Two long-term plant eaters, Emily and Anna, present you with their list of the best vegan and vegetarian eats in Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas (aka Carrboro). A lot of these restaurants are not strictly vegan or vegetarian, and a few may not be considered hidden gems by any means. But, they wanted to point out the restaurants that maybe don't have the reputation of being vegan/vegetarian-friendly, but still have a few menu items that are worth checking out. Plus, every plant-based eater needs a few regular restaurants with non-depressing veggie options to suggest in the group chat.
HOT TAKE: Living Kitchen propagates negative stereotypes about vegan food (aka too many sprouts)
COLD TAKE: If you’re one of the few people in this town who hasn’t had Med Deli, please do yourself a favor and go, there are literally dozens of vegan and vegetarian choices.
HOT TAKE: Al’s veggie burger falls to dust in your hands.
This may not be specifically a vegetarian restaurant, but with three veggie taco options and a variety of vegetarian sides, bartaco gives ample choice to any plant-based eaters in Chapel Hill. It can easily be made vegan by asking for meals without cheese and mayo.
Menu Recommendations: grilled corn, the cauliflower taco and guacamole
A classic diner with an all day breakfast option, Elmo’s serves local eggs and produce for those of us that want a locally sourced, plant-based comfort meal. If you go on a weekend morning you may have to wait for a while, but their Huevos Rancheros are worth it.
Menu Recommendations: Santa Fe breakfast bowl, vegetarian chili and sweet potato & bean burrito
Buns is a burger joint more known for its beef patties, but they also have arguably the best veggie burger in Chapel Hill. Easily made vegan, buns allows you to load up your veggie burger with avocado, grilled vegetables, pimento cheese, 13 available sauces and much more. For an added bonus, they don't skimp on the fries at all.
Menu Recommendations: the Very Veggie Burger and the Jalapeño Pimento Cheese Burger (sub veggie patty)
Vimala’s Curryblossom Café
A little bit of a walk from campus, but fully worth it. Vimala’s serves Indian street food, bakery items, warm curries and some of the best paneer we’ve ever eaten. With very reasonable prices, it’s easy to walk away from Vimala’s with a belly full of bread, appetizers and curry.
Menu Recommendations: Plantain Fritters, Veggie Samosas and the Chloé Bowl.
This places serves classic wings with a pleasant twist: most of them can be made vegan. Described as a “local N.C. soy protein nugget,” these wings can be topped in any of the restaurant’s 13 vegan sauces or one of their three “fancy” sauces, including a vegan buffalo.
Menu Recommendations: Garlic Garlic Garlic vegan wings, Sweet Thai Coconut Chili vegan wings and Peri Peri vegan wings.
Mike’s Vegan Hotdogs
Newer to the Chapel Hill food scene, this family-owned food truck located on Merritt Mill Road provides an assortment of vegan hotdogs without skimping on toppings like chili, vegan cheese and all of the ballpark classics with a fun twist.
Menu Recommendations: the Cowboy Chili Dog, the Colombian Hot Dog and the chili cheese fries
The light of our lives. Located in the center of that strange intersection of downtown Carrboro, Spotted Dog is a dream come true for anyone on a plant-based diet because the majority of their menu items are already vegetarian or vegan. The one catch: for someone who’s gotten used to not having a lot of choices, finally being in this haven can be kind of overwhelming.
Menu Recommendations: the veggie BBQ sandwich, Chick-Faux-Lay sandwich, fried green tomatoes
Like a lot of Chinese takeout places, Jade Palace has an extensive vegetarian menu that is actually almost fully vegan. Located in Carrboro, but delivered to almost anywhere in Chapel Hill and on UNC’s campus, Jade Palace gives an almost overwhelming amount of vegan options to choose from with a whopping 15 vegetarian options (not even including fried rice and noodle dishes).
Menu Recommendations: Sesame Tofu, Eggplant with Garlic Sauce and Vegetable Lo Mein
Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major.
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