January 10, 2019
Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular as people actively choose healthier alternatives to what goes into their bodies. Charlotte has seen a swarm of more conscientious restaurants pop up as well, as old favorites adopt vegan and vegetarian-friendly options on their menus. Because peoples’ tastes and dietary needs differ, and because it’s difficult to choose a restaurant without knowing if they carry veggie-based dishes, we’ve compiled a diverse list of some of our favorite local veg-friendly eateries. These places have taken the time to offer veganized or vegetarian plates so everyone can find something to chow down on.
Pure Pizza – 1911 Central Ave + 224 E 7th St
“Keeping It Pure” since 2012, family-owned Pure Pizza provides the Charlotte area with non-GMO, organic, local foods from North and South Carolina farms. Their original location in 7th Street Market is perfect for weekday on-the-go lunches and their bigger home off Central Avenue provides a quieter, rustic escape for a laidback dinner or weekend lunch. What stands out about Pure Pizza is the comfortable atmosphere that captures the “farm-to-fork” labors of love premiered in their restaurant philosophies. Employees are gracious and knowledgeable about dietary restrictions and preferences, so if you have a question you’ll be steered in the best and most delicious direction.
Favorite vegan options from Pure Pizza are the Garlic or Pesto Knot appetizers or the Shroomin’ Krueger Sandwich. Pure comes through on for pizzas and calzones as well with their Classic Neapolitan Dough (flour, water, yeast and salt). Order the classic Marinara Pizza (tomato sauce, oregano, garlic) but feel free to customize your order with a number of fresh local toppings and vegan cheese. Pure is also the host of a weekend vegan market which brings fresh vegetables, vegan food trucks and so much more from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. to the barn behind their Central Ave location.
Dish – 1220 Thomas Avenue Charlotte, NC 28205
This casual restaurant is a neighborhood favorite for many in the Plaza Midwood area. The tasteful use of simple, bold colors with personalized touches throughout the restaurant is also displayed in Dish’s approach to food. The restaurant has an expansive menu to choose from and the restaurant’s commitment to simple staples and honest, good food makes the meal as easygoing and unpretentious as Dish’s atmosphere.
Dish recently adopted the separate vegan menu, available by request, which distinguishes their plant-based items from their regular menu. Dishes are customizable and allow add-ons like daiya cheese, Portobello mushrooms, buffalo sauce– just about anything you’d need to hit the spot. A favorite appetizer is the Mediterranean plate which offers an assortment of Mediterranean-inspired snacks like roasted garlic and red pepper hummus, pita wedges, black olives, Tuscan peppers, banana peppers, carrots, and celery sticks. Dish has more creative vegan plates like their homemade chickpea burger, Jackfruit Pulled “Porq” or the Dirty Hipster, a grilled pita overflowing with grilled mushroom, roasted red peppers, daiya cheese, spicy balsamic vinaigrette and topped with sunflower seeds.
Lang Van – 3019 Shamrock Dr, Charlotte, NC 28215
Tucked away in an unassuming spot off Shamrock Drive, Lang Van is Charlotte’s oldest Vietnamese restaurant. The careful love and affection each employee projects onto both customer and dish is refreshing, and each time you step into the modest bamboo-adorned restaurant, you feel immediately at home. Lang Van’s attentive and super friendly staff will explain any item on the extensive menu with a patience and sincerity that just can’t be feigned. Vegetables and tofu are cut fresh daily, giving each of the over 130 dishes available a bright, crisp appeal. The owners have always separated meats from vegetables so vegans can comfortably order without fear of contamination.
Choosing a stand-out dish can be difficult because of the scale and the quality of the vegetarian menu but a well-loved appetizer is the Temple Rolls: mint, tofu, sprouts, and carrots in a clear spring roll served with a peanut dipping sauce. Other favorites include Bean Curd with Lemongrass, Jacama Rolls (#63), Banh Xeo and the House Special Hot Pot.
Pinky’s Westside Grill – 1600 W Morehead St, Charlotte, NC 28208
Quirky, lively and lovable, Pinky’s Westside Grill became a Charlotte West Side staple before branching out to open a second location in Huntersville. Seemingly decorated by a biker with a heart of gold, Pinky’s is a shining rebel example of the greasy greatness found in American food. Nearly every red-blooded American can find something to their liking, whether it’s a towering burger with peanut butter slathered on, pimento cheese fries, or a mouthwatering falafel.
