The South runs on mac n’ cheese, but recently plant-based and gluten free eating have been on the incline. More and more vegan restaurants have opened throughout Charleston, and they’re welcoming customers of all different lifestyles to experience their food.
Located on President Street, this plant-based cafe is out of this world. From all-day breakfast to fresh pastries being cooked and served constantly, Gnome Cafe is definitely a hotspot for plant-based eating. Yes, I repeat, plant-based. Everything on their menu is plant-based and extremely healthy. Their menu has everything I ever dreamed of: veggie burgers with cheese and bacon, tempeh sandwiches with all the fixings, taco salad, pad thai salad and even breakfast burritos.
The Operations Manager, Jon York, said, “everything on the menu is locally sourced. Being a cafe in the South, locally sourced food is definitely a key factor in having and serving healthy food.” They can modify any dish, like cinnamon pancakes or grits, to be gluten free.
The atmosphere of this little cafe is even better. Plants hanging everywhere, the smell of coffee and cinnamon, the sound of laughter as friends gather around the tables and newspapers turning all create a soothing environment. I definitely felt hip and at peace.
The owners, who used to be yoga instructors, wanted people to feel comfortable dining at Gnome. They painted the saying, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” which means “May all being be happy and free.” York stated that the owners of Gnome Cafe, “wanted this place to accept all humans. It serves as a place for people to step away from their messy lives for a while and feel happy and free when they walk through the doors at Gnome.” It is clear to see that eating healthy can be enjoyed easily while munching away at Gnome Cafe.
Located on Rutledge Ave, this pit stop has all the wraps, pizza and salads a person can dream of. Dellz Uptown is a vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurant that has something for everybody – including meat eaters. Just like Gnome, Dellz is a gluten-free friendly place. When looking for the best thing to eat here that hits all three criteria (vegan, gluten free, and healthy), I tried the High on Veggies wrap, but asked for the salad version instead. This salad is life-changing. The green-goddess dressing makes the fact that I am eating a bunch of veggies even better. Maddie, one of the the cashiers, expressed to me that, “everyone in the kitchen is really passionate about cooking. They make sure that everything tastes amazing, and that they only use fresh ingredients. The owner Dell is really strict on only using local food.”
While customers were enjoying their Jazzy Pizza and wraps while talking with friends, I asked Jen, one of the customers, how she was enjoying her food. She did not hesitate to tell me that, “I’m not vegan myself, but every time I come to Dellz, I always order on the vegan menu. I just feel so refueled and energized after eating here! Plus, Dell is a sweetheart and really thrives on providing the best food for her customers.”
The Harbinger Cafe + Bakery
Located on King Street, The Harbinger Cafe and Bakery is a new addition to the plant-based restaurants in Charleston. Offering vegan, vegetarian and gluten free food, everything about this place is magical. The owners Gwen and Cameron want to provide a restaurant that is calm and welcoming. On The Harbinger Cafe’s website, it states, “what we’re all about: our from-scratch kitchen features locally-sourced & seasonal breakfast & lunch fare as well as a curated selection of top-notch baked goods with both plant-based & gluten-free options. The warm & inviting space is designed to reflect our commitment to friendly service, providing a cozy environment where neighbors & visitors alike can feel like they have a home on King Street.”
Everything on the menu is so unique and different that it is impossible not to leave this place with a full and happy belly. On top of that, the food they purchase is all locally sourced. I thought the dessert at Gnome was next level until I tried The Harbinger Cafe’s sweet treats. The Best Friend cookie is easily the size of a hand and so gooey and chocolatey that I melted to the floor.
Who doesn’t love a good Acai bowl? Right on King Street, Beech is so close to the College and always seems to be buzzing with students. When I walked into Beech, I saw bananas lining the walls. What’s even better is mostly everything on their menu can be made gluten free. Whenever I’m in the mood for a nice healthy kickstart to my day, or it’s too hot for anything else, I head over to Beech, and have added it to my best acai bowls list. They also serve bagels, wraps and poke bowls. Beech provides options for every kind of lifestyle, and thrives on serving customers the healthiest foods they can find.
What’s better than having someone do all the dirty work and make a salad for me? Verde, another King St. restaurant, is an amazing option for everyone, regardless of lifestyle. All the produce is locally bought and bursting with flavor. From salads to wraps, they give their customers a chance to create their own or choose from their menu. Verde is so good and so fresh that I find myself craving a salad from here on a daily basis.
With these options, vegan and healthy eating will never be difficult again. Even on the days or weeks I want to treat myself, I go to one of these places and treat myself the right way!