If you’re dining out in Asheville, creative vegetarian and vegan options abound. They’re even tucked away in unexpected places like burger joints and American-style bars. Local restaurateurs are often conscious of Asheville’s diverse dietary demographics and willing to cater to those needs.
Jargon (West Asheville)
At Jargon, in the heart of West Asheville, heirloom tomatoes are the star of the show and they’re showcased in more ways than one. Some savory choices include an heir- loom tomato salad with buratta, herb purée, compressed watermelon, local lettuce, sea salt, and a vinaigrette; an heirloom tomato Gazpacho with basil oil; and stuffed squash with heirloom tomato and ricotta. So, no matter how you slice them, these summer treats are sure to make both meat-eaters and vegetarians swoon.
Avenue M (North Asheville)
The vegan spicy ginger tofu at this North Asheville favorite has been on the menu for more than 15 years (ever since the restaurant was called Usual Suspects). The dish is a mix of fried tofu tossed in a spicy ginger-tamari sauce served with sautéed kale, garlic, and carrots.Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike often start their meals with this healthy dish. And, if you’re looking for a meat-free main course, the Tempeh Reuben is a savory salute to its beefy cousin and includes all the classic trimmings such as swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing; and the curry roasted cauliflower offers a generous dose of chimichurri and macerated cranberry.
AUX Bar (Downtown)
There’s always a hummus dish on the menu at this downtown joint best known for its burgers and braises. The AUX Bar crew uses regional beans of the South, typically some sort of field pea from local legume and grain sourced from Farm & Sparrow, to make an untraditional version of the traditional Middle Eastern dip. A recent version combined pink-eyed peas and local purple sweet potato, but others have highlighted butter beans, fresh favas, red beans, crowder peas, and even boiled peanuts. The hummus is served with whole-wheat naan, olive oil, pickles, and shaved raw vegetables. It also pops up in a dish that features charred local vegetables served with pecan romesco. Veg-friendly specials have included a roasted sweet potato and charred miso broth with tofu and scallions, and there’s always a local-made tempeh on hand in case a guest requests a meat substitute. Tempeh wing or Reuben, anyone?
H&F Burger (Downtown)
A burger joint might not seem like a first choice for the veg set, but the veggie burger at this downtown meat-lover’s haven is turning heads. It’s crafted from Sea Island red peas (native to the Carolina coast), toasted farro, and mushrooms, and it’s topped with kimchi and chili mayonnaise. There’s also a vegetable plate that boasts of local, in-season ingredients. Many of the sides here are also veg-friendly and include choices such as confit button mushrooms, brown-butter sweet potato purée, and roasted radishes. For those looking to indulge a little, H&F also offers local cheese boards with pickled veggies, hand-cut fries, and crispy onion rings that are sure to satisfy a craving for comfort. If you want to think outside the burger, you can have a great plant-based meal here. ◊◊
Liisa is a freelance writer who has a strong focus on food. She’s also the co-founder of a local cooking school, Cottage Cooking.