Vegan Dining Guide: Asheville, NC

Asheville is a small Vegan mecca in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. This West North Carolina cultural center boosts interesting and lively events, shops, restaurants, and of course, people, from all aspects and walks of life. In the short period that I’ve lived here, I’ve made more vegan and vegetarian friends than in a year in California, and in three years in Florida. If you are a vegan looking for delicious eats in this area, look no further! Here’s your Vegan Dining Guide **for Asheville, NC**!

Vegan, Vegetarian, Veg-friendly

There are tons of vegetarian or vegan restaurants in this area, and most of local eateries can accommodate a veg lifestyle, as well as gluten free. These are only the places I’ve been to in the last month, and there are quite a few more places I still have to visit! Here’s the list of top 5 Asheville Vegan Restaurants, two coffee shops, an all vegan bar and a store:

Restaurants:
  1. Plant
  2. Laughing Seed
  3. Nectar
  4. Rossetta’s kitchen and Buchi Bar
  5. Bean Vegan Cuisine 
Dessert and Coffee:
  1. French Broad Chocolate Lounge
  2. Vortex
Vegan Bar:
  1. TBOB
Bonus:
  1. Green 4 Life store
     

1. PLANT

No vegan dining guide for WNC would be complete without Plant. Plant appears often as a front-runner in the VegNews Magazine Veggie Awards as a fancy fine dinning Vegan restaurant, alongside Millennium in San Francisco/Oakland. It’s on a smaller side, and honestly, not that fabulously looking on the inside - I’ve definitely been to ‘fancier’ veg restaurants. It is a great place for a date, to bring a non-veg friend or family member, or even hold a meeting. All in all, it’s a real sit-down, fancy restaurant, and not a ‘hole-in’the-wall’ eatery that we vegans are used to (and love, nevertheless).

The food is top notch, you can tell the cooks are beyond professional, and they rotate favorites and specials on their menu. Everyone at our table was very satisfied with their dishes. We all shared a bok choy appetizer that was surprisingly big and satisfying for a table of 4 - which never, ever happens in fancy restaurants, if you ask me. It was covered with delicious peanut sauce, I would love to get my hands on that recipe!

Acyuta had an Indian inspired dish, a salty pancake filled with veggies, covered in delicious variety of sauces. It wasn’t as spicy as traditional Indian food, which means I was able to enjoy it! Even if you are not a fan of Indian, or spicy in general, you could give this preparation a try and probably come out satisfied. The RAW LASAGNA was fantastic! I know how to make raw cashew cheese and raw pesto, but the live herbed almond cheese and kale & pecan pesto were spectacular and so much better than my homemade versions. With arugula greens on top, it was a delicious and very satisfying meal. We shared a PINE NUT CREME BRULEE for dessert. I haven’t had Creme Brulee in quite a while, and although it was tasty, it wasn’t fully satisfactory. It seemed more like a pudding than a Creme Brulee, and it was very small for 9$, even for a fancy restaurant like Plant. Our friends had the cannoli, which looked fantastic and I’m definitely getting that next time!

Raw Lasagna from Plant[/caption]

SEITAN CHILE CON QUESO from Plant[/caption]

2. LAUGHING SEED

Laughing Seed is located in the heart of downtown Asheville, on an easily walkable street with colorful shops and businesses perfect for window-shopping and site-seeing as you walk off your delicious meal. And speaking of meals, they sure are big, healthy yet delicious. Laughing Seed in one statement: I really like this place.

The menu is divided into lunch and dinner, with the two sharing some dishes in common, and each day features a lunch and dinner special. Their drinks menu is extensive, with delicious elixirs, kombuchas, funky lemonades (think raspberry-jalapeno flavor), juices and lattes. 

The menu is comprised of starters, salads, entrees, raw dishes (two on the lunch and dinner menu so far, both fabulous), sandwiches and desserts. 

It is important to note this is a vegetarian restaurant, meaning some dishes, all marked with (v) are fully vegan, and some vegetarian, with most vegetarian dishes containing cheese which can be easily substituted. The menu is also filled with gluten free options, making it a good spot for anyone with food sensitivities and allergies. 

