From pushes for meatless Mondays to an emphasis on local ingredients and non-alcoholic cocktails, trends indicate that people are embracing healthier lifestyles that have a more sustainable impact on the world. This comes with a rise of plant-based eating. Restaurants around the nation have opened to meet the demand, including cities in the barbecue-bleedin’, Duke’s Mayonnaise-merry South. From Charleston to Austin, these plant-based restaurants help shape the innovative and wildly fun meaning of “Southern vegan” food.
FIVE SOUTHERN VEGAN RESTAURANTS TO EXPERIENCE
Anyone who thinks a vegan diet is just kale and chickpeas will think differently after the Slutty Vegan. The menu at the Atlanta-based establishment features plant-based cheesy, greasy, saucy burgers, fried “shrimp” sandwiches, Philly “cheesesteaks,” and sausages. Each one boasts a similarly lascivious name, like the fussy hussy and the one night stand. It’s vegan, sure, and it’s sinfully indulgent. The eatery began as Pinky Cole’s dream to bring vegan options and food awareness to Atlanta’s West Side, where communities experienced high numbers of obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and other food-borne ailments. Visit one of their retro, graffiti-splashed outposts, or keep an eye out for their yellow food truck hanging around the city.
Located in Charlotte’s artsy NoDa district, Oh My Soul doles out plant-based fare in a crunchy, colorful setting complete with a spacious yard. Serving lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, OMS’s all-vegan menu fuses American favorites with the owners’ South African roots, and the offerings range from nachos to shibobo, a wrap of sweet chili “chicken” strips with pickled cucumbers, lettuce, and a secret sauce. They even have a full “vurger” menu of hearty handhelds made from black bean patties, Beyond Burger meat, “Vicken,” and plant-based sausages. For lighter fare, try their smoothies, shakes, juices, or specialty espresso drinks. These folks keep their love for animals front and center—each month, they act as a beneficiary for chosen animal sanctuary, and the outdoor patio welcomes four-legged guests.
Vegan gets edgy in this downtown Charleston late-night spot. This low-lit, late-night venue presents a cool spot to swing by with friends for a pizza and drinks during a night on the town—and it all just so happens to be vegan. The club-style cocktail bar uses organic, fresh ingredients for its beverages, such as the guava the hutt and the neon blue. Pair the drinks with plentiful small plates, which range from elevated king trumpet mushroom calamari to the barbecue sandwich with seitan, barbecued jackfruit, grilled pineapple on a pretzel roll.
“I’d totally be a vegan if I could still eat cheese!” Have you heard it before? Us, too. Finally, Austin cheesemaker and retailer Rebel Cheese is letting people have it their whey. Using a variety of nuts and careful affinage processes similar to those for dairy-based cheese, they make more than forty types of vegan cheeses in familiar styles, such as chèvre, gruyere, truffle brie, mozzarella, and many more.
Voted the Best New Restaurant in Austin in the 2020 Tastemaker Awards, Rebel Cheese invites guests to swing by to try a vegan cheese and charcuterie board, browse the cheese counter, and shop the gourmet market of foodstuffs from other small businesses. They also offer a menu of assorted sandwiches, from the vegan french dip to the pigless-bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. If you’re not in Austin, you can sample their cheese through their monthly cheese club.
It started with some friends’ potluck dinners. Band members in the Nashville-based band Born Empty began hosting vegan dinners every few months, and guests brought an appropriate dish to share. These dinners grew into big, delicious occasions shared among friends, neighbors, and family. The band eventually dissipated, but two of the members continued to cook, throwing pop-up vegan buffets at the Wild Cow in Nashville while perfecting their own seitan recipes. They gained a culinary director and began selling pepperoni, breakfast sausage, sliders, chorizo, and other seitan products to restaurants and individual consumers. This led to the opening of their own plant-based deli and market, where a sandwich counter introduces visitors to all of the fun and wild ways to eat vegan. Swing by for lunch and pick up one of their better-for-you sandwiches, crunchwraps tacos, Nashville fried chicken, tots, and more.
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Hannah Lee Leidy
- by Julia Miller