Asheville’s known for some of the best dining in Western North Carolina, serving everything from barbeque to tapas. You could say there's a little something for everyone, even vegetarians. Come to think of it, especially vegetarians.
I don’t know why but when it comes to plant proteins, fresh organic produce, and meat-free re-imaginings of classic dishes, Asheville delivers with the full force of its culinary excellence. Frankly, I’d say it’s one of the best cities in the entire Southeast when it comes to vegetarian fare. For that reason, I’d like to take you on a tour of some of the best vegetarian restaurants in Asheville.
I’ve been going to Green Sage for about as long as I can remember. What keeps me coming back? The peppermint matcha milk shake. I’m told, however, that one cannot survive on milkshakes alone. Luckily, Green Sage specializes in top-notch café fare: buttermilk pancakes, rich breakfast bowls, and a variety of sandwiches and burgers.
Whenever traditional proteins pop on the menu, be sure you can substitute tempeh to tremendous effect. With that kind of flexibility, Green Sage is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Asheville for carnivores and herbivores alike. Pick the sweet potato fries as your side (they are the superior fry) and you have yourself a meal for the ages.
Location: Green Sage has three locations: South Asheville, downtown (near Pack Square) and Merimon Avenue, just north of downtown.
Most minds would not link a place dominated by “Southern comfort food” with the best vegetarian restaurants in Asheville. But I’ve got a case to make.
First off, pancakes (generally) contain no meat. Same goes for waffles. Second, Early Girl serves cinnamon-battered biscuit French toast, which is going to capture my attention no matter what subject I’m supposed to be writing about. Third and finally, their curried tofu breakfast constitutes one of the heartiest vegetarian breakfasts this side of the Mississippi.
Serving breakfast from 8am to 8pm daily, Early Girl presents an excellent way to start your day or finish it off.
Location: Downtown, on placid Wall Street, with another location in West Asheville.
I think the best way to sum up Plant is through their motto: “Plant is food.” Such boldness, such clarity. These three simple words convey the very basis of agriculture, and if I may extrapolate from that, the root of modern society itself. “Plant is food," indeed.
Plant’s kitchen prides itself not just on vegetarian fare, but goes a step further into full-on veganism. “Plant is food.” Plant, and plant alone. Despite this apparent limitation, their ever-changing menu explodes with creativity. As of my writing, it includes squash-filled ravioli, bok choy ramen, and masala uttapam with sour cream and avocado.
When it comes to this vegetarian restaurant in Asheville, I’d say you may never be sure what’s on the menu, but you can be sure it’ll be crafted with pure culinary puissance. It’s a high-minded kind of place, open for dinner and drinks weekly exempting Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Location: Just north of downtown on Merimon Avenue,
Incidentally, my friends and I were going to name our band “Rosetta’s Kitchen & the Buchi Bar.” Who exactly was going to be “Rosetta” and who was going to be the “Buchi Bar” was never decided upon, so perhaps it’s a blessing that this signature Asheville restaurant beat us to the punch.
Walking a fine line between hometown diner and Ashevillean vegetarian café, Rosetta’s colorful upstairs is accentuated with raw brick and thriving plants. Here you can dine on tempeh Reubens, portobello melts, and peanut butter baked tofu with a side of kale and smashed potatoes, topped with “Granny’s gravy.”
If all that’s not enough to incite the appetite, venture downstairs into the Buchi Bar, where you’ll find local beers, rotating wines, and Buchi-brand kombucha on draft. What’s more, they serve kombucha cocktails. Try finding that outside of Asheville.
If anyone’s curious, my favorite Buchi flavors are “Water” and “Sovreign.” I’ll accept either as gifts, payment, or bribes.
Location: Downtown, just a short walk from one of the more reliable parking lots on North Lexington Avenue.
Of course, if I’m covering the best vegetarian restaurants in Asheville, I’ll have to delve into Asheville’s tremendous selection of Indian fare. Chai Pani stands out especially, as its relatively small menu boasts some positively astounding vegetarian selections; spicy potato dumplings fried in chickpea batter, paneer tikka rolls, and saag paneer curry, just to name a few.
Among their “street food” style chaat, you’ll find vegan okra fries, and plenty of pakoras. And once again, to leave an offering for the carnivores, Chai Pani finds space in their menu for butter chicken, sloppy jai, and lamb burgers.
On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than pairing your platter here with a mango lassi, lavender lemonade, or pineapple turmeric soda. Sweet and spicy, that’s where it’s at.
Location: Downtown, close to the Grove Arcade.
Green Sage Café South
1800 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803
Early Girl Eatery (Downtown)
8 Wall St, Asheville, NC 28801
165 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Rosetta's Kitchen & The Buchi Bar
116 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
22 Battery Park Ave, Asheville, NC 28801