Column: Chapel Hill’s Best Restaurants for Plant-Based Food


In college, food is as much a social event as it is a sustenance.

When asked if I wanted to join friends on their midnight trip to Insomnia Cookies, I came for the camaraderie – not the cookies. As a vegan, I knew there was no option at Insomnia that matched my dietary restrictions.

Or at least there wasn’t.

As of November 2020, Insomnia Cookies offers three flavors of vegan cookies. And me somehow lack this.

The natural response to cookies, of course, is pure elation. But as a vegan my excitement was even higher. Herbal options are rare and sometimes impossible to discover.

This is especially true in North Carolina, which is after all a state famous for its barbecue.

That being said, here is a list of some of my favorite restaurants in Chapel Hill that satisfy a plant-based diet (already discovered and compiled), for you to enjoy.

Insomnia cookies

The dessert spot has options of vegan chocolate chunks, birthday cakes, and double chocolate chunk cookies. Until midnight, and some days, 1 a.m., I’ve said enough.

Try it: Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookie

For more vegan desserts, I recommend the Vegan Ice Cream Man!

Restaurant and bar for spotted dogs

The Spotted Dog is technically in Carrboro, but it’s so good that I’m giving it an exception on this list. It offers several types of cuisine, and many of the non-inherently vegan dishes on the menu have the option of consuming vegan protein and dairy alternatives. It is the perfect restaurant to visit when you are with herbal friends and meat lovers.

Try it: Spot Salad with Tempeh and Lemon Tamari Dressing

Indian Kitchen Fireplace & Bar

Chimney offers amazing Indian cuisine filled with rich flavors. Its elegant decor will make any meal a little more special. Not to mention, if you accidentally call to order after the kitchen closes, they may even offer to make Chana Masala for you anyway. You are too nice, Chimney.

Try it: Dal Tadka

Cosmic canteen

Cosmic is one of my all time favorites. I don’t think my college experience would be complete without it, and I’m sure a lot of other students can agree. Delicious burritos, excellent fries, and a selection of beans and tofu to add a little more protein to your plant-based meal. You can’t go wrong here.

Try it: Green burrito

Vegan Flava Coffee

Vegan Flava Cafe is a quaint restaurant tucked away in Chapel Hill, completely vegan and good. They have everything from tacos and wraps to Sunday brunch and smoothies. As one of my non-vegan friends said: “I wouldn’t even know it was vegan.”

Try it: Jackfruit BBQ

Mediterranean charcuterie

Affectionately known as Med Deli, this open-air restaurant has so many menu options that you’re bound to find something for every occasion. Check out the Mediterranean market next door for beans and extra baklava on the way out.

Try it: Falafel, grape leaves and tabouli

Purple bowl

Purple Bowl has some of the best acai I have tried. If you are not an acai lover, they also have a rose pitaya and almond vanilla protein smoothie base. Their unique selection of toppings means you’ll never be bored. Ever wanted to try lavender on acai? Go to the purple bowl.

Try it: Antioxidant bowl

Lime and Basil

I spent my first two years after going vegan actively trying to find herbal pho. Lime and basil were the answer to my prayers. Lime and Basil also offers Vietnamese dishes beyond pho, and almost all of the menu options have a vegan or vegetarian equivalent. It’s also home to some of the best summer rolls I’ve had.

Try it: Pho dau hu

Glad to see more restaurants including vegan items on their menus. Plant-based meals can be enjoyed by all customers, not just vegans. Making them more accessible is a definitive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect marine ecosystems and avoid supporting factory farming.

Plus, it allows more people to participate in the valuable socialization that comes with group meals.

So, don’t forget to eat your veggies! Especially if they are in the form of a cookie.


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