14 essential vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the American South

Elizabeth Enochs

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If there’s any food for which the American South is known best, it’s probably meat-heavy comfort foods. Slow-smoked meat is king across great swaths of the South – like Texas, Tennessee and The Carolinas – and seafood-heavy Creole and Cajun cuisine reigns supreme in New Orleans. But The South has started stepping up its game when it comes to plant-based cuisine. In fact, some of the most celebrated vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the country – like Plant in Asheville, North Carolina – happen to stand south of the Mason-Dixon line.  

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just a curious carnivore, here are 14 veg-friendly restaurants to visit on your next trip down south:

Plant | Asheville, NC

Asheville's renowned Plant has been voted the city’s best vegetarian restaurant time and again, and has also received praise for being healthy, green and having great service. If you can’t decide on an entree at this romantic spot, you can't go wrong with the zucchini lasagna.

Souly Vegan Cafe | Durham, NC

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Serving up drinks and savory vegan soul food alongside live music Tuesday through Sunday, Souly Vegan is a great place to relax after a long day of travel. Try the collard greens and the pulled jack barbecue platter.

Gnome Cafe | Charleston, SC

Charleston’s Gnome Cafe is dedicated to showing all kinds of eaters just how satisfying plant-based cuisine can be. Open for breakfast and lunch, Gnome Cafe offers a mixture of mouth-watering comfort foods like fried seitan “chicken” sandwiches, Southern grit bowls and cinnamon pancakes, and the tempeh Reuben sandwich is a customer favorite. Equally exciting? Gnome brews Stumptown coffee.

Roots | Louisville, KY

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Roots focuses on “mindful, compassionate cooking” and serves up creative dishes, like Japanese eggplant served in a coconut milk curry sauce and sizzling sticky rice topped with barbecue tofu. Roots also aims to be “the answer to Louisville’s current lack of upscale vegetarian dining,” but your wallet won’t know it – its most expensive entree costs less than $10. The restaurant’s tofu clay pot and bubble teas are particularly popular.

Sanctuary Vegan Cafe | Knoxville, TN

As the restaurant’s name suggests, the two things that drive West Knoxville’s Sanctuary Vegan Cafe are animal rescue and vegan food. Open Tuesday through Saturday, Sanctuary provides plant-based comfort food made from mostly organic ingredients; the taco salad is quite the crowd-pleaser. The restaurant’s owners hope to eventually open a farmed animal sanctuary with their profits.

The Wild Cow | Nashville, TN

Nestled in the heart of East Nashville, The Wild Cow serves vegan and vegetarian fare in a fun, casual environment. The Wild Cow purchases almost all of its ingredients in whole form, and nearly all of its sauces, dressings and soup stocks are made in-house. On top of its many delicious bowls, tacos, wraps, sandwiches and salads, The Wild Cow has an all-day happy hour on Wednesday. Vegan or not, you can’t go wrong with The Philly: grilled peppers, onions, and BE Hive seitan topped with vegan queso and served on a whole-wheat hoagie.   

High Noon Cafe | Jackson, MS

High Noon Cafe is only open from 11:30 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday, but this tasty lunch spot is worth making a detour for. High Noon’s menu features an impressive array of delicious, health-conscious entrees – from enchiladas verdes and chickpea curry to eggplant parmesan and down home chili. Order the beloved Harmony Bowl for a hefty dose of rice, edamame and other veggies.

The Beer Plant | Austin, TX

“Drink Beer. Eat Plants. Be Happy.” With this motto and a relaxing farmhouse pub atmosphere, The Beer Plant isn’t likely to disappoint. Austin’s first vegan gastropub combines craft beer, wine, cocktails and entirely plant-based dinner, brunch and late-night menus full of decadent dishes. The Beer Plant requires reservations for parties of six or more though, so be sure to call ahead if you’re traveling with a large group. And make sure you get at least one order of The Beer Plant’s most popular appetizers: Buffalo cauliflower wings and sriracha-glazed brussels sprouts.    

Breads on Oak | New Orleans


Elizabeth Enochs

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