This was the first convention I wrote about regarding meatless food options, and I’ve used that original post as the basis for this page. For my first Gen Con, as well as my first trip to Indianapolis, I compiled a short list of vegan options beforehand. My initial quick search wasn’t promising, but a little more digging gave me a handful of places either close to the convention center or a relatively short walk or bus ride away. I arrived in Indianapolis assured that I wouldn’t have to eat the same thing over and over. As always, I’ll start with the locations closest to the convention center and work out from there.
The Convention Center
This wasn’t on my list. I had no expectation that I would find suitable food in a convention center. On my first day, however, I took a look and discovered that the sandwich vendors offered the Vegan of Fury (which was also their only vegetarian sandwich option). I ate three or four of the things over the course of the convention. Eight dollars got me a decent-sized sandwich (cold eggplant, peppers, purple onion, and probably a couple of other ingredients I’ve forgotten), a mound of potato chips, and a pickle spear. Here’s what I posted on social media at the time: “It may not be revelatory in its flavor, but the price is comparable to other nearby options, and I hope they keep offering food like it. It was sold out at the first stand I visited yesterday, so it seems to be doing all right.” It was convenient and followed the rules for food in the convention halls (no outside food allowed), and I thought it was a good idea to support them providing options for folks like me.
In 2014, I didn’t end up buying any sandwiches, finding plenty of other options. But a friend mentioned they were out of them when he stopped by, so it apparently remains a convenient and popular choice.
I ran across Duo’s Kitchen while searching for options. It’s three miles away, but it also operates a food truck, and the restaurant had posted that it would be one of the many catering to the Gen Con crowd on Thursday and Friday. I grabbed some food there both days. It had a great quinoa salad, with almonds and fruit, and the bisque was nice, as well. I also tried the vegan magic cookie bars, similar to a Mounds bar. They’re small but satisfying. The Facebook page seems to be the best way to track the truck and its changing menu (there should be one or two vegan options a day).
[Update 2016] Spice Nation has closed, but the Dhaba Indy truck is still operating, with its mix of meat-free and meat-full dishes. I noticed on Twitter that they don’t always clearly mark the vegan options on the dry erase board now, so you may need to ask if something is vegetarian or vegan.
One of the newer food trucks in Indianapolis, I ran across it in 2014 while looking into Spice Nation’s current status. The truck operates as an extension of Spice Nation, offering a few of that vegetarian restaurant’s options alongside the rest of the fare. Certainly it is much more convenient than making a journey to Spice Nation itself. (Also, the restaurant is under new ownership, and the mixed reviews I read dissuaded me from making the trip.) The prices were reasonable, and the menu helpfully notes which items are vegan. I first had the samosa chaat, the samosas buried under the garbanzo beans. While the food truck can’t compare with the variety of a restaurant, street food has charms of its own. Here it is on Twitter.
I’m not a coffee drinker and hadn’t heard about this place before. But here’s what “Bj of Bee Coffee” posted on last year’s vegan food options thread on Gen Con’s website: “Just want to throw this out there, Bee Coffee Roasters will have some food available from 3 Carrots for lunch everyday. We also carry energy bars from UGo which are vegan and gluten free. We also will have vegan oatmeal cookies. If I think of anything else I’ll let you know.” It’s in the Pan Am Plaza building at S. Capitol Avenue, Suite 110, across from the convention center. Its hours are 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. For more on Three Carrots, see the entry below. This may be a very convenient vegan lunch option.
This was what I found on my initial search. I was unfamiliar with this chain, and I’m not generally fond of franchises. But it looked like a decent option, and it still qualified as a new culinary experience. There are three noodle dishes on the menu that are vegan as is, as well as a soup, and there are numerous vegetarian options. It’s at 121 W. Maryland Street, Indianapolis IN 46225, just a couple of blocks from the convention center, and it’s open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The lines tend to be long, but they keep it moving, and they bring the food out quickly. I’m sure most of the ingredients are prepared well ahead of time and are just waiting to be tossed together, but the food was decent nonetheless. I’ve had the Japanese Pan Noodles and the Indonesian Peanut Sauté. I prefer the latter, simply because it was a slightly novel flavor combination (it’s probably the first Indonesian food I’ve eaten, even in approximation).
[Update 2016] I ate here almost every meal last year. It was well worth the walk over. The stand did phenomenal business, and the owners and employees are fabulous, friendly people. It appears they’ve expanded into the booth next to theirs, so that they’ve doubled their size. I’m not sure what that will do to wait times, especially if they’re as (justifiably) slammed as they were last year. They are open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday this year.
Three Carrots opened up after my first trip, and I am so glad it did. This vegan stand is located inside the historic City Market at 222 East Market Street. There is seating upstairs, overlooking the bustling stalls. I had breakfast there every day but Sunday (when the market is closed) and stopped there once for lunch too. It’s about a ten to fifteen minute walk from the convention center, a little east of Monument Circle. I had something different each time, and I enjoyed it all. They specialize in seitan, particularly their seitan bacon. This bacon would fool no one, not even someone who’d only read about the real thing. It isn’t crispy, for one thing. But it is good, especially as a topping on the avocado toast or whatever other delightful food you’re eating. I tried it as a straight side once, and it wasn’t nearly as impressive by itself–it’s not really a finger food. It should be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m Saturday (these are special Gen Con hours). Note: it’s a small operation, and a lot of the food is prepared to order, so expect a short wait.