Vegan Dining Options in Asheville, NC
Dining out is often a challenge for vegans unless you’re in a major city so my expectations for Asheville – a city of about 100,000 in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains – were relatively low although many people refer to Asheville as “the Portland (Oregon) of the South” which generally means vegan-friendly.
I thought maybe there would be a half-dozen good options but it turns out there are dozens of dining options for vegans in Asheville. What sets this western North Carolina city apart from other small cities is not the number of vegan restaurants (because there are only a few of these) but how many restaurants offer vegan options or are willing to make vegan options off menu, especially if you hand your dinner selection over to a chef with only a mandate to make the dish plant-based.
Because there are so many choices for plant-based eaters, six posts covering this subject will be posted, so read on and check back over the next week to get the insider’s guide to vegan dining in Asheville.
- Address: 165 Merrimon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801
- Phone Number: 828-258-7500
- Website: www.plantisfood.com
- Prices: Entrees $7-$20
- Hours: Monday – Thursday and Sunday: 5 pm – 9 pm; Friday and Saturday: 5 pm – 10 pm
- Reservations: Highly recommended, especially on weekends; by phone only
- Standouts: The menu changes frequently with the seasons but the Smoked Portobello (pictured below), popular desserts, especially the Blackout Pie (pictured below), the Blondie, and Carrot Cake are almost always on the menu. Save room for dessert!
Plant is the premier vegan restaurant in Asheville. With a menu that changes often, the emphasis is on fresh and organic (90% of what is served is organic) plant-based food. Don’t be fooled by the outside of this restaurant which looks like an abandoned gas station minus the pumps. Inside, is a warm, casual dining room with 13 tables that accommodate 47 diners along with a patio for seasonal dining.
Open since 2011, Plant is a busy, vibrant restaurant where serious vegan foodies come to dine (albeit in shorts and Birkenstocks because you can wear whatever you want) and enjoy creative, delicious food made by a team of seasoned chefs committed to plant-based cooking and baking.
- Address: 233 South Liberty Street, Asheville, NC 28801
- Phone Number: 828-412-5701
- Website: www.elementsrealfood.com
- Prices: Bowls $8-$10, lunch entrees ($10-$12)
- Hours: Monday – Friday 9 am – 4 pm; Saturday 10 am – 3 pm
- Reservations: Not needed
- Stand-Outs: The ALT is delicious. Add fresh spinach for more greens. The chocolate pie (pictured below) is divine.
- Other Information: Elements is a block away from Trader Joe’s and Greenlife (a Whole Foods Market) so do your shopping and then have lunch or a snack at Elements.
Elements is a super casual, light-filled cafe with an open kitchen about a mile outside of the city center. Known simply as Elements by the locals, the restaurant is also called Elements Real Food or Elements Juice Bar and Cafe.
Elements has a fresh juice bar with cold-pressed juices and also offers raw superfood nut milks (mylks), smoothies, breakfast bowls (granola, acai, or smoothie), avocado toast, a farmer’s salad, an ALT panini (an avocado, lettuce, tomato, basil, and shaved onion on a 9-grain or gluten-free bread), and raw desserts that include pies (chocolate almost always), cookies, and more.
- Address: 40 Wall Street, Asheville, NC 28801
- Phone Number: 828-252-3445
- Website: www.laughingseed.com
- Prices: Appetizers $7-$10, Salads $8-$15, Sandwiches $13-$14, Entrees $15-$17
- Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 11:30 am – 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11:30 am – 10 pm, Sunday 11 am – 9 pm, closed Tuesday
- Reservations: Generally seated on a first-come, first-served basis but use the call-ahead seating option (call 15-20 minutes before your arrival and your name will be put on the waiting list). Reservations for groups of 6 or more are accepted by phone.
- Stand-Outs: The Seed Burger on a house made bun with the house fries (note: the burger comes with a choice of hand-cut sweet potato chips, slaw, or the seasonal vegetable).
The Laughing Seed Cafe is a vegetarian cafe whose exterior looks like it was pulled from the Flintstone’s studio back lot with its big adobe looking walls while inside, diners feel the charm and comfort of a casual cafe.
This local cafe has been around for more than 20 years (progressive, yes!) and relies heavily on locally sourced ingredients. Located on Wall Street (one of the most popular side streets in downtown Asheville) in the “Flatiron” district of Asheville, The Laughing Seed Cafe serves lunch, dinner, and brunch in both indoor and outdoor seating (definitely sit outside on a nice day).
