The Best Vegan Dining Options in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
On my last visit home, I was hesitant to think too favorably about my luck with vegan dining options in my hometown of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. As much as this dear little mountain/lake town means to me, I will say the plant-based food scene hasn’t exactly caught up quite as much here as other places I’ve been recently. It’s encouraging that a lot of folks in CDA are starting to question where their food is coming from instead of just nomming down on whatever is set in front of them, but there is really not much of a demand for green-centric meals. Things are getting better, but as with my ability to pan-fry tofu, there is room for improvement.
Having made the switch to solely plant-based only recently, this would be my first time fully committed to the cause while being home with family in one of my favorite places on Earth. This was also over the Thanksgiving holiday - obviously considered by many to be very turkey-centric. Luckily, I love a good plant-based cooking challenge. My dad also loves trying out the “weird and creative” food I’ve been making at home, so I knew he’d be on board with me when I wanted to try out some non-poultry dishes. Thank you, Mom, for your patience with me as I destroyed your kitchen in my creative process!
I also had plenty of time to go out to my favorite restaurants, wineries, and coffee shops and figure out ways to revamp my usual orders to fit my slightly more difficult dietary requirements. I was pleasantly surprised to find that yes, friends, there are vegan options around Coeur d’Alene, and you really don’t need to look too hard. All it requires is a bit of pre-dining research to avoid the frantic menu look-over and inevitable disappointment if you don’t pick the right place.
So, as promised, here you go:
A Guide to the Best Vegan Dining Options in CDA, Idaho
1) Garnet Cafe - 315 E. Walnut Ave.
Garnet would be on top of a lot of my CDA dining lists: best breakfast, best brunch, best farm-to-table menu, best option for mixed dietary requirements - you get the picture. They obviously make the top of my vegan dining list for Coeur d’Alene! They are so accommodating, and my family has been coming here for years. It’s one of two restaurants I have to go to every time I go home (the other is Fire pizza, mentioned below), so after accompanying my parents to church last Sunday, I was delighted when they suggested we head to Garnet.
For vegans, the menu very specifically states “Yes, we have vegan options” on page one. Which I loved. You can build-your-own stir fry (basically a scramble without the egg) which is what I usually do, picking from a loaded list of veggies and plant-based protein options to concoct my dream brekkie. The sourdough toast is vegan and divine, as are the potatoes. It’s probably worth asking what is and isn’t cooked in butter, but otherwise, you should be in the clear! I also love that they have nutritional yeast in a shaker upon request. I personally recommend a side of apple cider vinegar to drizzle over any sautéed greens. Yumyesplease.
Their menu is seasonal, they always have specials and creative breakfast cocktails, and the coffee is organic and endless if you need your java fix. They also source most of their animal products from local farms, so it’s a much better bet for being sustainably-focused than your typical diner.
2) The Wellness Bar - 312 N. 4th St.
Opened back in 2014, this airy, beautifully-decorated space blends, presses, and serves up delicious juices, smoothies, coffees, and bowls. They now have two other locations, but the 4th St. one is closest to home and I like what it brings to the midtown CDA area. The owners’ mission was to make healthy, fresh foods both fast and convenient, which is something that this area drastically needs.
I’ve never personally tried the açaí bowls here (I tend to just make my own at home because of the availability of my parents’ Vitamix), but I have had some of their homemade vegan snacks and their locally-roasted coffee. If you want something a bit more substantial than a smoothie, they offer a cute toast bar and quinoa salad bowls along with their creative “protein waffles.” It’s the perfect place to head after a run or yoga session.
And speaking of yoga, the Wellness Bar has a studio in the back of the restaurant, so let your downward dog go wild. I love that we have a place like this here in CDA now. These types of locales are something you tend to take for granted if you’ve spent a lot of time in a bigger Northwest city like Seattle or Portland.
3) Cosmic Cowboy - 412 W. Haycraft Ave.
Stick with me - I originally thought Cosmic Cowboy was yet another steakhouse off of Highway 95 in the middle of town, but hold up! I was pleasantly surprised! It’s actually a fresh-casual restaurant concept, and the food is not at all like your typical fast-food joint. You can tell they take pride in their ingredients and the quality, and they have options for every diner in your group. From the website: “Our restaurant serves healthy, farm-to-table, and gourmet dishes including vegetarian, vegan, paleo and low-carb.” Spokane and Coeur d’Alene Living Magazine even named it the Best New Restaurant of 2017, so they must be doing something right.
All of the vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are clearly labeled as such on their menu board, so when you walk in and order at the counter, you don’t need to ask any tricky questions. The Happy Hippie wrap is a winner, which I paired with the Power Salad. You can get salads, wraps, or sandwiches, or do half-and-half, and they have plenty of local wine, beer, and kombucha if that’s your thing.
Curious where the name comes from? I just found out: a Cosmic Cowboy is someone who feels equally at home in the country or in the city. They embrace both innovation and change (Cosmic) as well as remembering old-school values that made us who we are (Cowboy). They reference musicians like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson who turned away from Nashville to make music that broke way from the “corporate mold.” I love it!
4) Pilgrim’s Market - 1316 N. 4th St.
Pilgrim’s actually started as a tiny little health foods store back in 1999 and since then has blossomed into a NON-tiny health foods store that takes up the whole block! This is my favorite local grocer in Coeur d’Alene, and apart from having the best assortment of organic grocery items, fresh produce, and bulk goods, they’ve recently expanded to include an impressive freshly-prepared food and cafe section that make it well worth a visit for a meal out.
