BEYOND PIZZA AND GOATS' CHEESE SALAD VEGETARIAN FOOD IN ARIEGE PYRENEES
There was a time, not so very long ago, when vegetarians and non meat-eaters would have a very lean time in the Pyrenees. The bad news is that even now, not every restaurant understands the concept of eating without meat or fish. The good news is that things are fast improving and many - especially those that have opened more recently - now do, so it's at last possible to eat out without resorting to salads and pizzas (though it must be said that there are some fab pizzas to be had in the Ariège too!).
VEGETARIAN RESTAURANTS IN THE ARIEGE
Okay, so the title of this paragraph may be just a tiny bit of a con! This is, after all, rural France: vegetarian restaurants are as rare as hens' teeth. But over the last few years it's become very much easier to eat out as a vegetarian here in the Ariège.
The restaurants in this list regularly offer either a vegetarian menu, at least one vegetarian dish, or are happy to create one on the spot. There are a number of others that will 'cater for' vegetarians with advance notice, but I haven't included those here as (for me at least) having to book several centuries in advance takes the pleasure out of eating out on holiday. And if you're looking for meat-free rather than vegetarian food, there are of course yet more where you can just eat fish, but as this page is about where to eat vegetarian food in the Ariège, they're not included here either.
Le Kiwi, Le Mas d'Azil. Vegetarian option for every course, with a world food bias.
Come Chez Mimi, Foix. Cooperatively run juice bar/salon de thé with veggie goodies.
This list is correct at the time of its latest revision (spring 2017), but things change ... and your feedback is essential to keep things current. If you've found somewhere not on this list, or have been let down by a restaurant that's included here, please do let us know - as far as we know, at the moment this page is the only real resource for vegetarian travellers in the Ariège so we'd really like to keep it up to date.
Oh, and don't forget that you can pre-order a vegetarian dinner for your arrival night - it's our speciality (all the photos on this page are in fact of our own food!).
OTHER FOOD OPTIONS FOR VEGETARIANS
The Ariège is a bit of a French anomaly: although it's known far and wide for its duck and other rich, meaty food, it has a surprisingly high number of vegetarian and vegan residents - mostly 'blow-ins' or néo-ruraux (like us)! One of the busiest, and most successful, food shops in St Girons is the large organic/wholefood coop, the BioCoop (see below), and one of the busiest and most interesting fêtes each year is the organic festival at Lorp Sentaraille, a couple of kilometres away. In other words, people who choose not to cook with or eat meat or fish have far more choice here than you might expect, and certainly more than in more mainstream parts of rural France.
An Ariège food market is much more than a place to fill up your shopping basket with vegetables (although you'll do that exceptionally well, with a wealth of local, organic and biodynamic produce to choose from). But you'll also find any number of small stalls selling home made veggie food: anything from tarts and quiches to pasta to tagines to sushi to middle Eastern pâtés to veg paella to Moroccan pastries and vegan cakes, all ready for you to bring home and eat. And if you want to eat on the spot, there's plenty of veggie street food on offer too. We think that the markets of St Girons (Saturday), Montbrun Bocage (Sunday) and Le Mas d'Azil (Wednesday) are the top three for this kind of food, especially in summer.
Wholefood and organic shops
Bio's Fayre (BioCoop), 15 avenue d'Aulot, St Girons. Organic wholefoods (loose and packaged), lots of veggie foods including locally made tofu and prepared foods, local organic bread, cheeses etc, eco-friendly household products and a wide variety of organic vegetables and fruit. A very busy shop; car park.
BioCoop Mirabelle, 20 rue St Vincent, Foix. Smaller version of the St Girons biocoop.
BioCoop Pamiers, 5 rue André Citroën, Pamiers. Ditto.
BioCoop Tarascon, 23 ave Victor Pilhes, Tarascon sur Ariège. Ditto again!
Bio Natura, route de Foix, Pamiers. Large independent organic shop with a good range of food, especially grains, flour and pasta. Particularly useful shop for gluten-free foods.
La Belle Verte, 1 cours du Dr Chabaud, Mirepoix. Small but reasonably well stocked organic shop.
Bio d'Olmes, 63 bis ave Léon Blum, Lavelanet. Similar to Bio Natura in Pamiers.
As well as those listed here there are various smaller shops around the department; you'll also find stalls selling wholefood and vegetarian food at most of the weekly markets.
AND FINALLY ... A FEW QUICK TIPS
ONE: there are still a few places that will proudly present you with their vegetarian menu ... which is based on fish! The concept of being vegetarian remains widely misunderstood here in France and quite often it's seen as simply not eating red meat. Traditional French people find it hard to accept that protein can be found in anything but meat or fish and many still believe that a meal isn't correct unless it contains some form of flesh. For the same reason, lardons can sometimes make a sneaky appearance on a goats' cheese salad even if you've stressed that you're vegetarian, because "they don't count"!
TWO: if you find yourself eating - or having to eat - in a mainstream restaurant with no obvious vegetarian courses or in the only café in the village, it can be easier to stick with the entrée menu and either order two, or a large version of one, instead of a plat. Having a first course without meat or fish is somehow deemed okay, whereas a flesh-free main course is a bit 'weird'!
THREE: crêperies are often a good bet as are Vietnamese or oriental restaurants. Most towns have at least one of each of these. And if you find yourself in Pamiers, the Crescendo restaurant next to the Intermarché hypermarket (to the south of the town centre) does excellent salads and it's easy to combine six or seven of these (you help yourself and pay for the size of your plate) to make a good and satisfying lunch or dinner. You can also order just a plate of vegetables, which you can refill as often as you like and which usually contain some interesting vegetable bakes and ragus. Crescendo is a chain, but everything is made on the premises from fresh ingredients.
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