waffle fries….and a plate of “regs”.

Keweenaw Mountain Lodge

The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge is actually a place we have not been to in about a decade. Located about a half mile from Copper Harbor, a small town at the tip of the Peninsula, this golf course / rustic cabin get-away / fine-dining experience has been recently re-booted by new ownership. Most importantly, we’ve heard there are a few plant-based creations in the works that we’ll be sure to check out in the near future.


Gemignani’s

Rustic, home cooked, locally-inspired Italian. Every once in a while the cure to a rough week is a big pile of pasta marinara with a shoe-sized wedge of bread to sop of the extra sauce with, ya feel me? We also recommend the bruschetta or “Stephanie’s” pasta primavera. The added beauty about coming to Gem’s is free birthday dinners and, since the food isn’t pre-packaged crap, the kitchen can most often accommodate a special request or two. Plus they have a low-key, high-end whiskey collection for when you need a little something extra celebratory.



Sky Sushi

Now I’ve heard that for being like a million miles from the nearest ocean, the fish-based sushi at Sky is pretty dang good -which is usually evidence to suggest that the vegan sushi options are right on par. Which they are. An added bonus being that the choices are somewhat more varied than your average avocado, carrot, and cucumber rolls. Pro Tip: Order out or make a reservation since the space they have is quite small and intimate.

Fitzgerald’s

Seated about a stone’s throw from the edge of Lake Superior, the “Fitz” offers killer beers, a great liquor selection, and a few plant-based options that most certainly take a backseat to Fitzgerald’s claim-to-fame speciality smoked meats and BBQ. A perfect option to bring your carnivore friends whilst still enjoying a hearty meal and a top shelf bev. Did we mention it’s right next to the biggest lake in the world, providing one of the best views known to humankind? You’ll want to make a special trip for this place regardless of your friend’s and families’ sacrificial ways.

Travel Blog: Madrid 2.0


It’s only been a year since the last Madrid food blog but the place has changed a ton. My favorite restaurant Rayen Vegano is currently closed and changing locations but it wasn’t that devastating because a few incredible new spots have opened up and I recently explored some places that I had yet to try.

All of that is just a run around way of saying Madrid is one of the best food cities I’ve ever visited. And I love it. And here are a few new plant-based eating recommendations.


MADMAD Vegan

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In the Mercado de San Idelfonso, this is my new favorite. A legendarily good, tiny vegan food spot sandwiched among many food and drink stands in a modern cramped food market, I lit up when we walked in. I was feeling the vibes even before I saw the Beyond Burger on their menu. They’ve got a great selection of other burgers, a few hot dogs and fries. I opted for the ‘chicken’ sandwich and fully loaded fries and they were lights out. We went back the next day and got the fries again and a round of Beyond Burgers. As I’m writing this, it has only been there a month. I was speaking with the young guy who started it and almost kissed his hand on our way out. I also told him, ‘he’s doing God’s work,’ aka making extremely good vegan food but I don’t know if he understood the expression and might just think I’m super religious.

Vega

Vega is an old school vegan place that I had on my list of places in the past but somehow hadn’t gotten there until this last trip. It was phenomenal. There was a menu of the day with two apps, mains and desserts to choose from and my mother and I shared it. We were both immediately smiling and noting how simple, lightly flavored yet soul-satisfying everything was. It has been a long time since I’ve eaten a simple quinoa with vegetables and been like, ‘damn this is GOOD!’

Delish Vegan Doughnuts

I’d followed Delish on Instagram for months before I finally got the chance to go there and it lived up to my lofty LOFTY expectations. They sell out of donuts almost everyday and the place was packed, so you know they’re doing something right. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a vegan donut. I’ve eaten a billion vegan desserts but a donut specifically? Let alone an apple pie jelly-filled vegan donut? Never. My favorite dessert in donut form with a cup of coffee? Vegan? Forget about it.


La Tia Carlota

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La Tia Carlota is vegan gastro bar a block or two from the Lavapies Metro stop and is a great spot for tapas or dinner. A very legit dinner menu, we unfortunately were there too early for dinner but had a drink and an order of bacon cheddar ranch pulls and they were fantastic.


Planeta Vegana

This is actually a supermarket, not a restaurant but it deserves to be mentioned because it was awesome. They’ve got Upton’s products all the way from Chicago. I didn’t know they were in Europe. For vegan specialty things that can be tough to find outside of America, this is the place. I also bought this awesome t-shirt from there.


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I think that was all of the note-worthy eating we did. We also ate at the always good Pura Vida Vegan Bar and The PumPum Cafe from our last blog post. It was excessive but oh-so-satisfying. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Madrid is one of my favorite cities in the world. Everytime I go, I find something new and fall a little more in love. I couldn’t recommend the city more. I hope you all make it there soon.


