Charleston’s beauty fills the entire city with a lively and unbelievable sense of serenity, relaxation, and excitement. The emotions that come with a visit to the Holy City are the result of years of historically gorgeous architecture, stunning beachfront, and vibrant nightlife. Among all these selling points, Charleston’s glory can be attributed partly to its growing and award-winning culinary scene. Although most of the city’s restaurants remain meat-centric, the lively culinary scene refuses to leave out plant-based eaters. Over the years, Charleston’s food scene has become a haven for any traveling diner, providing a distinct and diverse array of foods that offer innovative, flavorful cuisines for everyone.
For anyone driving through Charleston, it is important to take a second to soak in the entire city. Beyond the beach and the architectural awe, the best way to really learn Charleston is through its food scene. An inventive, inspiring culinary atmosphere presents new forms of dishes across every cuisine, especially with a flourishing pop-up scene. For your next trip to the South Carolina coast, here is a list of the best vegan options across the city to fill up your time and stomach during your trip to the city.
1. Annie O’ Loves Cookie Cafe / Cafe of Sweet Abundance
Plant Yourself: Annie O’ Loves brings everything to the table. Whether you are looking for a full sweet breakfast spread, a filling savory lunch, or a delicious sweet treat, Annie O Loves’ Cafe of Sweet Abundance offers an extensive plant-based menu with so much to try. Chef Annie Oswald – born and raised in Charleston – started her journey working at restaurants across the city with many chefs, but her baking started as a personal venture. She started baking and selling her vegan and gluten-free cookies out of her van at local farmers’ markets until her success allowed her to open her full-scale vegan bakery that’s become a Charleston staple.
Don’t Miss: The Annie O Loves’ Cafe of Abundance presents customers with anything from her signature vegan baked goods to the restaurant’s list of delicious and inventive sandwiches. The savory highlights include the chef’s signature MacDaddy’s Crispy Chick’n pressed with melty cheese, home-made granola, signature sauce, and pesto The Fungi featuring white button mushrooms sauteed with onions, a mushroom pesto made with Miyoko’s cheese, melty cheese, and the cafe’s signature MacDaddy’s vegan Chick’n
Calling All: The Cafe of Abundance lives up to its name. It brings an abundance of plant-based food to a hungry, food-centric city. From pre-made cakes to its signature and foundational cookies, this place brings everything to the table. Make sure that if you’re making your to Charleston to put this place at the top of your list.
Location: 1901 Ashley River Rd
2. Gnome Cafe
Don’t Miss: Charleston’s brunch and breakfast locations dominate the city, adding to the city’s rich dining scene. Gnome Cafe stands as the city’s only fully vegan breakfast or brunch spot, and its food stands its ground against the city’s bustling brunch scene. The menu is complete with every savory and sweet breakfast staple paired with a stunning lunch menu.
Plant Yourself: The quaint corner cafe provides a lovely, casual dining spot for every hungry consumer walking around Charleston. If you find yourself on the Westside of Charleston, the menu holds several must-have dishes that will satisfy any diner, plant-based or not. For breakfast, it is impossible to go wrong with the cinnamon pancakes or the southern grit bowl. For lunch, the tempeh Reuben is the top choice, featuring a house-made vegan Russian dressing, sauerkraut, tempeh, and swiss cheese on rye toast.
Take Note: The straightforward breakfast and lunch menus offer a wide variety of food to satisfy any customer. The entire menu is sourced from plant-based ingredients with no chance of overlap or cross-contamination. From fresh bagels to savory salads, this cafe presents the vegan diners’ dream establishment. Once you visit, you will be coming back.
Location: 109 President St.
3. Neon Tiger
Plant Yourself: Neon Tiger’s menu is completely stacked with dishes to electrify its guests. The chef-designed menu contains food styles across multiple regions, giving the customer a wide variety of outstanding dishes to choose from. Whether you start with familiar appetizers like the Falafel Salad or more experimental plant-based Trumpet Mushroom Calamari or Crispy Konjac Shrimp, you are guaranteed to be blown away.
