Chicken in soy sauce
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What: In Asheville’s quasi-hippie mountain surrounds, it’s no wonder that vegan and vegetarian food is a thing around here. (And, yes, we do realize that not all vegans are hippies.) It’s such a thing, in fact, that soy alternatives are offered nearly as often here as restaurants in other cities might ask “soup or salad?” (Gluten-free options are also pretty common.) Like in Los Angeles, we recommend that even carnivores embrace the local custom and give it a whirl (between bites of BBQ and bacon gravy, of course).
Where: You can’t go wrong with Laughing Seed (40 Wall St., map), a popular downtown eatery with sidewalk seating, a boho vibe, and a downstairs brewpub (Jack of the Wood). Organic? Check. Seasonal? Check. Farm-to-table? Naturally. And it’s vegetarian to boot, with an international twist. Even the tempeh is local here!
When: Mon, Wed & Thurs, 11:30am-9pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30am-10pm; Sun, 10am-9pm (brunch: 10am-2pm)
Order: Pictured is the Havana Cuban sandwich ($10), battered organic tempeh with tomatoes, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, housemade pickles, black bean spread, and local mustard on housemade Cuban bread. Fat and thick, with nice crispy texture from the battered tempeh and pickles, this sandwich was, in a sense, meaty, and very flavorful. You might also try Indian pakoras, a taco salad (with spiced, crumbled tofu), or a vegan hempnut burger off the wide-ranging menu. There are gluten-free options noted as well.
Alternatively: Excluding all meat, dairy, and eggs from its menu, Plant (165 Merrimon Ave., map) is Asheville’s first all-vegan restaurant, and has garnered praise for everything from its upscale, decidedly un-hippie surrounds to its flavor-packed food. All-vegetarian Rosetta’s Kitchen (116 North Lexington Ave., map) is another popular bet, offering “pulled-portabella BBQ” and mac-and-cheese with vegan cheese sauce, among lots of other dishes. And then there’s all the meat-serving restaurants that are particularly veggie-friendly, including Southern-tinged Early Girl Eatery (8 Wall St., map), where you might swap in vegetarian herb (or vegan tomato) gravy for your biscuits and scrambled tofu for eggs (gluten-free options provided too); and Tupelo Honey Cafe (two locations including 12 College St., map) with fried tofu “wings,” gluten-free bread, and “soysage” on offer.
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