This is a sit-down restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere. There is a very pretty colorful wall painted with what I can describe as a scene from a rainforest, that adds to the fun ambiance. 

Raw stuffed Zucchini noodles from Laughing Seed[/caption]

Raw Dragon Bowl from Laughing Seed[/caption]

3. Nectar

Nectar is located under it’s conjoined business Veda studios, where I teach yoga, hence a location I frequent at whether I like it or not. And I do.

The location is still relatively central to Asheville, and the restaurant has a very simple and relaxed feel to it. This is a great visit for breakfast, lunch and early dinner, as they close at 7pm. 

My favorite thing on the menu are raw juices, as this is a high-raw restaurant. They also carry smoothies, shots, a variety of almond milks and other delicious drinks. If you stop for breakfast, you can enjoy an assortment of raw granolas, chia puddings and other healthy treats. They carry a modest, but definitely not extensive, assortment of snacks, entrees, pizzas (all raw!), superfood bowls, salads, sandwiches and soups. If raw and high raw food isn’t your thing, you will definitely have something to choose from in their southern comfort section! Enjoy a sweet treat, either a raw dish from the fridge, or a baked goodie, a lot of which are gluten free as well.

Raw Lemon Tart from Nectar[/caption]

Raw Pesto Pizza from Nectar[/caption]

4. ROSETTA’S KITCHEN AND BUCHI BAR

Asheville isn’t only famous for it’s beer breweries, but for brewing local kombucha as well, and this is the right spot to savor it. As a dual business on two floors, one is called the Buchi bar, dedicated to all sorts of kombucha on tap, and the other dedicated to vegan eats, although you can enjoy both on either floor. 

From the Buchi bar, I recommend asking for the latest special/newest flavor, it’s usually something unique and funky. My favorite kombucha on tap is probably Water, made with watermelon and other light and sweet flavors. 

The menu has a souther, comfort food kind of a feel, with an extensive assortment of snacks, entrees and desserts. If you are in a mood for fries, vegan cheese and tortilla chips, mash potatoes and gravy, or a rich reuben, this is the spot. They also carry asian inspired dishes, such as curries or pad thai - which, in my sensitive palate’s opinion, are definitely spicy!

I recommend the Buddha bowl, filled with greens, long grain rice, organic smokey tofu, and delicious, must-try sea veggie salad (which you can get as a side to any dish). 

The vibe is relaxed, perfect for bigger groups and catch-up with friends. The Buchi bar is open till very late, about 1 or 2am, so it’s a popular spot on weekend nights. 

Buddha Bowl from Rosetta’s[/caption]

Curry from Rosetta’s[/caption]

5. BEAN VEGAN CUISINE 

Asheville might be a special island of it’s own in Western North Carolina (WNC), but you are technically still in the south, and enjoying vegan southern dishes is a must! And this is the place. With two locations, in Charlotte, NC and Asheville, Bean is a popular, cozy restaurant with rich, flavorful dishes on it’s menu. Located in South Asheville, this is one of the few vegan restaurants in that part of the town. 

With breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, Bean surely won’t disappoint any palate, including a non-veg one. Their tag line is: “It’s good ya’ll!“, and that basically sums it up. From fried pickles (that I haven’t tried yet), to quesadillas, to tons of veg burgers, sandwiches and bowls, this is comfort food to the max. Which also means that you probably won’t get the lightest of meals here, in my opinion. Even their salads are pretty hearty, such as the crabby or bean salad, though they are delicious. 

Desserts are pretty hearty, though a tad small in my taste - as much as I enjoy lighter and raw meals, I am a sucker for dessert and expect it to be to my satisfaction!

Kitty Kat Cake ($5.00), made with Layers of Wafers, Caramel, and Chocolate with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse, is their most popular dessert (I think there is no explanation necessary), and it is divine!

