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The best vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in each Southern state

Vegan dining is not as simple as it seems and creating a vegan-friendly restaurant is even harder. No, not all vegans want just a salad every time they go out to eat at a restaurant. They want plant-based options that are delicious and exciting. Luckily, the restaurant industry is transforming and more vegan options are popping up across the country. And yes, even in the South chefs are stepping outside the box and creating innovative vegan options that will appeal to vegans and possibly even meat eaters.

Travel and Leisure has put together a list of the best vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in each state. To showcase the best vegan options the list not only includes vegan businesses and restaurants, but also some restaurants that serve meat. Travel and Leisure explained the logic behind including restaurants that serve non-vegan food items: “Sometimes, the best plant-based dishes are served at traditional restaurants — and we count this as progress. We’ve also tried to choose restaurants that really capture the spirit of their locale, as too often, vegans can feel excluded from truly sampling the culinary culture of a place.”

Here is the best vegan restaurant in each Southern state. 

Alabama: Chef Will the Palate
The best vegan option in Alabama is on wheels. Chef Will the Palate’s food truck can be found can be found in Huntsville, Alabama offering customers a healthy alternative lunch option. In the kitchen, chef Forest Wilson, who is a longtime chef and vegetarian, is creating food that will put you in a vegan food coma. Wilson sources his ingredients from local farms to create “Southern-inspired, blackened smoky tofu over greens, cumin-spiced black bean tacos and herb-forward crusty avocado sandwiches.”

Arkansas: The Root Café
This casual food spot offers great vegan and non-vegan food. Farm to table has a whole new meaning at The Root Café as it sources all meats, eggs and even some cheeses from within Arkansas. The coffee is locally roasted and if you want to know where something is from “all producers are named on their website.” The menu is also coded so at a quick glance you can see which items are vegetarian or vegan.  

Florida: The Farmer’s Table
Even though The Farmer’s Table serves meat, the vegan options at this restaurant surpass even some of the best vegan only options in the state. Each vegan option is flawlessly executed at The Farmer's Table. Whether it’s the vegan shepard’s pie or spaghetti squash pasta with quinoa meatballs, the restaurant is modernizing vegan options and creating new flavors for vegans to enjoy. 

Georgia: The Grit
The Grit is an institution in Athens that has been serving up delicious dishes for the past thirty years. The restaurant is known for turning southern staples into vegan-friendly options. For example, biscuits and gravy are transformed into biscuits and yeast with a side of soysage patties.

Kentucky: Roots and Heart & Soy (the two restaurants are connected; one is a takeaway concept, one is sit down)
Under the same roof, Roots and Heart & Soy are vegetarian restaurants that feature Asian-inspired dishes created by owner Coco Tran. Tran has created a menu that features a plant-based Korean rice bowl, deep-fried spring rolls, Vietnamese crepes and tofu that is made in house by Tran herself. The beautiful dishes are a contemporary take on traditional Southeast Asian flavors.

Louisiana: Killer PoBoys
In New Orleans, if you’re not eating a po’boy you’re not getting the full NOLA experience. At Killer PoBoys in the French Quarter, the vegan options on the menu include a “sweet potato po’ boys slathered with black-eyed pea and pecan spread, popped with pickled shallots…[or a] another version features toothsome yet melty caramelized cauliflower, sandwiched between bread that’s perfectly soft on the inside and crackles with a crust on the outside.” 

Maryland: Land of Kush
Nothing says Baltimore like a crab cake. At Land of Kush, the vegan crab cakes are made with TVP (a soy protein) and spiced with Old Bay. Another favorite on the menu is the soy-based ribs, which are “chewy and swimming in the garlicky and onion-y barbecue gravy.” Owner Gregory Brown became a vegan in the late ‘90s and has been showcasing his talent at creating flavorful vegan soul food at Land of Kush ever since. 

Mississippi: High Noon Café
At High Noon Café in Jackson, Mississippi, vegan food is full of flavor and spice. The menu includes many meat-free options that are made from scratch each day. From enchiladas verdes and taco soup to eggplant parmesan and their famous Down Home Chili, High Noon knows how to add flavor and create healthy meatless meals. 

