13 Jul Greenville Vegan + Vegetarian Dining Guide
Eating out as a vegetarian or vegan is often an exercise in futility and boredom, especially in the south. Either you are stuck ordering the same thing every time (macaroni and cheese if vegetarian or a black bean burger if you are vegan) or you have to choose between eating unhealthy (see again macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, french fries) or leaving the restaurant unsatisfied (iceberg lettuce and a few tomatoes). Rare are the restaurants that put as much thought and care into their plant based dishes as their meat and seafood dishes.
For the last ten years, I’ve lived in Greenville, SC. Over that time our options for healthy, delicious and vegetarian/vegan dishes have increased tremendously. While I still a struggle to find foods that are healthy, plant-based, taste good and fill me up, with this guide I hope to share what I know with you; so you know exactly where to go and what to order. All foods are The Cooking Doc approved.
(Pics of actual dishes taken by Dr. Shusterman at their respective establishments!)
Locally sourced with a constantly changing menu, The Anchorage serves the best tasting and most creative food in Greenville. Though the menu does not overflow with vegetarian options, the chef packs the available dishes with expert flavor and imagination. The menu always has four vegetable choices designed around the freshest local options. These side dishes cost $6 each or 3/$15. I always order all four. Last time I dined at The Anchorage, I devoured the Multicolored Cauliflower with Fava Beans and Sorghum Vinaigrette and savored every bite of the Grilled Local Broccoli with Roasted Garlic, Sichuan Pepper, and Charred Scallions. I never knew broccoli could taste so good. Ask for grilled bread (freshly made right down the street) so you can soak up all the leftovers. Location: about 5 minutes outside of downtown in the Pendleton Arts District.
Located on the south end of downtown, it’s easy to miss this den of relaxation and the freshest Middle Eastern Food in the Upstate of South Carolina. The ingredients taste as if the chef has just picked them that day. Crispy fresh lettuce, perfectly ripe cucumbers and tomatoes all topped with the tastiest vinaigrette around. But don’t stop with the salads. The menu bursts with delicious vegetarian and vegan options. Try the lentil soup or if you’re in the mood for something different, order the Fresh Dates Salad – fresh lettuce and spinach topped with walnuts, feta (if not vegan), dates and the Green Lettuce special dressing. Each bite has the perfect mix of salty, sweet, tangy and crunchy flavors. Other must try dishes include the veggie kabobs platter, hummus and eggplant.
Located in the north main section of downtown Greenville, this Greek restaurant makes a point of listing the vegetarian and vegan dishes clearly on the menu. Situated in a lively and friendly space that’s decorated with pictures and artifacts from Greece, there is no shortage of deliciously healthy and filling choices. Start with the fava bean spread. Served alongside homemade grilled rustic bread, the pureed fava beans mix luxuriously with a rich and flavorful imported olive oil. Follow it up with vegan moussaka or a cup of ratatouille.
Happy and Hale:
Conveniently nestled next to Falls Park, Greenville’s most popular tourist attraction, Happy and Hale is the type of restaurant you couldn’t find in Greenville a few years ago. Originating in the Raleigh/Durham, NC area, Happy and Hale opened their Greenville location in 2016. They offer fresh and creative salads in a friendly and fast-paced yet unrushed atmosphere. My favorites are the Incredibowl and the Popeye + Olive Oil. This is the place to find the tastiest and trendiest salad ingredients—last time I checked the menu busted with kale and quinoa.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Panera’s are everywhere. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a restaurant that has figured out how to change with the changing times, this is one place you won’t want to miss. Located on every corner in the Greenville, SC suburbs, Panera is the place to go when you want a quick and filling salad. I eat there almost every week, and though it is embarrassing to say this, I order the same thing almost every time. Get the Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa, minus the feta and add avocado to create a filling and vegan dish. The hardest part about keeping a Panera meal healthy is avoiding the bakery section. Try not to order anything from the bakery unless you are celebrating a special occasion—the options are loaded with high calorie, high fat dishes.
Kairos Greek Kitchen:
Since it opened in early 2018, Kairos has found its way into my lunch rotation. Offering fast, casual food, Kairos has grain bowls and baked falafel for vegetarians looking for an on-the-go option. You can choose your toppings as you go down the ordering line, and the sauces and veggie toppings are homemade and fresh. I have heard that the falafel contains eggs, so skip them if you are vegan. The first trip to Kairos can be overwhelming because the menu is not easy to figure out quickly – especially if a line is forming behind you—but by the second trip, you will be an expert.
Though it seems odd to have a poke bowl restaurant on a list of vegetarian and vegan options, I’ve found that by being creative, you can make a healthy poke bowl without adding meat. Most of the bowl options come topped with fish or chicken, but by skipping the meat and using toppings such as edamame and avocado, you can create a filling vegan bowl. Keeping it healthy is not as easy. Ask for brown rice and only use a small amount. Be careful of the pickled toppings and O.G. sauce if you want to avoid a high sodium meal, and stay away from mayonnaise-based sauces if you want to keep the fat content down.
Some of my best memories from growing up in Baltimore include eating at a Afghani restaurant downtown called The Helmand. I never thought we would get an Afghan restaurant in Greenville. Offering a limited menu of home cooked food, this family owned restaurant will leave you feeling as if you have visited a long time Afghani friend for a meal. They offer a number of vegetarian and vegan options. Get the daal and anything the family is making with chickpeas.
Fast, inexpensive and delicious, pita house has been a staple of the Greenville, SC dining for many years. Order the vegetarian platter and try the hummus, falafel, pickled vegetables, tabouli, baba ghannouj and tahini salad. Limit the deep fried falafel to one or two. Watch the pickled veggies as well if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or are otherwise on a low sodium diet. The lentil plate is another delicious option. This restaurant is not for those of you who never carry cash (cash or check only) or for those who have an important meeting later that day (the garlic will surely keep you from impressing your meeting partner).
Caviar and Bananas:
Located right in the heart of Greenville off 1 City Plaza, this creative eatery has prepared foods and salads with a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. Items are clearly marked as vegetarian or vegan. Stick to one or two dishes, or use the salad station to help you stay within budget. If you are looking for a hidden gem of the Greenville dining scene, check out Caviar and Bananas’s counter top service. Though they do not have many meat-free options, the chef beautifully presents the vegetarian and vegan tapas. If you are lucky enough, you’ll find a dish with their smoked honey. It’s TDF.
Fast, fresh Middle Eastern food, Zoe’s has something for everyone. Try the power grain bowl, the cauliflower rice bowl or the quinoa salad. Leave off the feta cheese and tzatziki for vegan options.
Swamp Rabbit Café:
Located on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, this grocery store and café usually has one or two vegetarian and vegan options. They make all of their food with the freshest local ingredients and the atmosphere leaves you wanting to grab a bike and take off down the trail after you’ve finished your meal.
What started as Greenville’s first food truck, has transformed into one of the best quick dining options in the city. Pop by for lunch or dinner and order whatever vegan dish Gina, the owner, recommends. She’ll make you feel like a regular even if it’s your first visit to the restaurant.
Southern Pressed Juicery:
Freshly pressed juices, energy bowls, salads and sweets line the menu at this hip spot in downtown Greenville. Everything is vegan, delicious and creative. Though brimming with unverified and false health claims, the cold pressed juices are flavorful and thirst quenching if you’re willing to spend $10 on a drink. Try the tart, sweet and spicy Latin Lover, a refreshing mix of pineapple, orange, cilantro, jalapeño and camu powder. Meal portions are small for the price, but they will fill you up just as much as a larger and unhealthy order of burger and fries.
Got more? What did I miss? Let me know below.