6 Vegetarian and Vegan Hotspots in Leuven
Now that those jolly Christmas days with family and friends relentlessly stuffing our faces are over, everyone is getting ready to come up with their New Year's resolutions and you might just find enough reasons to give a vegetarian or vegan 'diet' a go. Whether it's for your health or quest for the perfect body, against the suffering of animals or environmental issues, or all of the above. Any reason will do to try out these six Chase-approved hotspots in Leuven!
At the beginning of 2016 we guided you along some great spots in Brussels, now it’s the turn of our beloved student city. Let us show you that as a vegetarian or vegan foodlover, you really don’t have to miss out on anything. Because let’s be real: we might be making responsible choices, but our taste buds need stimulation too. So, if you're one of those people who still believe vegetarians and vegans can only eat grass, tune in 'cause we're about to turn your world upside down!
Pictures by Jennifer Kesteleyn, written by Chess Teugels.
Loving hut Veganerie
Whenever you’re in the centre of Leuven and in the need for some vegan fastfood, the Loving Hut Veganerie is the place to be: everything is 100% vegan, organic and locally produced. Their plant-based deliciousness can be either eaten on the spot or on the go, packed in biodegradable containers. Honestly, you can never go wrong with one of their many burgers.
In the mood for something healthy, light and fast? Well, they got you, with tasty salads and zoodles (zucchini noodles). But if you're really craving some greasy fast food, options range from vegan bitterballen (breaded fried kind of meatball), … to calamares (squid rings). It’s amazing how these are almost impossible to discern from the real deal. Homemade chocolate chip cookies, freshly baked brownies and even gluten free raw raspberry cakes are sold at the counter for the sweet tooths among us.
The Veganerie is truly an all-in-one. On top of all the above, they have a whole shop section: a wall full of plant-based essentials (even snacks for our furry friends), plus a freezer and fridge full of ice cream, drinks, charcuterie, and many more. And when in need for some inspiration for a (more) plant-based life, make sure to check out their selection of books. As the cherry on top they also organise events for vegan foodies, but of course everyone is welcome! So keep an eye on their Facebook page. Good to know: as a student you get a 10% student discount here!
Rector de Somerplein 13. Open: Monday-Saturday from 12:00 – 20:00.
Within a short walking distance of the Veganerie and the centre of Leuven, you can find Vegaverso at the beginning of the Tiensestraat. It’s a family enterprise of mother and daughter, that is famous for their awesome vegan sandwiches - even gluten free ones. Their not-dogs, bagels, burgers, wraps, pies, homemade lemonades, chocolate ‘milks’, coffees and lattes also come highly recommended and are more affordable than you might think.
In autumn and winter you can get your hands on a pumpkin spice latte that’s way more environmentally friendly than the ones from Starbucks. Basically, there is just too much goodness to sum up that you have got to try here and the owners constantly add new delicious dishes to their already extensive menu. Make sure to pop by some time whenever you’re in town with room to spare in your belly!
Be careful though because their opening hours change often, especially around the holidays, and there is nothing more frustrating than to find yourself standing in front of closed doors. So, before paying a visit, remind yourself to check their Facebook page first.
Tiensestraat 20. Open: Wednesday-Thursday from 12:00 – 16:00; Friday – Saturday from 12:00 – 15:00 and 18:00 – 21:00.
Another option that is more or less in the centre of Leuven is the Greenway on the other side of the Old Market, in the Parijsstraat to be specific. Here they cater to both vegetarians and vegans, while their more limited options are a great starting point for anyone who wants to give it a go.
When it comes to vegan options, we can highly recommend the kebab wrap with seitan (not to be confused with Satan) with some of their homemade veganaise (the fluffiest and creamiest vegan mayonnaise we ever tasted). While the vegetarian foodies might be in for a voluptuous salad with honey and goat cheese? Careful with their curry though if you’re not a fan of anise. For dessert or in between meals (because why the hell not), you can find some plant based pastry in the fridge: a piece of ‘Red Velvet’ pie or a good ol’ chocolate brownie perhaps?