-Mitch

Travel Blog: Sevilla Living

“Sevilla Sevillaaaa,” I always say it twice when I’m sitting in a plaza with a friend and we get the bill for our four beers and the total is under ten euros or I’m walking on the cobblestones as the church bells chime and I look up to see the pigeons swarming out of a steeple. “Sevilla Sevillaaaaa,” I’ll say as I’m in a t-shirt, laying in a sunny park in December or having just smashed some late night VEGAN tapas.

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Life is great, for me in general, in this city in general and for anyone who visits looking for good eats, plant based or not. Only one month left and I’ve been on ‘Bliss-Mode-10,000’ since October. Here are a couple of my favorite parts, places and eats.



La Alameda de Hercules

I could and probably will do a post on this area alone but for now I’ll try to keep it to Sevilla general. A few blocks north of the city center is the Alameda de Hercules. A few years ago it was the perfect place to score a nice sachet of hashish and some pay-per-hour companionship but these days it’s a go-to evening destination for Sevillanos from all walks of life.

My favorite for food is No Piqui. They’ve got a few vegan options, a QUALITY vegan pizza and fresh juices all at very reasonable prices. Another reason I love it is they’re open all day, breakfast to dinner, with vegan options for all of them.

My personal favorites for tapas are Casa Paco or Arte y Sabor. Casa Paco is a traditional Spanish bar but I love it. The tapas menu doesn’t have vegan specific options but the patatas bravas, pimientos de padron and normal patatas are all vegan. I go there more for gin and ambience than eats. Arte y Sabor has two small locations on the Alameda and has some good vegan options, my favorite being the mushroom croquetas.

VeganEats is a block from La Alameda and freaking rules. Open for lunch and late, they’ve got burgers, hot dogs, fries and a few desserts. A quick vegan hot dog in between bars? I never thought I could live this good.


El Mercado de Feria

This market is next to La Alameda and is open from the morning until about four. Fresh cheap fruit, vegetables for days and many of the restaurant stands are repping vegan options. I’ve had class vegan pinchos, guacamole and empanada, with a beer, squished on a low stool, elbow to elbow with hearty Spaniards passionately shouting at their amigos while waving their sardine toast in the air. Beyond vegan options, I love this place is because it is 98% Spanish patrons. Locals serving locals and it makes me feel like Tony Bourdain being the only lanky foreigner in the crowd.

***The burger joint Atticus Finch, located on the outside of the market, is going to be the one of the FEW places in all of Spain offering the Beyond Burger!!!!! It’s just been announced and hasn’t arrived yet. (I’ve stopped by and asked them multiple times) So, stay tuuuuned!

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Gaia

An organic supermarket with a vegan/vegetarian restaurant two doors away with the same name, this combo is where it’s at. The supermarket has it all and is where I head when I need a specialty item that I can’t get at the usually small organic shops and the restaurant is awesome, well-priced and has some classic Spanish dishes.



El Enano Verde and El Verdetariano

Two exclusively plant-based spots that have very respectable daily menus that are frequently changing.


Cafe Ofelia

A bomb ass bakery that reps a few vegan treats daily.


Veganitessen

This is my favorite eating in the city. Located in the Mercado de Arenal this place rules. I’m constantly raving about it on Instagram. I once went over three weeks without going, showed up and all the ladies that work there (it’s a 95% female staff) were like, ‘HEEEY where the f*** you been?’

Bomb cheap breakfast, burgers, hot dogs, the classic Spanish omelette, potato salad, their menu is great and their desserts are constantly changing. My favorite menu item is the kebab. It’s textured soy seasoned up and tossed into a wrap with some veggies and hot sauce.

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It was the first exclusively vegan restaurant in the city and the ladies that run it are bad-ass-legends. The IPA they have is called FUCK THE PATRIARCHY. I love reading the signs around the restaurant and they’re usually rocking some awesome t-shirts as well. Overall it’s a 10/10 and a MUST for any plant-based eaters coming to Sevilla.

So that’s it for my first edition of Living Plant Based in Sevilla, maybe I’ll turn it into a series. It is by far my favorite of the cities I’ve had the privilege of living in. If you haven’t been, buy a ticket, gimme a call and I’ll meet you at Veganitessen for an avo-toastie and coffee.

Why Anthony Bourdain Is My All-Time Hero

Anthony Bourdain actively hated on vegans and vegetarians at any opportunity and constantly talked about the beauty of pork, so, me being a hardcore vegan loony, why was he my hero?

Firstly, he was an influence on me way before I went vegan. Personally, I’ve been obsessed with the man since I was around 17. I bought a flat-screen television on my sixteenth birthday and we moved to a new house and FINALLY got cable TV. I would always have the Travel Channel on, always, Samantha Brown, Andrew Zimmern, the random ‘best yachts-beaches-mansions-castles-etc and No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. I was immediately intrigued by his demeanor, dry humor, self deprecation and appreciation for different cultures.

