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Editor's Note: This story is unlocked for everyone to read courtesy of the CRVA, our partner in nourishing culinary exploration for residents and visitors of the Queen City.

June 30, 2023

A plant-based passport to eating in Charlotte

A list of our favorite vegan restaurants and food trucks across the city


By Jared Misner

A sad frozen veggie burger just doesn’t cut it anymore. 

In the yesteryear of vegan food, we plant-based eaters would be grateful to see a Boca burger on the menu. Now, that’s the bare minimum. Today, restaurants offer mind-blowing, how-did-they-make-that items like vegan pimento cheese, vegan shrimp, and vegan ox tail. 

The change makes sense. While it’s hard to accurately pinpoint the exact number of vegans – those who eschew meat, eggs, dairy and sometimes honey – a 2018 Gallup poll found a full 5% of Americans identified as vegetarian and 2% identified as totally vegan. Of course, that doesn’t count all the “flexitarians,” people who still eat animal products – just less of them.

We’ve gathered our favorite vegan restaurants around Charlotte and ordered them in this helpful guide by which time of day we recommend visiting them. 

Let’s dig in.

BREAKFAST

Dee’s Vegan To Go, 1540 West Blvd, Suite 100

Starting in 2016, Dee Hairston began selling her moist spiced sweet potato cakes at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. Now, thankfully, the namesake chef has her own restaurant and, yes, you can still get the sweet potato cake. The restaurant, as the name implies, is to-go only, so place a big order of her famous vegan chicken and waffles and set up shop back in bed. Bonus: The breakfast menu is available all day. 

Might we suggest: The Beyond Breakfast sandwich, which comes with vegan sausage, egg, and cheese all between a fresh ciabatta roll, is the perfect remedy after a long night out. 


Fern, Dilworth

Fern in Dilworth is one of the city’s oldest plant-focused restaurants. Photo courtesy

Now located in the Dilworth neighborhood, this restaurant re-ditched eggs and cheese from its menu in January and went fully vegan again (it was vegan pre-pandemic). The water here is famously cucumber-infused, which, for some reason, always feels so elegant. Plan a trip here on the weekend for breakfast or brunch to really take advantage of the menu’s stars. The chef’s scramble and the breakfast burrito come with either scrambled cheddar tofu or vegan egg – go with the latter on both accounts. 

Might we suggest: If you leave without Fern’s deliciously sticky and messy cinnamon rolls, you’re doing it wrong. 


Oh My Soul, NoDa

This vegan South African restaurant has, by far, the most extensive plant-based breakfast menu of any restaurant in Charlotte, so get ready to make some tough choices. Oh My Soul has an entire waffle section, which includes a cookies and cream-covered waffle and a “vicken” waffle sandwich. If you decide against that, Oh My Soul has a smoothie section, too. Or maybe you’re more in the mood for a “brekkie” roll. Like we said, tough choices ahead. 

Might we suggest: The Faithful Frenchie is a vegan cream cheese-stuffed French toast topped with fried banana, vegan cream, and caramel. 


Living Kitchen, South End

Everything this popular South End vegan restaurant serves is also organic, so you’ll leave feeling all kinds of good about yourself. You could go for dinner, sure, but then you’d miss the crab cake benedict and the sausage and gravy on the Sunday brunch menu. And why would you want to do that?

Might we suggest: Living Kitchen makes its crab cake benedict with lion’s mane mushrooms, balsamic, mixed greens, and a creamy cashew-based hollandaise. 


LUNCH

Ma Ma Wok, 11914 Elm Lane

At the only all-vegan Chinese restaurant in Charlotte, you’ll want to look at the menu before you go. It’s enormous. This spot has some of Charlotte’s most unique vegan offerings, including fish, shrimp and duck. 

Might we suggest: Start with an order of two vegan pork buns. You’ll wonder how they did it. Then move on to the Kung Pao beef or chicken; they’re both delicious, spicy, and cruelty-free. 


Love In Action Café, 4419 Tuckaseegee Rd.

This new player in Charlotte’s vegan restaurant scene is a welcome (and delicious) addition. LIA Café, as it’s known, offers a special Taco Tuesday menu, but it also regularly offers hearty entrées like meatloaf, cheesesteaks, and a “chik’n” sandwich.

Might we suggest: Get a whole sweet potato pie for the house on your way out. Trust us. 


Romeo’s Vegan Burgers, 5518 South Blvd.

Originally just a food truck, this burger-and-fries joint exploded in popularity. It now has brick-and-mortar locations in both South Charlotte and Greensboro – plus the food truck. The menu is small and uncomplicated, which makes ordering a cinch. Go through the drive-thru because, yes, vegan drive-thrus are now a thing.

Might we suggest: Order the classic double Where Art Thou Romeo burger, chili cheese fries, and a milkshake. You’re not here to eat healthy. 