Pinky’s menu has easy to read descriptions and vegan-friendly notations, including substitutions and customizable dishes. Recently, Pinky’s introduced fauxmento cheese, a vegan version of their signature pimento cheese which you can put on fries or use as a dip. The Tahini Salad is one of the more green-focused items on the menu with falafel patties, mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, and pepperoncini underneath tahini dressing. Try your Beyond Meat or Nature Boy burger a number of ways, like Ding Dong style with crunchy peanut butter and sriracha (omit the honey cilantro sauce). Burger additions include hummus, artichokes, fresh basil, grilled onions, fresh jalapenos, roasted red peppers, vegan mayo (specify), and sweet relish. Pinky’s also offers The One and Only, Charlotte’s first ever vegetarian corn dog or try your hand at The Pinky Dog, flat top grilled veggie dog topped with fauxmento cheese and veggie chili.
Deli St – 2801 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205
Although it’s one of the newer spots in town, Deli St has it all: craft beer, vegan wine, coffee, baked goods, and multiple vegan and vegetarian snacks, salads and sandwiches. The shop provides fresh, healthy, and quick food options for herbivores and our omnivorous friends, giving most every dietary need a fair chance to find something delicious for breakfast, lunch or dinner. As if their thoughtful vegan goodies weren’t enough to entice you, they also offer daily specials like 15% off on Tuesdays for folks on bicycles or BOGO smoothies on Fridays so you can get stocked up on nutrients before the weekend debauchery.
As for vegan favorites off their menu, the Briar Creek Toast for breakfast comes with seasoned chickpeas, spinach, avocado and vegan mayo or, for something heartier, the Arnold PBH has cinnamon raisin peanut butter, walnuts, and agave on multigrain bread. If you’re not shy about vegan cheeses, the Westover St includes vegan pepper jack and provolone with avocado, peppers, baby kale, tomatoes with oil and vinegar. For the non-fans of veggie cheese, not to worry, the Thomas Ave stacks itself as a constant go-to with hummus, avocado, spinach, onions, kalamata olives, and artichokes.
Pepperbox Doughnuts – 718 West Trade Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
Pepperbox Doughnuts is special because the baker/owners, Nate DeVillers and Alex Beebe, have worked hard for years to perfect a light and airy, yeast-raised vegan base doughnut that comes in a variety of flavors. Pepperbox uses responsible, locally sourced ingredients whenever possible and their pop-up market beginnings have provided them with the support of the surrounding community. The innovative shop recently signed a lease for their first brick-and-mortar store, to be located in The Design Center in South End. Until then, an updated list of where to find the doughnuts is always posted on their website or you can follow along with their drops on Instagram. Tip Top Daily Market off Plaza offers the doughnuts every weekend.
While their menu changes weekly, I was able to knock off the chill in the air with a spicy Mexican Chocolate doughnut, made with organic dark cacao nibs. Also try the Apple Cider Glazed Twist and the Peanut Butter Oreo.
Enat Ethiopian Restaurant – 4450 The Plaza suite d, Charlotte, NC 28215
Every veg-head knows, or quickly learns, that Eastern food can be way more accommodating to our dietary restrictions because of the minimal use of dairy and cheese. Enter Enat, an Ethiopian restaurant that just celebrated its first year. As their website states: “Enat is dedicated to elevating the status and awareness of Ethiopian cuisine by fusing modern creativity with authentic delicious taste.” Before getting into the food though, it’s the service that also stands as a forefront reason to check out Enat. The servers are knowledgeable and attentive, taking time to recommend favorites and explain each vegan option and how best to order it. The menu lists out each traditionally Ethiopian ingredient so that anyone a little shaky on branching out to try this cuisine can rest easy knowing exactly what they’re eating. Plus, this sort of empowerment through comprehension encourages interest in the Ethiopian culture itself.
Vegan options are marked with a little green leaf and vegetarian options are also vegan. I’ll let you in on a little secret, too: ordering the sambusa appetizer with lentil filling makes it vegan! Also recommended are the Fosolia, Tikel Gomen and the Vegetarian Combo, which comes with injera adorned with scoops of all the vegan options available. Don’t forget to ask for their spice bowls, which with three wildly different bases, will elevate and heat up each taste of the flavorful meal.
