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Meatless Eats: Five Vegan Cafes to Try in Charleston

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Cashew coconut cream-infused vegan tomato soup from the Gathering Place comes with house-made croutons.

No eggs, no cheese, no butter, no seafood, no meat—no problem? Then you’re probably a vegan.

Across the country, the lean toward a plant-based diet is a growing trend. Whether chosen as a matter of health, conscience or both, it’s a lifestyle that requires a modicum of research and inquiry to ensure a truly vegan experience when patronizing South Carolina’s restaurants.

After all, you’re in the land of barbecue, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and biscuits, which can pose more than a few dining challenges.

The menus at South Carolina’s vegan operations shine with fresh flavors. While you’ll be wowed by the creativity that goes into these dishes, the most surprising revelation of all is that you likely won’t feel meat deprived. 

If you think Charleston is a mere hotbed of shrimp and grits, think again. Restaurants here reflect a kaleidoscope of eating styles and tastes executed with the same dedication you’d expect from our most notable establishments.

While known for its historical appeal and traditions, Charleston is a progressive city that caters to modern tastes. Here are some restaurants where the vegan offerings are designed to wow.

Close-up of gelato chocolate chip cookie sandwich
Vegan gelato cookie sandwiches from Annie O Love’s are swoon-worthy.

 Annie O Love's Cookie Cafe

What started as a farmers market cookie operation has evolved into a full-blown cafe. Annie O Love's claim to fame is a menu that is totally vegan and gluten-free. Much attention goes into sourcing ingredients for the delicious foods served at this cafe of sweet abundance. Sandwiches made with fresh, grainy breads and tasty fillings are a crowd favorite as are inventive granolas, savory spreads, waffles and desserts, which include, of course, cookie creations. If a cookie gelato sandwich has your sweet tooth throbbing, this is your place.
Vegan raves: Spicy Avocado Chik’n Sammich, Chik’n and Waffles, Peanut Butter Apocalypse Cheesecake and Jars of Abundance filled with indulgent combos of cake, fruit, nuts, chocolate and more

The Gathering Place 

Healthy and comforting, the food here is worth gathering around. With a menu that reflects seasonal ingredients, The Gathering Place in West Ashley is a showcase for local flavor with a number of inspired dishes crafted with plant-based sensibility. It has a faithful following that is growing with every bite. There’s artistry on the menu, so stop in for a breakfast, lunch or dinner that suits your vegan desires.
Vegan raves: Tomato soup, chipotle tofu, beet salad, panang curry

Vegan Reuben sandwich with fries
This vegan Reuben from Neon Tiger is indulgent and filling.

Neon Tiger

Established by John Adamson (restauranteur and activist) and chef/activist Doug McNish (Vegan Everyday), Neon Tiger offers some of the most inspired vegan dishes around. Part cocktail bar, part restaurant, Neon Tiger has vegan- and health-conscious vibes that manage to be sophisticated and inviting for one and all. The menu reflects a focus on organic, natural, local ingredients for drinks and small plates, alike. Go for a bite to eat, cocktails with friends or both.
Vegan raves: Trumpet mushroom calamari, lentil ragout, barbecue jackfruit pizza, turmeric mule, cosmos

Vegan meal of beets, fennel, pistachios
Bread and butter beets with pickled fennel and pistachio is brimming with earthy, vegan goodness from Sorghum and Salt.

Sorghum and Salt

Fresh seafood is a draw at Charleston fave, Sorghum and Salt, but the vegan dishes have garnered plenty of admirers, too. The seasonal, rotating menu of small plates has a dedicated vegan component filled with dishes bursting with local goodness. Ingredients like Carolina Gold rice, local butterbeans and, aptly, sorghum, deliver Lowcountry flair and demonstrate a commitment to showcasing the best of South Carolina. For a memorable treat, gather your vegan friends to enjoy a chef’s tasting menu.
Vegan rave examples: Charred acorn squash with Carolina Gold rice, persimmon jam and pickled peppers, butterbean panzanella, coffee-roasted carrots with winter squash vinaigrette, jalapeño and granola

Vined - The Vegan Experience

Owner Christian Keith is catering to the vegan crowd with her offerings of vegan soul food and snacky things. Vined - The Vegan Experience started as a pop-up but soon flourished, leading Keith to establish a brick-and-mortar presence on Dorchester Road in North Charleston. Just a short drive from downtown Charleston, it's a vegan affair worth gravitating toward - especially for the Soul Food Sunday line-up.
Vegan raves: Riffs on shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, chicken "vings," and country fried mushrooms and gravy served over rice 

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.