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.
But there’s another reason people sit down to a meal devoid of meat, dairy and such: taste. If you are vegan, you get it. If you aren’t, treat yourself to the amazing variety and fresh flavors embodied in plant-based eating. Many vegan restaurant owners not only use locally sourced ingredients, but report a diverse clientele, with herbivores and omnivores finding common ground over chicken-less chicken sandwiches and kale salads washed down with cold-pressed juices.
If you worry about adhering to a vegan diet while on vacation, put your concerns aside. No matter where you go, there are restaurants waiting to cater to your plant-based desires. And they do so using the highest quality non-meat, non-dairy proteins, vegetables, fruits and grains. No matter your eating style, you likely won’t feel deprived by the thoughtfully crafted meals, snacks, drinks and more that populate the menus of South Carolina’s vegan-friendly restaurants.
When on Hilton Head Island, eat like the vegan islanders do. True—seafood is the area’s claim to culinary fame. But with so many travelers landing here each year to experience a dreamy coastal vacation, there’s a focus on cuisines of all kinds to suit preferences of all kinds. These five establishments have solid reputations among the local vegan crowd and consider this your invitation to join them.
For more than a decade, this cafe has been the island’s headquarters for plant-based eats. The menu features both vegan and vegetarian offerings for health-conscious locals and vacationers. Soups, salads, bowls, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and house-made proteins make this establishment a stand-out. Ingredients include organic produce grown in the onsite garden. Vegan eats don’t get fresher than that.
Vegan raves: Pozole rojo soup, acai bowl, buddha bowl
This establishment is a destination for Hilton Head vegans who hunger for healthy, fresh eats and want them fast. Come as you are and order up something delicious. If you’re on the run, hit the grab-and-go case. Dishes are crafted with good taste and nutrition in mind, which has helped this hotspot earn a reputation for healthy creations done right. Sandwiches, wraps, bowls, stir-fries, noodles, paninis, salads, cookies and more will make you feel like you’ve hit the vegan jackpot. And you have.
Vegan raves: Italian pesto bowl, bahn mi panini, peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, bagel breakfast sandwich
The Purple Cow
This bakeshop stocks its case each day with plenty of plant-based goodies to satisfy the most discerning sweet tooth. Top-notch ingredients go into every offering at this bustling cafe, which is renowned for its bite-size treats—a popular option for disciplined eaters. If you are vegan and craving something decadent, this is your place. Get there early for the best selection. Call ahead for availability if you have your heart set on a certain pastry as the menu changes daily.
Vegan raves: Brownies, honey buns, donuts, coconut cake
Red Stripes Caribbean Cuisine
If you love Jamaican food and eat a vegan diet, you’ll fall for the plant-based offerings on this cafe's menu. Stop by and enjoy an authentic meal brimming with all the spicy flavors that make Caribbean cuisine so exciting. Stews, curries and pasta deliver all the flavors and heartiness of their meaty counterparts. The fried plantains complement them all.
Vegan raves: Brown stew tofu, Rasta pasta, curried chickpeas
If exotic flavors are your thing, you will find them served here in all their vegan glory. Caribbean, Japanese, Mediterranean, Indian and Southwestern cuisine make for an exciting mix of dishes at this eclectic cafe. Tapas and full meals are offered in an artsy environment that showcases local works and hosts guest artists who create their artwork as you watch. But the food is the main artistic draw, with the plant-based offerings beckoning those who appreciate vegan food artistry.
Vegan raves: Lasagna, spinach salad with Mayan craboo vinaigrette, exotic mushroom crepes, German chocolate torte