Sabor Latin Street Grill – Multiple Locations
Sabor Latin Street Grill is an independent, locally owned chain focusing on authentic menu offerings from countries like El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia. Sabor is fast paced but casual, perfect for a quick dinner on a weekday night or for lunch outside the office. Their menu is easy to read and customizable, allowing you to choose your own proteins for a lot of the items offered and they’ll even cook your tortillas in aluminum foil on the grill to prevent any worry of meat-contamination. Their salsa bar is my favorite part of the experience, especially the yellow pineapple habanero salsa which is perfectly sweet and hot in a way that ignites the senses.
Ordering is very simple here. There’s the Epic Protein Bowl which will have you refueled in no time or the massive Tofu Ranchero burrito, which was so good I always hurt myself trying to eat more than I actually can. For those with a more reasonable relationship between their taste buds and stomachs, an order of 2-3 tacos with a side of yucca fries is a staple meal.
NoDa Bodega – 1200 E 36th St, Charlotte, NC 28205
Owned by married couple, Lisa and Brian Moore, NoDa Bodega has offered homemade sandwiches since 2012. The full kitchen in their current location off of 36th Street is full of creativity. They offer diverse vegan dinner options every Thursday evening from 5 p.m. until they either sell out or close (8 p.m.). The friendly atmosphere makes the Bodega a standard for local NoDa residents and the regulars are part of what makes the Bodega so accessible. The Moores have always listened and valued their customers, which is partly why the vegan night came into existence.
Recently the Bodega offered their take on the Cowboy Burger: a seared Impossible Burger with tempeh bacon, onion rings, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and avocado mayo on a sesame Kaiser roll with an option of Pineapple Upside Down cake for dessert. Don’t forget to try the Fried Avocado Tacos and the Banh Mi when available!
Haberdish – 3106 N Davidson St, Charlotte, NC 28205
Haberdish is a charming Southern-inspired kitchen and craft cocktail bar, making it a great place to have dinner with pals or a special someone. Haberdish specializes in regionally specific cuisine, reflecting the original textile mill town that their location in NoDa was built upon. Through familiar, local ingredients and Southern cooking methods like pickling and frying, Haberdish is able to create fresh, comforting plates that would fit well in an Appalachian grandma’s kitchen.
The artful, rustic atmosphere of the restaurant itself is reason enough to stop in, but knowing they have a separate menu for dietary restrictions is a comforting reassurance to the next level. Available upon request, Haberdish has carefully noted which of their regular menu items are vegan or can be made vegan. Most of the available vegan options are side dishes but since Haberdish serves family style, side orders come in larger portions. The Cauliflower Steak is a must have, as are the House-Made Pickles, Charred Okra (ordered without bacon) and Boiled Peanuts. Did we mention they have Tater Tots?
Eastside Local Eatery – 3104 Eastway Dr, Charlotte, NC 28205
Since opening in late September, Eastside Local Eatery (or ESL) is the most recent addition to the Eastway Crossing shopping center and the owners, which include Gina Stewart, raw food student Brenda Gambill, and Dish’s Penny Craver, are no strangers to the Plaza area. The charming cafe is nestled right beside the current VisArt Video location and offers coffees, smoothies, juices, teas and light vegetarian and vegan foods. The co-owners have created a friendly, unique space that supports the local area rather than letting gentrification’s heavy paw push entire neighborhoods out. Charlotte Coffee Co.’s Blue Star roast is exclusively offered at Blumenthal and ESL where customers can buy by the pound and support their commitment to the Charlotte arts.
Their menu is growing and adapting since the recent grand opening, but let it be known that they have a variety of vegan cheesecake flavors, like seasonal pumpkin, available as well as raw goodies, smoothies, and juices. Other vegan options include a wide array of sandwiches, wraps and salads (try the Lost on Logi Salad!).
Futo Buta – 222 E Bland St, Charlotte, NC 28203
A South End favorite, Futo Buta is a modernized izakaya, or Japanese-style pub, where people traditionally gather for casual after-work bites and drinks. Chef Michael Shortino, a third generation chef, opened Futo Buta in 2015 because of his love for the integrity of Japanese-style cooking. His innovative style, coupled with local fresh ingredients, makes each dish a winner.
Their vegan ramen (Niwa) is a specialty and incorporates roasted organic mushrooms, cabbage, leek arugula, and sesame. Other vegan items include: edamame with yuzu sea salt, some of the best fried Brussels sprouts in town, roasted beets and organic greens with umeboshi dressing, roasted eggplant and zucchini buns, fried red miso tofu skewers, and vegan donburi.
Check out our video on vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Charlotte.