Don’t Miss: The shining stars of the vegan menu live in the Mains section. Between the Big Buffalo Chicken sandwich and the Lentil Ragout, it is nearly impossible to determine what to order. The taste-packed menu gives customers one option: to come back again. Also, when visiting Neon TIger with a group, it is essential to share one of the restaurant’s signature plant-based pizzas. This restaurant is perfect for any occasion from a date night to a group dinner when visiting the city.
Location: 654 King St.
4. The Harbinger Cafe & Bakery
Take Note: This health-conscious restaurant is an amazing spot to sit down and enjoy a late morning breakfast or brunch. The Harbinger Cafe menu boasts an extreme focus on healthy and nutritious foods, providing customers with several plant-based and gluten-free dishes. The restaurant serves breakfast all day and starts its beloved lunch menu at 11 am. If a meal isn’t your priority, then make sure to stop by the bakery to pick up one of its many vegan dessert options.
Plant Yourself: When you arrive at Harbinger Cafe & Bakery, it’s likely that you’ll be immediately drawn to the bakery side. Once you browsed through the vegan treats and purchased some to take home, I suggest taking a seat in the restaurant’s lovely patio and treating yourself to a coffee and a meal. The coffee menu offers a variety of plant-based milk including Almond and Oat. The lunch offerings change daily, but you can always rely on the Grasshopper Toast featuring tahini, sriracha, garlic cashews, super seed medley, and avocado, or The Caterpillar featuring pickled red onions, avocado, sumac and pumpkin seed brittle, and spiced paprika oil.
Location: 1107 King St.
5. Ali Baba
Plant Yourself: The vegetarian and vegan-friendly Meditteranean restaurant is a prime lunch location for anyone looking for a filling, delicious plant-based meal. The Ali Baba staff works extra hard to make sure that you can order a plant-based item and that it will not be crossed with any of the dairy or animal-based products in the restaurant. The restaurant offers a wide variety of plant-based sandwich options and full customizable vegetarian platter options.
Don’t Miss: When picking up food from Ali Baba make sure to try one of the restaurant’s delicious salads or vegan sandwiches. Order the Falafel or Grilled Veggie Pita sandwiches without the feta to make certain you receive a completely plant-based meal. Both sandwiches contain all the flavor you want from a Mediterranean meal and can be accompanied by one of the restaurant’s many tasty vegan sides including the Tabouli Salad or Sauteed Cauliflower with sumac and lemon juice.
Location: 186 Seven Farms Dr. Suite 500
6. The Gathering Cafe
Plant-Yourself: When visiting The Gathering Cafe, the best section of the menu to focus on is the bowls. Each of the cafe’s five bowls comes completely vegan, packed tightly with flavor, and filled with a diverse and delicious medley of vegetables. The top bowl is the Spicy Panang Curry Bowl served with carrots, kale, mushrooms, ginger, and zucchini over a bed of brown rice. For $2.95 extra, you can add tofu to the bowl to give your meal some extra protein power. However, if you are not feeling spicy, then the Tofu Wrap is a familiar favorite. The signature tofu wrap sandwich comes loaded with tofu, green onion, avocado, almond butter sauce, kimchi mayo, cucumber, carrots, and romaine.
Calling All: This health-forward restaurant developed a menu to satisfy any customer. Although located relatively far from the center of town, Gathering Cafe is worth the trip. Among its extensive plant-based menu, the restaurant offers a variety of delicious smoothies, juices, and signature coffee drinks. Between the Daily Greens smoothie containing avocado, kale, peach, banana, flaxseed, dates, and apple juice and the freshly squeezed Grapefruit Juice, there is no way to go wrong with a refreshment at the Gathering Cafe.
Location: 1124 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.