Bean salad from Bean[/caption]

Mash and gravy, biscuit and ‘meatloaf’ from Bean[/caption]

Coffee and Dessert

1. FRENCH BROAD CHOCOLATE LOUNGE

This place is so packed every time I come over, any time of the day, any day of the week, I really shouldn’t promote it any more. Standing in a super long line for a long time is, however, all worth it once you get inside and feast your eyes on all the goods!

This is not a vegan- or vegetarian-only business, but they have delicious options for vegans. All the coffee and other drinks can be made with soy, almond or coconut milk. I recommend cold chocolate sip, or any chocolate drink really - it is a Chocolate Lounge, after all.

One of my favorite drinks is a coffee float (comes as a soda float as well), which means coffee with a scoop of ice cream, which is just the best invention ever. Us vegans have only two ice-cream flavors to choose from, Buddha (rich chocolate) and Toasted coconut, which is simply divine. From the bakery, a vegan can choose from a Chocolate Snickerdoodle cookie, or a majestic chocolate olive oil (yes!) cake, which is a must try. Some of the small specialty chocolate praline and bonbons are vegan as well.  

If chocolate is not your thing, there are plenty of coffee and latte drinks, local and home-made sodas, and even kombucha to choose from (the same local Buchi brand you can get at the Buchi bar). The atmosphere is very homey and almost festive (if celebrating chocolate is as much of a festival for you as it is for me), a perfect place for a weekend afternoon chocolate and dessert stop. They have outdoor seating as well, and Acyuta, Zen and I often walk there from our apartment to have a delicious sip and just people watch a bit.

2. VORTEX DONUTS

I have only been here once so far, and I have to really try hard not to visit more often. As the name suggests, this is a donut shop, with vegan donuts! Very very dangerous.

Donuts are as pretty and funky as they are tasty. They are so creative with their flavors, I jut love it! Vortex also carries this very special pastry called Apple Fritters, filled with fruits, and covered with a creamy frosty sweet thing at the top; I can’t even think about it. 

Drink menu boosts coffee, local sodas and kombucha. The place is relatively small, centrally located, perfect to grab-and-go, or sit down and catch up with loved ones. I see people bringing their computers and catching up on work as well, and it’s definitely a more delicious option than Starbucks. 

Donuts and Apple Fritter from Vortex[/caption]

Vegan bar: TBOB (THE BLOCK OFF BILTMORE)

I don’t think I have ever been into an all-vegan bar before! I know Portland has some, but I’ve unfortunately missed them during my visit. 

TBOB opened up in late 2015, just around the time I moved to Asheville, and it soon became a go-to spot for our local Asheville Vegan Society meet-up group. I celebrated every major event of the 2015 holiday season at TBOBs - Christmas, Holiday Drinks, I even stopped by on New Year’s Eve for an hour. 

The Bar offers an array of drinks, of course some alcoholic, but plenty of non-alcoholic as well. Sweet holiday drinks, such as a vegnog (vegan eggnog), chocolate-mint, and similar are simply delicious! The bar carries local sodas of various flavors, vegan bar snacks, and even mini-meals like soup and salad. TBOB hosts potlucks often - our Christmas party was simply to die for!

Enjoying a vegan chocolate mint drink on New Year’s Eve[/caption]

House made sodas[/caption]

Bonus:

GREEN 4 LIFE

A small store located right next to Whole Foods Market (another vegan friendly store that is always a good option when you are on the go or in an unfamiliar place). This shop is all vegan, they do not sell food (very important - if you are walking in hungry, you will be disappointed), but they do carry an array of household items, clothing, and other everyday life necessities.

Made with sustainable, recycled, and other green and eco-friendly materials, this store is a must-visit if you are looking to spread your eco-mindful lifestyle to other areas of life, besides your plate. From handmade dryer sheets to hemp belts, kid’s toys to cleaning supplies, this is a place to shop local, earth-friendly things you simply can’t find anywhere else. 

CONCLUSION:

Asheville is one of the best spots to visit in the South, it is incredibly vegan friendly, eco-conscious, full of culture, events and encrusted with absolutely amazing Blue Ridge mountains. Whether you are traveling alone, visiting family and friends that aren’t vegan, or even contemplating moving here, I warmly recommend Asheville as a must-see location! 

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