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Community and restaurants keep vegan dining options within reach

lifestyle-vegan-restaurant-tracker
Textures courtesy of Unsplash

Nestled in its own little corner of the internet is a regularly-updated website that lists all the vegan options at restaurants in the Carrboro area. 

Run and created by Clare Curtis, who grew up in the area, the site is titled Carrboro Vegan Dining.  And it's exactly that — it catalogs options from Japanese food and pizzerias to breakfast places and Thai restaurants. 

When she started the website earlier this year, her goal was to make vegan dining in Carrboro more accessible. 

“I just wanted to help people have more accessibility to finding vegan options,” Curtis said. “Because I feel like a lot of times, some of the barriers are just not knowing what’s available.”

Curtis runs the website for free and became vegan about two years prior to starting it. To her, running the website without profit is worthwhile and something she does in her spare time. 

She said she wants to expand the reach of the website further into the Triangle in the future.

On her list is Grata Diner, a community-based restaurant that places heavy value on kindness and gratitude, according to their website. 

Founded by Jay Radford, Grata Diner has served the Carrboro area since August of 2021. Radford said he wants Grata Diner to be a place anyone can feel welcome, including those with dietary restrictions.

“We have a safe space for people to come and hang out and gather and spend some time together and enjoy good food,” Radford said. “We try and keep it simple."

Simplicity is also a priority for the diner’s ingredients. Radford said he has seen questionable contents on the lists of ingredients for many different vegan or vegetarian protein substitutes. He even said he has found some of the words impossible to pronounce.

“We try and offer healthy, nutritious meals where we can pronounce all the ingredients that we’re serving you,” Radford said.

Creating a menu with vegan customers in mind, he said, is part of making dining accessible and inclusive at the restaurant. 

According to Curtis, lots of the vegan options served at places on the website, like The Spotted Dog Restaurant & Bar, can be enjoyed by everyone.

[The Spotted Dog is] a really great comfort food meal for anybody, even if you're not vegetarian or vegan,” she said.

Emily Meekins, a sophomore at UNC, also recommended The Spotted Dog as a great place for finding options that are both plant-based and delicious for her vegan friends, and offer something other than options at the dining halls or on-campus restaurants.

“It's very limiting, especially when you're not just vegetarian, but like wholly vegan,” she said. “So, somewhere like The Spotted Dog was a really nice break.”

Ashlyn Fortney, a first-year student at UNC, is a vegetarian and works at Coco Bistro & Bar, a vegan- and vegetarian-friendly restaurant in Chapel Hill.

Fortney also said it can be hard to find vegan or vegetarian options on campus.

“That’s pretty difficult, especially for students because sometimes you're not cooking your own food,” she said. “Just relying on the dining hall can be hard.”

Restaurants like Grata Diner and people like Curtis are making plant-based dining more within-reach for students and residents alike.  

Radford said he makes the costs at Grata Diner low, while still keeping portions relatively large, something he does with students in mind. 

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“We're not so much a restaurant, as people come into our home and eat, and we treat them as such,” Radford said. “We cook simple dishes really fast for a very fair price.”

As vegan and vegetarian dining continues to grow in the Carrboro area, Curtis will be keeping up with it all on her website so vegan dining can be easily within reach.

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com