Plant Joy, Camp North End

Chef Julia Simon, who started the vegan meal delivery service Nourish (now owned by chef Hannah Riley), opened this stall in Camp North End and has earned a passionate following. They’re big on falafels here – offering a falafel tower (essentially, falafel nachos) or a “more intimidating” version: the falafel mountain, meant for three or four people.

Might we suggest: You can’t skip the quiche du jour. 


Taco Vegano, Plaza Midwood

Billed as the first vegan taqueria in Charlotte, this spot is located within Deli St. While Deli St. is not an entirely vegan restaurant, it offers an extensive vegan menu too. Taco Vegano’s menu, however, is only available Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., so plan accordingly.

Might we suggest: Can you find vegan pibil anywhere else in Charlotte? No. Get it here. 


Mac’D Vegan food truck, location varies

Find all the familiar favorites here – just plant-based. This food truck offers a rotating menu, but in the past, it’s offered pulled barbecue, chili macaroni and cheese, and breakfast burritos with vegan sausage, egg and cheese.

Might we suggest: The Gobbler, a vegan turkey panini, is pressed with avocado, spinach, tomato and mozzarella. 


DINNER

Dawg on Vegans, 3024 E. Independence Blvd.

This festival and pop-up favorite now has a brick-and-mortar location inside the Golden Green Hotel open on Saturday and Sunday from 3:30-7:30 p.m.. Order your food to go – and don’t skimp on the napkins. You’ll need plenty of them for this spot’s colossal brats and hot dogs. The menu changes, so check the restaurant’s Instagram to see what it’s cooking each weekend.

Might we suggest: If the Tiki Tiki Dawg – a hot dog topped with, among other things, three fried vegan shrimp – is on the menu, order it. Same goes for the truffle mac and cheese. 


Bean Vegan Cuisine, 3001 E. Independence Blvd. 

Don’t judge this restaurant by its appearance. Its legume signage and kitschy interior only add to the experience. Bean specializes in good ol’ comfort foods like piled-high burgers, pulled “pork” sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and other stick-to-your-ribs favorites. 

Might we suggest: The Cowboy Burger is like a spiritual experience for vegans. The patty is topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, onion rings, pickles, barbecue sauce, and ranch dressing.


Ve-Go Food Truck, location varies

The Ve-Go food truck at the Charlotte StrEATs Festival. Grant Baldwin/UP

The line is always long here, and that’s a good sign. The menu at this food truck changes with the day, but it usually offers a variety of tacos on Tuesdays and a rotating cast of regular favorites like oyster mushroom fried “chik’n,” lemon pepper fried “fysh,” and bang bang “shrymp.”

Might we recommend: Part of the fun of catching this food truck out is seeing what it’s serving that day, but the pineapple barbecue beef tips and the deep-fried Oreos are favorites. 


Sanctuary Bistro, South Charlotte

This fine-dining restaurant is an absolute gem. Sanctuary is a family-run, vegan, and gluten-free restaurant, and Jennifer Jones Horton casts herself as the “owner, speaker, writer, front of the house, you name it.” You’ll undoubtedly see her during your visit here, as she’ll probably be your server. It’s intimate, focused on giving back to the community through featured nonprofits, and all around delicious.

Might we suggest: Start your evening with the charcuterie plate and the broccoli and bacon souffle. Yes, both.


RiCoQui food truck, location varies

If you’re lucky enough to be in the same place as this food truck, don’t miss it. A Latin American- and Puerto Rican-influenced menu offers some of the most delicious and unique offerings in the area. We’re talking pizza empanadas and breakfast tacos with French fries. 

Might we suggest: The Hambori is a culinary creation you have to try: Beyond Beef, cilantro aioli, vegan cheese and bacon, tomatoes, onions, spinach and salsa — all sandwiched between two fried tostones.


DESSERT

Title Belt Frozen Desserts, locations vary

Now permanently on rotation at Two Scoops Creamery in Plaza Midwood and South End, this wrestling-themed frozen dessert brand (Don’t call them ice cream; they say they’re better than that.) offers flavors like funfetti, coffee and vanilla Oreo. 

Might we suggest: You can reserve Title Belt’s push cart for special events. Do it. 


Seemingly Overzealous Ice Cream, Camp North End

This incredibly verbose vegan ice cream parlor opened in May, and it’s already made quite a splash. Flavors here include things like UNWiLLiNG PARTiCiPANT, a lemon blueberry cheesecake swirl, and “UNNAMED EXPERIMENT,” a rotating flavor the parlor is trying out but not yet exactly sure of its staying power. 

Might we suggest: Order a cup of the DREAM BOAT, a spin on the classic orange creamsicle, walk around the grounds of Camp North End, and then go back for seconds.  

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