When I found out he was an author I bought his classic Kitchen Confidential (a first year read at cooking schools these days). His stories about the NY and East-Coast chef scene in the 70’s and 80’s, the partying, drug abuse, fornication and all around debauchery, made me love him even more and forever changed the way I write. At the time, my friends and I were all cooking and delivering at a pizzeria, smoking out back and sipping schnapps as we did the closing cleanup and I thought I had my own band of pirates just like Tony had back in the day.

Then I became a vegetarian and eventually a vegan and had to reconcile with the constant ridicule my hero dished out to my lifestyle. The reason he gives for hating on veganism is what he calls ‘The Grandmother Rule.’ He basically says that, when traveling and being offered food from someone, he’s going to graciously accept, eat it, ask for seconds and say thank you, like he was in the house of his very own grandmother. He says to be a vegan and reject the kind offering of a stranger, who can sometimes not have much to give, is morally deplorable.

I get it. I think those word deplorable is too strong but I’ve been in situations where very kind people wanted to feed me and get a very distressed look on their face when they find out I’m vegan and they don’t have anything to give me. I feel bad. I’ve also been in a few situations where the ‘good person’ thing to do is muscle down a few bites of food. Whether it’s peas and fish (It was A LOT more than a few bites. Check out our Fishy Peas blog), a sausage soup with no BALLS of sausage but FLOATIES galore and chicken broth or most recently Christmas cookies with butter and eggs. Every once in a while, when traveling, I have set my vegan morals aside in favor of being a good guest and in the back of my mind I’m always thinking Tony would be proud.

For me, as I’ve said in the past, it is more about being a good person than anything, being vegan for the animals or having a bite of food so I don’t offend my kind host. Thankfully, there have only been a handful of incidences in five years of veggie traveling and they’re becoming fewer and farther between. I’m getting better at letting people know I’m a vegan, that I don’t expect anyone to bend over backwards to accommodate me and that I’m perfectly fine cooking for myself or simply eating some fruit, vegetables and bread.

I’m not sure where his episodes are these days, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, the dark web (I think it depends on the country) but you need to watch an episode or two of ‘Parts Unknown,’ his final show, even the episodes about different parts of America are incredible. His Houston, Montana and West Virginia shows gave me a huge appreciation for America and had me more homesick for my own country than ever.

He wasn’t just a guy who made travel TV. He was so much more than that. He was a storyteller, an author, a chef, a cranky old man, a hero to hipsters everywhere, a hipster hater, a travel junky, a former junky, a man who cared about culture, the truth and showing people the world.

There was and is nobody like him, especially on television. He gave no f’cks. I like to think we’d get along in spite of our lifestyle differences. We could definitely bond over alcohol, tattoos and spicy Indian food (the only veggie cuisine he ever complimented on air). He was a cult hero to many more than just myself and lives on through his countless fans.

I’ll forever emulate his writing, speaking style and travel habits. I’ll forever wonder what made him end it all in his prime.

I hope you’ve found some peace Tony.

One love,

-Super-fan Mitch


20 Plant-based Meals Under 10 Minutes

 20 Plant-based Meals Under 10 Minutes

Looking for fast and easy vegan recipes? Thinking about exploring some vegan cooking, dinner ideas, lunch ideas, breakfast ideas, without having to spend a ton of time? Check out these fast, delicious vegan options like buffalo chicken sandwich, spaghetti, burritos, buddha bowls, grilled veggie panini and more!

Travel Blog: Phoenix

Travel Blog: Phoenix

Going in, I hadn't expected Arizona, which was officially my 32nd state and counting, to be as picturesque and green as it was. Sure, it's a desert, loaded with menacing cacti of all shapes, colors and sizes that leave their razor-sharp quills in your Teva hard-rubber sandals, but it's also a place with radically-gorgeous rock formations, hidden forest rivers, and a melting pot of incredible cuisines built around Old-Western-timey and innovative architecture alike. If you have the gusto to brave the 110 degree+ "Winters", and when I say gusto I mean lay around in the A/C watching Netflix, Arizona can be a mecca for foodies, fitness "swoldiers", athletes, a student just looking to party, or anyone in between. Having spent a short 5-day stint in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Sedona, here are my recommendations that I was fortunate enough to jam into my itinerary. As always, the food was our first priority. And in a most intentional fashion, we also had a local guide to show us the way, which is always an indicator that you're in for a time that is straight bliss. 

Travel Blog: Madrid

Travel Blog: Madrid

The Madrid vegan scene has been exploding recently. Quite a few restaurants have opened up smack dab in the city center, right alongside the classic bars with their traditional Iberian ham legs hanging in the window. I like to try a new place whenever I’m there and have gotten to know the city pretty well. With that being said, I haven’t hit them all and am still chipping away at my ‘must see Madrid vegan’ list. In the meantime, feel free to check out our top restaurants and cafes for a money vegan or plant-based meal in the heart of Spain.