The market is dedicated to helping connect green-minded consumers with local farmers and producers, and they frequently have the owners of local small businesses in the shop offering samples and tasters of their products. There’s nothing I love more than seeing the passion in the eyes of people who grow and share their food with us, and I love that Pilgrim creates the space for this interaction.
They have delicious soups, salads, sandwiches, ice creams, sorbets, and smoothies for every type of diet in their Gourmet Deli. They also have a Hot Bar that serves daily lunch and dinner specials made from scratch. You can check out the Facebook page to find out the specials for the day. but beware - to get there you need to walk through the store, and I can almost guarantee about fifty things will catch your eye and you’ll leave with more than you anticipated. Embrace it! Shop local, shop small!
And the name’s origin? The owners of the market describe how “in our minds, anyone seeking something better than what they currently have is a ‘pilgrim.’ So if your journey through life takes you on a path to more informed, healthful or conscientious living, then you may well be a ‘pilgrim’...just like us!’
5) Syringa - 1401 N. 4th St.
Yes, it is a sushi place, which is something I don’t alway stand behind in this day-and-age of over-fishing and excessive food transport (we’re in Idaho after all, a land-locked state). But the quality is amazing and the staff are nice, and the lunch I had their the other week was phenomenal, so they’re on the list!
Ordering the vegetarian bento box was an amazing life decision. I eat tofu often enough, but by golly, the chefs had some magic in their veins that day because the ginger-marinated tofu was the most delightfully-prepared I’d ever experienced. They also have noodle and rice bowls for the veggie lovers, and everything is spiced, seasoned, and marinated to perfection. I was very pleasantly surprised with this meal, so if you’re in the mood for some hard-to-find Japanese-fusion food in CDA, this is the place!
6) Cafe Carambola - 610 W. Hubbard St.
Coeur d’Alene is lucky to have this tiny gem of a restaurant tucked away on Northwest Boulevard near the downtown area, as it serves up a cuisine that you can’t really find around here: Latin American! Carambola is another name for starfruit, a delightful tropical fruit that can be found in fresh markets all over Latin America. With bright and crisp flavors, this fruit was the inspiration for the menu at this busy little place.
I haven’t been here for ages, but I do know there are plenty of delicious salad options sans animal products, like the Mango and Black Bean Salad or the Black Nile Barley Tabbouleh. Most of the menu items do have meat, but if it’s something that hasn’t already been prepared, the owners are so sweet I’m sure they’d tweak something to fit your needs. How delicious does the Kañiwa, Bean and Kale Salad sound? I reckon it’s time I make my way back here!
7) Fire Pizza - 517 Sherman Ave
I had to include Fire because, although definitely not a vegan restaurant, this place knocks my holiday socks off. I haven’t found a better pizza in any other place I’ve been too, and I’m guessing you’ll agree if you’re a fan of artisan woodfired ‘za. The texture of the crust is perfection and they have an eclectic mix of creative toppings you can choose from. The best part is that they cater for your dietary needs, so when my eyes glazed over with sadness as I looked past my favorite pizza on the menu, the Gordy, I realized I could still enjoy this a bit differently without the cheese and call it a fancy-a** flatbread!
I went for the Garden State, a veggie-rich option, and asked them to skip the goat cheese. We also had a side of their amazing spinach salad with feta on the side (for the rest of my dining buddies to partake). It was supremely satisfying, but there is something about the Gordy (dates, gorgonzola, mozzarella, and balsamic reduction) that can never be replaced on a vegan diet. That’s ok! I made the switch to plant-based for a much bigger purpose, so this is a hardship I am happy to tackle.
Fire is one of my top restaurant recommendations in Coeur d’Alene. They have an impressive selection of local wine and craft brews, so go check it out.
9) Beet and Basil - 105 S. 1st Ave., Sandpoint, ID
Beet and Basil is not in Coeur d’Alene, but actually about 45 minutes north in Sandpoint, but it is so dang good I had to include it! They specialize in “global flavors with local ingredients” (could there even be a better tagline for a restaurant?) and have clearly labeled options for vegans, vegetarians, and the gluten-free among us.
My parents and I happened upon this place during a weekend away at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, the epic ski destination in winter and hiking destination in summer that looms over beautiful Sandpoint, Idaho and Lake Pend Oreille. Lured in by the cute gates and vibrant sign, we wandered in and were excited by the menu options. We weren’t disappointed! Try the Kung Pao Cauliflower, a fried beer batter cauliflower tossed in peanut sauce that will make your taste buds sing.
Everything on the menu sounds amazing, and you can tweak a lot of the orders to skip cheese or mayo or some other non-vegan substance. This was also the first place I tried hard Jun Kombucha and loved it. The atmosphere is top notch, overlooking the river with a quaint patio adorned with twinkly lights. In the winter, their inside dining room is also comfortable with epic views.
If you want to take a day trip from Coeur d’Alene, I highly recommend heading up to Sandpoint and enjoying this place!
Don’t let your taste buds go sad if you’re a vegan in Coeur d’Alene - you now know some of my favorite little spots. If you aren’t plant-based, you might even be encouraged to give it a go and hit up one of these restaurants. Every meal you have that skips animal products goes a long way in helping the environment. Start small and you’ll make waves, my friends!
Curious how all of this ties into marine conservation? Check out my blog post on how vegan-eating can make big impacts in sustainability.