For those of you with dietary restrictions, whether by choice or biological, it can be a trial eating out with friends and enjoying catered events because you can’t find anything to eat. When out and about travelling, it can become even harder if it is uncommon for many people to have or practice dietary restrictions. The trick is not just knowing singular restaurants to go, but some areas of the world have such a prevalence of diet conscious people that numerous restaurants have responded to the local demand and adapted with several meals with particular diets in mind.
Whether you’re gluten-free, organic, vegan, free range or vegetarian, pack your suitcases and head to Asheville, in Western North Carolina, USA. As you arrive over the Blue Ridge Mountains, this small liberal hippie town will welcome you with a hot typical plate of Southern comfort food- only the biscuit will be gluten-free, the mashed potatoes are made from sweet potatoes, sautéed kale and onions instead of collard greens and an egg white omelette with tempeh chorizo and fresh capsicum. And that’s just breakfast!
Asheville’s community is comprised of many liberal adults that are passionate about being consciously healthy, about issues such as animal activism and several of them love to grow their own food. The mentality in this small city of 87,236 has led to the emergence of several establishments that produce stellar meals without the compromise on taste or texture in exchange for dietary requirements. Several bakeries offer gluten-free bread and fresh pressed juice is available with fruit from local farmers.
Here are a few of the top vegetarian (and more) restaurants in Asheville that are worth checking out:
The Green Sage
With three locations throughout the Asheville area, you can count on meals from The Green Sage to be flavorful, nourishing and made with sustainable ingredients. Always staffed with pleasant health conscious individuals who know how to make a mean almond smoothie or a mouth-watering goat cheese, beet and spinach salad, their eco-savvy practices extend further than just their food, as The Green Sage recycles their cooking oil into clean burning biodiesel, employs the use of solar panels to heat their water, and composts food scraps along with their biodegradable cups and utensils. Their prices are standard for a meal in Asheville, which is about $8.00 USD for an entrée and $4.00 USD for a smoothie.
The Laughing Seed
Taking vegetarian cuisine to the next level, The Laughing Seed (TLS) has established themselves as a prominent force in the competitive downtown Asheville restaurant scene. With humble beginnings as a lunch counter in the bottom of the local YMCA, TLS is now regarded for their exquisite global fusion menu that is made with only organic ingredients and local products. They have been crowned as Western North Carolina’s Best Vegetarian Restaurant for fourteen years in a row! Enjoy a meditative paradise within the restaurant as you savour your Harmony Bowl of organic brown rice, organic black beans, grilled organic tofu, steamed vegetables, and sesame ginger sauce with the choice to add a sea vegetable salad. They have just recently achieved acclamation for their eco-friendly practices by receiving a two-star Green Certified restaurant rating. However, this high level of all around quality comes at the price of about $13.00 USD a plate, which is still rather affordable as far as downtown prices are concerned.
This restaurant is driven by a collective deep concern for the environment, a desire to deliver an exceptional and unique dining experience with organic, local and seasonal ingredients served as creative plant-based food to promote healthy living. Plant exudes compassion in every aspect of their operation, making all of their food from scratch ingredients taken fresh from the earth and hiring friendly eco-conscious service professionals. Such mindful practices come through in the delectable palates of dishes like Walnut Crusted Tempeh with enlightened cauliflower, broccolin, sauce romesco and pickled watermelon radish or the Wild Oyster Mushroom Apricot Adobo accompanied by a poblano stuffed tamale, sautéed spinach, olives, & chilli, cilantro mojo and pickled onions & sour cream. Unfortunately, savouring such luscious multi-cultural meals comes at a price, but there are affordable options as well. Plant aims to recognize the intrinsic value of all beings and the investment of giving back to the community with healthy food and practices. You could order a few smaller plates that range from about $5.00 -$13.00 USD or splurge on an entrée that could be anywhere from $17.00 to $23.00 USD.
The welcoming glow of Rosetta’s Kitchen is a nomadic plant eater’s sanctuary. Serving meals at lunch, dinner, late night and brunch on Sunday, this establishment that originally opened in 2002, has a big community spirit fuelling them. Functioning as a gallery space for art shows, a stage for benefit concerts they raise money for noble causes, while offering meals to the homeless. They have strong ties to local artistic and farming communities, traveller tribes and the lucky tourist who happens to wander in and sample their unbelievable options that include gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian choices like Tempalo Wings which are tastier than real chicken wings or a dish called Family Favorite which is peanut butter baked organic tofu, sautéed kale, mashed potatoes with gravy that can also be made wheat-free upon request.
Their Everybody Eats plate which consists of organic long grain rice, organic beans and either tortilla chips of southern coleslaw- is a special tribute to spreading nourishment, as the meal is offered at a sliding scale price between $2.00 USD to $6.00 USD. The point of the sliding scale is that you pay what you can, and if you can pay the highest amount, your generosity helps compensate for someone who can only afford the minimum payment. Other entrees cost anywhere from $8.00 - $11.00 USD.
Both of the owners of Homegrown are from the surrounding Asheville area and despite travelling a fair bit, they still find that Asheville is one of the best places when it comes to locally sourced food and conscious communities. They aim to deliver only the best to the community that continues to give it back to them every time. Homegrown’s food is comforting, delicious and above all made with great spices and honest ingredients.
Earth Fare & Green Life
For those looking for the most bang for your buck, head to Earth Fare or Green Life, the local grocery stores that also have hot food and salad bars. They also have smoothie and juice services that can be as filling of a meal as stir-fried tofu and quinoa. Both establishments have seating options where you can go and casually enjoy your meal while reading a book, meet up with friends for an afternoon munch session or tuck yourself away in a corner with a hot cup of ginger lemon tea for some serious paper writing.
And For the Carnivores…
As much as Asheville cuisine is dedicated to cuisine that is outside the meat realm, they still definitely know how to do barbeque the right way. In fact, Asheville is home to one of US President Obama’s favourite restaurants, 12 Bones. Where the plates filled with southern goodness of moist and saucy meats, perfectly baked cornbread, buttered green beans, Jalapeño cheese grits and so many more options! Prices range from $8.00-$21.00 USD for plates, while sandwiches average at $7.00 USD with chips and $9.00 USD with two sides, which is still extremely affordable for a hearty portion of well-crafted meat.