Vibrant Asheville is the little city in North Carolina that has made a big name for itself as the progressive and artistic center of the South. The community prides itself on its diversity and peaceful, fun-loving spirit. Street performers, artists, and animal-rights activists are staples of the bustling downtown scene. For foodies seeking out a crave-worthy meal, this forward-thinking cultural center offers up some of the most creative vegan fare in the US. Indeed, this little town is going big with its vision for next-level, plant-based cuisine. Read on for the very best places to dine in this haven for hippies.
If you only have time to visit one restaurant in Asheville, make it Plant. PETA ranks Plant as one of the top vegan restaurants for fine-dining in the United States, and for very good reason. Located in a small, minimalistic brick building, Plant is home to Chef Jason Sellers, the creative genius behind innovative dishes including Seitan Chile Con Queso, served alongside a bold and saucy stuffed tamale and topped with fresh jalapeños. Raw foodies can dive into an absolutely decadent Lasagna Cruda, featuring heirloom tomatoes and arugula-pecan pesto. Don’t miss the cheese plate, which is listed as an appetizer, but makes an inventive dessert course, too. With its top-notch menu, this place is nearly always packed, so reservations are highly recommended.
Mojo Kitchen and Lounge
Situated downtown, vegan-friendly Mojo’s is the place to be on Sunday mornings. This hole-in-the-wall dive bar has a slammin’ Sunday morning scene complete with a live bluegrass band for the kind of foot-stompin’ brunch you’ll only find in Asheville. Popular vegan items on the Sunday morning menu include the Breakfast Plate of scrambled tofu, roasted potatoes, and the best smoky tempeh bacon you’ll ever eat. Don’t miss the veganized Huevos Rancheros, featuring a tostado layered with scrambled tofu, fresh avocado, and smothered in spicy black bean ranchero sauce.
Bean Vegan Cuisine
This is Southern style comfort food, y’all! A fast-casual vegan hotspot, Bean serves up classic Southern favorites from breakfast until suppertime. Irresistible indulgences include biscuits and gravy, fried tofu and waffles, seared pickles, and two types of BBQ sandwiches. If you’re in search of more familiar territory, never fear: they’ve got you covered with no fewer than six varieties of cruelty-free burgers. Don’t miss the Jalapeño Cheddar Burger, served with a generous helping of gooey, melty, cheddar cheese and piled high with crispy fried jalapeños.
Sunny Point Cafe
With its year-round covered outdoor dining scenario, Sunny Point Cafe is a favorite among locals in search of a refined al fresco experience. Mouthwatering vegan options include the popular Hoppin’ John Veggie Burger with a housemade patty of black-eyed peas, oats, pumpkin seeds, nuts, kale, and sweet potatoes. Or spice it up with the Black Bean and Sweet Potato Empanadas, served with vegan avocado creme. The café is perpetually packed but absolutely worth the wait. Reservations are available for dinner only.
This self-proclaimed “Best little chaat house this side of the Mississippi” is a modern-casual dining destination with a hipster feel, where you’ll find traditional Indian street food with flair. The menu consists of iconic crowd favorites such as Green Mango Chaat made with green apple, peanuts, raisins, green chutney, and topped with fried curry leaves. A full vegan menu is available upon request, but if you’re craving even more options, you can easily upgrade many dishes on the full menu to plant-based. You’ll definitely want to try the Matchstick Okra Fries, seasoned with a house blend of spices and lime juice, then fried to crispy perfection.
Rosetta’s Kitchen and Buchi Bar
This hippy-dippy hidden gem with a 70s vibe, tucked away on an unassuming side street, is charmingly filled with hanging plants, live music, and a gentle breeze flowing through the open door. Hungry vegans in search of satisfying and moderately priced soul food can’t go wrong here. Feeling creative and want to go à la carte? This is one restaurant where you won’t mind making a meal out of sides. Pinto beans, sautéed kale, and iron skillet cornbread? Yes, please! Don’t forget to try The Vegan Queso Basket; with a healthy dose of nutritional yeast, there is an old-school feel to the queso dip that will make you want to lick the bowl clean.
Holly V. Gray is a freelance writer and recipe developer currently based in Northern Virginia.