North Carolina: Happy + Hale
Since 2014, Matt Whitley and Tyler Helikson have been serving up everything from cold pressed juice to avocado toast at Happy + Hale. The restaurant doesn’t stick to traditionally Southern food and instead brings the influences of Southern California to the East Coast. Even though the food isn’t regional it still delivers on innovation and flavor. Some favorites include the quinoa bowls, avocado toast served with French lentils and a splash of Sriracha and customizable salads. The restaurant’s menu has vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. 

South Carolina: Jack of Cups
Located in downtown Charleston, nothing is a bad option on the Jack of Cups menu. Everything is made from scratch daily so you no you’ll be getting a fresh vegetarian or vegan meal no matter what item you choose. Some of the menu items on the current fall menu include thai peanut ginger soup, green curry mac ‘n cheese and bahn mi spring rolls. The menu also has an option to add either pulled pork or chicken to a dish so feel free to bring along your meat loving friends. 

Tennessee: Avo
Avo, the all vegan and raw restaurant, calls a shipping container home in Nashville. None of the plant-based menu, including zuchhini noodle pad thai and a flax crust pizza with a nut-based ranch, is heated beyond 118 degrees. It doesn’t get much rawer and greener than that. This restaurant gives vegans a cool place to enjoy a plant-based menu in a city that focuses heavily on barbecue. 

Texas: Bouldin Creek Café
If you’re craving a vegan brunch head to Bouldin Creek Café in Austin. The restaurant knows how to make a breakfast taco in various vegetarian and vegan friendly forms. The Tofu Ren is a stand out on the menu and is created by combing caramelized peppers, tofu, onions and nutritional yeast to create the perfect vegan scramble. 

Virginia: Fresca on Addison
Fresca on Addison is run by Jenna Sneed, who’s been a vegetarian since she was nine, and her father, who still eats meat. “Their partnership is emblematic of what plant-based cuisine should and could be: transcending boundaries, generations, and appealing to omnivores and vegans alike,” notes Travel and Leisure. Warm up this winter with the curried butternut squash soup at Fresca. Or if you're craving a burger order the lentil burger, which is moist, slathered in avocado and red onion. In the mood for pizza? Fresca has that too.

West Virginia: Bluegrass Kitchen
Southern classics like fried chicken and pan seared trout rule the menu at Bluegrass Kitchen, but if you’re looking for a plant-based option this restaurant offers many vegetarian options as well. The mock chicken and dumplings, quinoa veggie burger, blackened tofu salad and deep fried tofu wings are some of the flavorful vegetarian alternatives you can find on the menu. The kitchen is very accommodating and many menu items can be made into a strictly vegan option if you ask. 


Vegan recipes from Southern Kitchen

Apple Salad with Fennel and Walnuts

Serves: 4 to 6
Hands On Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
1 cup walnuts
2 cups baby arugula
2 large apples, such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Gala or Fuji, cored and thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, thinly sliced on the bias
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until golden brown and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the arugula, apples, fennel, celery and walnuts. Toss with the olive oil and lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.


Anne Byrn's Green Tomato and Apple Chutney

Serves: Makes 4 half-pint jars
Hands On Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours and 0 minutes

Ingredients
2 pounds green tomatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 ounces Honey Crisp apples, or other crisp eating apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 serrano or jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced, seeds included
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 or 3 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins

Instructions

In a colander, combine the tomatoes and the salt. Toss to coat well. Place the colander in the sink and let the tomatoes sit for 1 hour.

Rinse the salted tomatoes and drain well. Transfer to a large pot and stir in the apples, onion, vinegar, brown sugar, granulated sugar, peppers, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, clove, pepper and nutmeg.

Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let the mixture simmer until the tomatoes and apples are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Stir in the raisins and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the cooking juices have reduced and are syrupy, about 30 minutes.

Ladle the hot chutney into four sterilized half-pint jars. Seal the jars and let rest on the counter until cool. Refrigerate for up to 6 weeks.

 


Author image

Rachel Taylor is a staff writer at Southern Kitchen. She moved to Atlanta earlier this year after graduating college in Maryland, and has been a digital audience specialist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Politically Georgia, as well as a freelance writer for publications such as USA Today and the Delmarva Daily Times on Maryland's Eastern Shore. She has lived in France and Italy, and loves to travel.

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