Living the Vegan Lifestyle in Las Vegas

Living the Vegan Lifestyle in Las Vegas
By Rob Kachelriess


The reasons for going vegan typically narrow down to ethical, environmental or health concerns. Usually it’s a combination of all three. For Diana Edelman, her desire to give up meat and animal products emerged while working with an elephant rescue operation in Thailand. “I was exposed to the horrible realities of animals in captivity and animals being abused,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘Ok, I’m done eating meat.'”


Along the way, the health benefits became a welcome side effect. “At this point, I feel so much better eating vegan,” she says. “It’s been almost seven years now.” Her personal evolution developed into a passion to make her new lifestyle more accessible. Edelman founded Vegans, Baby in 2015 as an online resource for people seeking plant-based food in Las Vegas. She built a loyal readership by visiting restaurants and writing about their vegan offerings while keeping political messages at arm’s length. “There are no photos of animals in distress,” she says of her website. “It’s just about making veganism fun and approachable.”  


Vegans Baby ballooned from there. Edelman now publishes a guide book, leads walking food tours (including a pizza tour) and spreads her message through public speaking. For the past two years, she’s helped turn January into “Veganuary” in Las Vegas, coordinating month-long vegan menus at top Las Vegas dining spots. “This year, we almost doubled the number of participating restaurants,” she says. “And we brought in almost $47,000 in sales to them.”


Veganuary is just one example of how Edelman works with restaurants to enhance vegan offerings. “The rule to be on my website is you have to have at least three vegan options,” she says. “Not salads, not appetizers. You have to have three specific options that are viable for people to eat.” She credits Wynn Resorts for being a longtime leader in promoting the movement in the tourist corridor. Major restaurants at both Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Encore are required to have legitimate vegan options on the menu, including S.W. Steakhouse. Edelman says other Strip establishments are following suit with vegan cuisine that’s both inventive and delicious. “Beauty & Essex does a phenomenal job,” she cites as one of her favorite examples. “I love their food. It’s very creative. Border Grill has done a lot. Catch has great vegan options. Best Friend has vegan food.”


To make ingredients more available, Edelman teamed up with the founder of Forte Tapas, Nina Manchev, to launch Pure World, the first all-vegan food distribution company in Las Vegas. The venture quickly found success, signing up restaurants on and off the Strip, by supplying vegan versions of everything from meat and cheese to mayonnaise and cookie dough. Each item requires Edelman’s personal stamp of approval.  “I’ve tried all of it,” she says. “I’ve tried every single thing we sell.”


One of the restaurants Pure World supplies is VegeNation, a concept with locations in Downtown and Henderson. Their specialties are familiar favorites—burgers, quesadillas and even ice cream sundaes—made from 100% plant-based recipes. “We like to think of it as global street food,” says Creative Director and Partner Kelly Bennett. “Really good comfort food from all around the world, whether it’s Mexican, Indian, Thai or Italian, but done in our own funky, creative way.”    


Key ingredients include almond milk ice cream, vegetable patties for burgers and even a black bean brownie. Pop-up tasting menus allow room for experimentation. A recent “seafood” dinner, for example, featured crab cakes made with hearts of palm. “We’re open to try anything that captures the flavor profile and texture,” says Bennett. The chef behind the menu, Donald Lemperle, became a vegan after he was diagnosed with cancer and sought to treat his condition through his own cuisine. “And now his cancer is in remission,” says Bennett of her business partner. “He’s living his best life and on a personal mission. He’s one of the founding fathers of the vegan scene in Las Vegas.”  


When VegeNation first opened with support from the Downtown Project back in 2015, vegan dining options were hard to find in Las Vegas. But the success of the restaurant proved demand was there. Since then, the movement has exploded through restaurants, food trucks, food carts and pop-up dinners. Businesses tend to support each other through a shared sense of community. It’s almost ironic that Las Vegas, which has famously featured lions, dolphins and other captive animals as part of its Strip entertainment, is now being recognized nationally for its emerging vegan scene. It’s a complicated relationship, but one that appears to be moving in the right direction through growing awareness—something VegeNation promotes through workshops and special events.


“We have the power of choice,” says Bennett. “Consumers can support businesses that align with their ethics, morals and values. As consumers, you have the power to make those changes and shifts.” Edelman adds, “If you compare us to L.A. or New York, we’re not there, but we’re getting there.” Both agree that vegan eating doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing switch for those curious about trying it out. Bennett recommends taking it “one meal at a time.” Edelman says the quickest way to dive in is by opening up your refrigerator at home and swapping out butter and milk for vegan versions. From there, try out new ingredients in place of common foods.

“Jackfruit is a great substitute for meat,” she says. “Beyond Meat makes the best brats I’ve ever had.” How about just a snack? “Hippeas,” says Edelman, noting the crunchy treats are made from chickpeas. “They’re like vegan white cheddar Cheetos. They’re so good.”


5 Vegan Restaurants to Try in Las Vegas



Both locations (Downtown and Henderson) specialize in plant-based versions of global comfort food. That includes everything from a mac n’ cheese burger to a hot fudge sundae.  



This Summerlin-area restaurant puts a vegan twist on Mexican street food, including tacos, burritos and a wicked Frito Pie. Save room for the Fried Oreos with churro ice cream.



The first all-vegan Egyptian restaurant in Las Vegas is now open. Fresh-baked pita bread is served alongside taamia (Egyptian falafel) and cauliflower shawarma. Quick-serve platters are a great way to sample multiple recipes at the same time.


Blinders Burgers & Brunch

There’s no meat in sight at this Centennial Hills burger joint. Instead, sink your teeth into the Impossible Burger 2.0 (a veggie patty made with a molecule called heme), which tastes incredibly close to the real thing. Order a side of fries and wash it all down with a vegan shake.



Don’t forget dessert. Cakes, pies, cookies and brownies are free of both dairy and eggs at this Henderson bakery.