The lunch and dinner menus are very similar with a vast offering of appetizers (i.e. hummus plate, spring rolls), small plates (i.e. fried green tomatoes, cauliflower crust pizza, grilled asparagus), salads (8 types), sandwiches (i.e. the veggie burger referred to as the “seed burger” which is a beet, black bean, carrot, onion, and tofu burger with all the fixins’ or the Reuben made with seitan), entrees (i.e. mushroom ramen bowl, bowls, curry, burritos, pasta, and more), raw entrees (i.e. spinach pesto manicotti made with cashew ricotta), and more.
Most dishes can be made vegan so consult with your server. Desserts are primarily vegetarian but ask your server about the vegan options.
BISTRO (on the Biltmore Estate)
- Address: Dairy Road, Asheville, NC (in Antler Hill Village on the Biltmore Estate..follow signs on the Biltmore property)
- Phone Number: 828-225-6230
- Website: www.biltmore.com
- Prices: Appetizers $9-$12, Soups and Salads: $8-$10; Entrees: $16-$21; Pizzas: $15-$20
- Hours: Monday – Friday: 12 pm – 9 pm, Saturday: 11:30 a, – 9 pm, Sunday: 10 am – 9 pm
- Reservations: Highly recommended and can be made on line or by phone. Note: Entrance to the Biltmore Estate requires a ticket purchase (so go on the day of the tour) or an annual pass by one member of your party.
- Stand-Outs: The wood-fired pizza is highly recommended. The crust is not too thick or thin and the toppings are generous.
Many local residents have an annual pass to the Biltmore Estate while most people visiting Asheville take a tour of the estate – the largest privately owned home in the United States, which usually takes about 2-3 hours depending on the time of day and the season although many people find themselves spending the whole day on the estate grounds which include gardens, restaurants, stores, a winery, stables, and more.
If you happen to be planning a visit and need a great vegan option, make lunch or dinner reservations at the Bistro – a vibrant but casual bistro-type restaurant whose tables surround a large open kitchen. With tables and booths set beneath high wood-paneled ceilings, the Bistro is a great place to relax and have a great meal.
Start with the wood-oven flatbread with fava bean hummus or the roasted heirloom carrots (without the yogurt sauce), the avocado toast (without the egg), or ask the server for a vegan salad. Then, ask for a pizza without the cheese but with whatever vegetables the chef has on hand. I’ve frequented this restaurant three times and each time the server has been very accommodating and produced a pizza extraordinaire piled with seasonal vegetables.
SUNNY POINT CAFE
- Address: 626 Haywood Road, West Asheville, NC
- Phone Number: 828-252-0055
- Website: www.sunnypointcafe.com
- Prices: Appetizers: $3-$12, Entrees: $6-$12, Salads: $10-$14, Sandwiches: $11-$14
- Hours: Sunday and Monday: 8 am – 2:30 pm, Tuesday – Saturday: 8 am – (:30 pm
- Reservations: Not accepted; first-come, first-served. On weekends, arrive early and be prepared to wait on a covered patio (coffee is available!) because Sunny Point is super popular.
- Stand-Outs: You can’t go wrong with the Black Bean and Sweet Potato Empanada, Avocado Toast (pictured below), the Oatmeal Banana Hotcakes or the veggie burger. The potatoes are delicious.
- Other Notes: Dogs are welcome in the outside eating area.
Everybody and their sister knows about Sunny Point Cafe but don’t let that deter you from having a meal at this gem of a restaurant in an area of town known as West Asheville. Sunny Point Cafe is not a vegan or vegetarian restaurant but they are very accommodating to plant-based eaters. Friends from Boston who frequent the place every time they come to town, told me about this family-owned independent restaurant with their own garden adjacent to the restaurant. Known for their breakfasts, vegetables, scrumptious desserts, and comfort foods served all day long, Sunny Point Cafe has something for everyone.
The inside of the cafe is small with only a few tables but the covered patio area offers lots of seating, especially for parties of 4 or more. Incredibly flexible (want breakfast for dinner, no problem), the friendly staff at Sunny Point Cafe are accommodating to a fault. The emphasis is on fresh good food and there are options for every type of eater. Consider the Black Bean and Sweet Potato empanada, the Avocado Toast (pictured below), the Breakfast Salad, the Oatmeal Banana Hotcakes, or the Hoppin’ John Veggie Burger made with oats, pumpkin seeds, nuts, kale, sweet potatoes, and black-eyed peas.