7. Jack of Cups Saloon
Don’t Miss: It’s never a complete trip to Charleston without driving to Folly Beach. The beautiful beach directly south of the city is one of Charleston’s biggest draws, and it is exactly what keeps people coming back. The exciting, lively offshoot of the Holy City contains a long strip of bars and restaurants alongside the beach, but near the strip is a globally inspired, vegan-friendly restaurant, Jack of Cups. When on Folly Island, this delicious, beach-designed restaurant is an essential stop along the way
Plant Yourself: The majority of the menu comes vegetarian with few exceptions: Even though the vegetarian menu items feature dairy and egg products, ask the waiter to remove the animal-based ingredients to make the dish fully plant-based. The experimental menu features a variety of delicious dishes made directly for vegans including the Pearled Barley Kisir– a brown rice dish coated with a pomegranate, Aleppo, and ginger tomato dressing then topped with cucumber, mint, scallion, pickled red onions, carrot, and ground pistachio, and served with Bibb lettuce for serving.
Calling All: For something more simple, stop by the backyard bar for a veggie burger and a beer. The beautiful backyard patio is home to a full bar with dozens of beers and cocktails for any customer’s palette. The two veggie burger options are the housemade White Bean Patty or the Impossible Burger. Make sure to order the burger without beer cheese queso or mayo. If you get hungry during your time on Folly Island, remember Jack of Cups is the vegan-friendly saloon to keep on your mind.
Location: 34 Center St.
Plant Yourself: Verde is one of the most health-conscious restaurants in town, providing customers with an extensive plant-based menu available. Even though the menu is not completely plant-based, the menu is stocked with delicious and creative plant-based salads and bowls. Also, no matter where in Charleston you find yourself, there will be a Verde nearby. With four locations, there is a way to get your healthy lunch or dinner anywhere in the city with ease.
Don’t Miss: The Verde menu features several pre-made salads that either come vegan or can be substituted to become vegan. If you do not want to go through the difficulty of changing out the ingredients of some of the preset menu options, then you can create your own salad from scratch from all of the ingredients offered. The build-your-own-salad option allows for the customers to base, top, and dress their own salads from all of the menu items across the menu. The ultimate customization makes this a desirable spot for any plant-based eater in the city.
Be Sure to Try: The two top vegan salads: The Bowled Buddha featuring roasted broccoli, pickled onions, chickpeas, roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, kimchi, served on brown rice, quinoa, and kale, and drizzled with a turmeric vinaigrette; and the Farmers Market containing mesclun, baby spinach, arugula, beets, cucumber, roasted broccoli, avocado, pickled onion, sunflower seeds, everything bagel seasoning, and basil with Green Goddess Dressing.
9. Bangin’ Vegan Eats
Take Note: This Charleston staple is a vegan meal that you’ve got to earn a little. The Bangin’ Vegan Eat food truck is constantly on the move, switching locations around the Holy City, jumping from festival to festival, but nevertheless consistently delicious. Depending on your visit, the food truck could be located anywhere in the city, but luckily, the Bangin’ Vegan Eats crew drops the location of the truck at the beginning of the week and sometimes sporadically through its social media accounts. The food truck can also be found on its Street Food Finder page here.
Don’t Miss: From plant-based Philly cheesesteaks to Hunny Garlic & Buffalo bangers, there is never enough delicious vegan food coming from Bangin’ Vegan Eats. The constantly evolving menu is bringing some of the best and most experimental takes on familiar favorites in the entire city. The vegan food truck specializes in the most familiar, and beloved American classics including burgers, nachos, and hot dogs. The mobile restaurant boasts a high protein menu without any animal product, aiming to break down stereotypes behind plant-based food. Opening in May of this year, Bangin’ Vegan Eat is shaking the plant-based food scene in Charleston with so much more to offer on its horizon.
Location: Use the Street Food Finder to locate Bangin’s truck
For more plant-based eats around the country, check out The Beet‘s City Guides.