Finding decent vegan-food options in a small town like Greenville, SC even five years ago was nearly impossible. You’d find yourself repeating the phrase “plant-based” slowly and with increasing volume to your poor, unaware server, who might then suggest the green beans (loaded with butter and bacon).
Now, the word “impossible” is ubiquitous in relation to vegan options thanks to the plant-based burger that has infiltrated even fast food menus. The true vegan nature of the burgers prepared in a meat-heavy kitchen is up for debate, but the meat-only tide has definitely turned.
Mainstream acceptance of vegan options has brought the introduction of truly interesting plant-based dishes that are a far cry from the unimaginative portobello burger or lackluster vegetable plate of the last two decades. And Greenville, the up-and-coming foodie town between the more established scenes of Asheville and Charleston, is home to some seriously creative dishes that would fool omnivores.
Since seven is the number of perfection, here are seven nearly perfect vegan-food bites in Greenville, SC restaurants you shouldn’t miss, whether you follow a plant-based diet or not. (Please note, this list is not even close to exhaustive, and isn’t that just great.)
How’s that for a total oxymoron. Chef Jenifer Rogers fuses her classic French training with her cajun roots and puts on quite a show with this perfectly dirty and savory version that just about anyone, regardless of allergens and preferences, can enjoy.
Crepes = eggs. Always. Except when the owners of this great little coffee spot and bakery figured out how to make arrowroot (also gluten free) mimic the stretch of eggs and dupe all of us into thinking we were eating the real French deal. Pure culinary sorcery at its best.
Think ramen must have an animal stock to be legit? Newp. Not when chef Adam Cooke is involved. It’s all about the mushroom dashi base that creates a broth so savory you won’t miss the meat, or, might ask your server, again, if it *really* is vegan.
Many vegans say they don’t miss meat but really miss the cheese. You won’t miss a dang thing when you taste this soup. A mirepoix, cashew, and garlic base with turmeric for added color makes this a dead-ringer of the version your mom used to make, but really, it’s so much better. You can buy it by the quart for home, too.
Middle Eastern cultures figured out millenia ago how to extract full flavor from vegetables alone, and Aryana is modern-day proof. When you order at Aryana, you pick either meat or vegan, and owner Nelofar Mayar will dish up a plate of six corresponding portions. Expect eggplant, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, potatoes, all prepared with intense flavor and a comfort food result. You won’t miss the meat.
Organic sweet potatoes, leeks, shallots over two scratch-made sopes and topped with charred red peppers and guajillo romesco sauce. I’m salivating just typing that. Imagine what you’ll do when you taste it. Also, chase it with a tall (and deadly) glass of Gina’s famous red sangria.
The cashew cheese sauce chef Nicci Hughes concocted for these nachos leaves no dairy to be desired. (I’m Swiss, so I can vouch). Topped with pickled red onion, jalapeno, guacamole, pico and lime “cream,” these hit all the savory and acidic notes.
To sum up, vegans have options in Greenville, and not the type you settle for on a road trip. These are real food, chef-created dishes you’ll be craving until you get your next fix. Take it from someone who has christened bacon as its own food group, these are each worth a detour.