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Plant-based Eats: Five Vegan Cafes to Try in Columbia

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 35 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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This mouthwatering fried “chicken” sandwich is one of the tantalizing vegan offerings at Peace of Soul.

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 restaurants. After all, you’re in the land of barbecue, macaroni and cheese, shrimp and grits, fried chicken 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.

Honestly, there’s so much more to the menus at South Carolina’s vegan operations. 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. Vegan chefs are notoriously skilled in cooking up dishes that capture the texture, flavor and look of favorite carnivorous eats as well as crafting plant-based dishes so flavorful and colorful you’ll forget your meat and dairy cravings altogether. You also won’t be shortchanged nutritionally, as a vegan diet can deliver all the protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals you need for prime health.

If you’re a vegan dining out in Columbia, there are vegan-friendly restaurants waiting to exceed your expectations. If you’re simply vegan-curious, look beyond the fabled pimento cheeseburger and consider these popular eateries where the food is vegan and delicious, guaranteed.

Good Life Cafe 
Fresh, local, organic—that’s what you get when you dine at Good Life Cafe. Your taste buds will thrill to the flavors of the dishes here, most of them original recipes. The comprehensive menu features raw vegan dishes, fresh juices and smoothies. They also have a coffee bar, grab-and-go market and a variety of cocktails made with fresh-squeezed juices. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
Vegan raves: Buffalo cauliflower bites; eggplant Parmesan burger; chocolate banana smoothie; cucumber mojito

The Local Buzz 
This bakery, coffee shop and sit-down cafe specializes in vegan offerings while also catering to vegetarian, gluten-free, keto, paleo and other dietary needs. Located in the Five Points section of town, it draws a heavy college crowd along with mindful eaters of all walks of life. Open for breakfast and lunch, with a vegan brunch served on the weekends.
Vegan raves: Cinnamon rolls, mac and cheese, chicken pot pie, hummingbird cake, quiche

A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen 
If you want to indulge in all your favorite meat dishes without the meat, this is the place for you. Though the cuisine is purely plant-based, this cafe doesn’t give off a heavy health-food vibe. You can still dig into a chili-cheese dog without ingesting one iota of animal product. Satisfy your craving for soul food, too, with sides like creamy mac and cheese, locally grown collards and black-eyed peas. Even chicken and waffles make an appearance from time to time. Open for breakfast and lunch.
Vegan raves: Mac and cheese, fried chicken slider, purple cabbage, carrot cake

Rawtopian Bliss 
Good health and mentality is at the center of this vibrant vegan deli and culinary school. Main dishes are raw with some cooked foods on the menu, too. Nosh to your heart’s content on pizza, burgers, salads, wraps and more. Grab and go for your convenience.
Vegan raves: Seven-layer lasagna, creamy kale salad, nori rolls, crab cakes, taco bliss bowls

Reizod Vegan Experience 
An eclectic menu woven with raw dishes, soul food and Indian cuisine draws a discerning crowd to this vegan experience. The proprietors pride themselves on operating a restaurant that strives for a non-GMO, organic and largely soy-free lineup of dishes. If you’re considering adopting a vegan lifestyle, at this cafe you’ll find plenty of tasty reasons to follow through.
Vegan raves: Philly Cheezsteak, Jerk Chikin, empañadas, samosas, fresh juices

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 35 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.