Even though Greenway has more of a cafeteria feel than the other places, don't be fooled because the interior is very cosy nonetheless. Thanks to the green-minded decor, repurposed wooden crates and fun details like chalkboards with drawings on them, the place feels warm. Establishments of the same chain can also be found in Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels. It's a nice touch that they have a different interior in every city.
Parijsstraat 12. Open: Monday – Saturday from 11:00 – 21:00.
For a bit more formal setting at lunch or dinner, you have to be at the Loving Hut restaurant in the Tiensestraat. It has the same patrons as the Veganerie in the centre and the Loving Hut is actually part of a 100% vegan restaurant chain founded by the Vietnamese Ching Hai. Just imagine: plant based wok dishes, as well as their famous hamburgers and a plate of tapas for starters.
Annnnnd this might get the vegans among you extra pumped up, because here you will find some of those desserts you secretly miss like an icecream cone or a delicious tiramisu. At the counter, chocolate chip cookies are available as well. Perfect for those moments in between when we're suddenly craving a snack in between, before, after or even during lunch or dinner.
The Loving Hut is quite narrow though and smaller than the other restaurants. But it makes for a super snug dining place, perfect for an enjoyable dinner with some friends or maybe a romantic one. This does mean that there aren't a lot of seats available, certainly around the peak hour of 7 pm. So, making reservations is always a good idea. The 10% student discount counts here as well by the way!
Tiensestraat 65. Open: Monday-Saturday, from 11:30 – 14:00 and from 17:00 – 21:00.
Diagonally opposite of the Loving Hut, you can find the small shop SHAVT. This is the first ever completely vegan shop in Leuven, and well appreciated by the community in Belgium and beyond! Even though it’s very modest, you can find an essential selection of plant-based alternatives, snacks, supplements and even hygiene products. Kobe, the owner, is especially known for making creamy ‘cheeses’ from cashew nuts, ideal to put on toasts or as a dip. Sometimes he sells premade vegan ‘beef’ stew to pair with fries at home yourself and you can pre-order chocolate figures for Sinterklaas and Easter.
Be sure to like SHAVT's facebook page for these kind of updates. If you don’t know where to begin or have any doubts or questions, don’t be too shy to direct yourself towards the counter or the Facebook chat, where Kobe himself is more than happy to help you out.
However, don’t hesitate if you want to pay a visit! Because the shop will close around the end of February or mid March, so Kobe can fully focus on the SHAVT web shop. In the meantime he is working hard on a range of new vegan cheeses that will be released around that same period, so stay tuned!
Charles Deberiotstraat 2. Open: Tuesday – Saturday from 11:00 – 18:30.
This year another plant-based hotspot popped up in the upcoming neighbourhood of the Vaart in Leuven, and it’s called Noordoever. The Vaartkom used to be an industrial site, but in recent years the buildings are finally being repurposed. Noordoever is located on the ground floor of OPEK (short for 'Openbaar Entrepot voor de Kunsten'), the former customs building. The interior is spacious, but snug and picturesque at the same time with the rustic wooden tables. And how cute are those little cacti sculptures? Agreed, it is quite the walk from the centre or station, but well worth it!
In this open and trendy decor, Noordoever offers a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan food in the form of a buffet. With a passion for everything healthy and biological, their ingredients are also locally produced. A special feature is that the food is weighed per gram after you’ve scooped it onto your plate, which is great for small eaters. But you have to be fast if you don’t want it to get cold before you reach your table!
Apart from all that plant-based deliciousness there is a corner where you can shop for sustainable gadgets, furniture, books, healthy ingredients, biological wines and coffee. The owners really want Noordoever to become a place where health and pleasure go hand in hand. They even offer lessons in mindful-eating, personal development and business coaching.
Vaartkom 17. Open: Monday - Saturday from 10:00 – 23:00.