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Column: The best Chapel Hill restaurants for a plant-based diet

Editorial board member Layla Peykamian tries one of Insomnia Cookies' new vegan flavors.

In college, food is as much a social event as it is sustenance. 

When asked if I wanted to join some friends for their midnight trip to Insomnia Cookies, I came along for the camaraderie — not the cookies. As a vegan, I knew there weren't any options at Insomnia that fit my dietary restrictions.

Or at least, there didn’t use to be. 

As of Nov. 2020, Insomnia Cookies has three vegan cookie flavors. And I somehow missed it.

The natural response to cookies, is of course, pure elation. But as a vegan, my excitement was even higher. Plant-based options are far and few between, and sometimes impossible to discover. 

This is especially true in North Carolina, which is after all, a state famous for its barbecue.

With that being said, here’s a list of some of my favorite restaurants in Chapel Hill that do satisfy a plant-based diet (already discovered and compiled), for you to enjoy.

Insomnia Cookies

The dessert venue offers vegan chocolate chunk, birthday cake and double chocolate chunk cookie options. Until midnight, and on some days, 1 a.m. — enough said.

Try the: Vegan chocolate chunk cookie

For more vegan-specific desserts, I recommend the Vegan Ice Cream Man!

Spotted Dog Restaurant and Bar 

The Spotted Dog is technically in Carrboro, but it’s so good that I’m granting it an exception on this list. It has multiple types of cuisine, and many of the non-inherently vegan meals on the menu have the option for vegan protein and dairy substitutes. This is the perfect restaurant to visit when you’re with plant-based friends and meat lovers. 

Try the: Spot’s Salad with tempeh and lemon tamari dressing

Chimney Indian Kitchen & Bar

Chimney offers amazing Indian cuisine filled with rich flavor. It’s classy decor is bound to make any meal feel a little more special. Not to mention, if you accidentally call to order after the kitchen has closed, they may even offer to make Chana Masala for you anyway. You’re too kind, Chimney.

Try the: Dal Tadka

Cosmic Cantina

Cosmic is one of my all-time favorites. I don’t think my college experience would be complete without it, and I’m sure many other students can agree. Delicious burritos, great chips and a selection of beans and tofu to add that extra bit of protein to your plant-based meal. You can’t go wrong here.

Try the: Green Burrito

Vegan Flava Cafe

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Vegan Flava Cafe is a quaint restaurant tucked away in Chapel Hill that is all vegan and all good. They have everything from tacos and wraps to Sunday brunch and smoothies. As one of my non-plant-based friend’s put it: “I wouldn’t even know this was vegan.”

Try the: BBQ Jackfruit

Mediterranean Deli

Affectionately known as Med Deli, this semi-open air restaurant has so many menu options you’re bound to find something for every occasion. Check out the Mediterranean Market just next door for some fava beans and extra baklava on your way out.

Try the: Falafel, grape leaves and tabouli

Purple Bowl

Purple Bowl has some of the best acai I’ve tried. If you’re not an acai person, they also offer a pitaya pink and vanilla almond protein smoothie base. Their unique selection of toppings means you'll never get bored. Ever wanted to try lavender on acai? Go to Purple Bowl.

Try the: Antioxidant Bowl

Lime and Basil

I spent my first two years after going vegan actively trying to find plant-based pho. Lime and Basil was the answer to my prayers. Lime and Basil also offers Vietnamese dishes beyond pho, and almost every option on the menu has a vegan or vegetarian equivalent. It’s also home to some of the best summer rolls I’ve had.

Try the: Pho dau hu

I’m thrilled to see more restaurants including vegan items in their menus. Plant-based meals can be enjoyed by all customers, not just vegans. Making them more accessible is a definitive way to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, protect marine ecosystems and avoid supporting factory farming. 

Plus, it allows more people to partake in the valuable socialization that comes along with group meals.

So, remember to eat your veggies! Especially if they’re in the shape of a cookie.