[Veggie Voyager!] Plant-Powered Eating in Charleston, SC

 Photo credit:  © Sean Pavone  | ID 93705946

Photo credit: © Sean Pavone | ID 93705946

Summer travel season is here, woo hoo! But if you’re avoiding meat (or more), keeping up your dietary preferences can make globetrotting a bit of a challenge. Since eating is at least half the fun of traveling, we’re on a mission to find the best plant-based eats in every city to make your next visit a veg-tastic one. Today, we’ve invited SmartGirlVeg intern Leah Negrin to share her experiences eating as a gluten-free vegan in the decidedly Southern (think buttery grits, buttermilk biscuits, and so on) city of Charleston, South Carolina (reminder: gluten-free eating is not necessary unless you have a medical reason like celiac disease or wheat intolerance to do so). Leah, take it away!

Charleston. This city is unique in so many ways with a huge amount of history, delicious food, and friendly people. Over the course of my visit, I ate at many different restaurants. Most had an incredible selection of vegetarian options. The ones that didn’t allowed me to edit it to my specifications, or made me an entirely separate off the menu meal! Here were the edible highlights of my trip:

The Macintosh is a fantastic farm-to-table place to eat on King Street. The staff is knowledgeable about all food allergies and dietary preferences. I ordered the Spring Vegetable Plate which had a fantastic mix of peppers, squash, tomatoes, mushrooms and more. We also enjoyed the truffle french fries that were supposed to have pecorino on there but we got it without the cheese without any issue. The waitress was amazing and so knowledgable about which dishes might have meat, fish or dairy in them and was able to alter them.

Husk is a Southern restaurant housed in a beautiful Victorian-era home. At first glance of the menu I was a little apprehensive, figuring I would have to edit my entire meal and hoping they would allow me to do so! However, what I came to realize throughout the entire city was that almost every server and every restaurant was incredibly accommodating and knowledge about food allergies; Husk was no exception. I spoke to the server first thing and he was said that no need to edit dishes, we create one for vegetarians! It was incredible to hear this and discuss with the server what would be in it, gluten or dairy and which vegetables it contained. It ended up having delicious fried potatoes (not that fried is super healthy but it sure was delicious!), a succotash, and a pico de gallo.

Poogan's Porch is a traditional Southern restaurant in a Victorian townhouse; it’s a delicious place to eat either lunch or dinner. We went for dinner and I was able to get the vegetarian offering which was farro, fennel, blistered tomatoes, baby kale, and wild mushrooms. Instead of the farro I was able to substitute risotto to have the dish be gluten free, which they made special for me as it normally contained milk and in my version did not! Another restaurant that helped those at my table with allergies or vegetarian preferences, it was a delicious plant-heavy meal!

Charleston Grill is a higher-end restaurant in a hotel; this was our second time there and again did not disappoint. They have a very interesting menu which breaks up their offerings into four different categories: Pure, Lush, Cosmopolitan and Southern. You can pick from each section of the menu and I went for the Pure section as it was easiest to edit, which I ended up not having to do as the Chef made me one of the dishes especially without any dairy or meat! They also brought out a side of beets for the table which must have had something dairy on it because they brought a specific side for just me! They also brought out little samplings of some parts of their menu and made to sure make a specific one for my dietary requirements. It was truly amazing to have this kind of service! They also had gluten free bread for me as well!!

And last but certainly not least was a completely vegan cafe that was so delicious we went back three times! Gnome Cafe is truly incredible. It is an entirely plant-based menu with the most delicious selection of breakfast and lunch foods, a fabulous environment and one of the best chai lattes I’ve ever had! I also got to experience grits as normally they have a lot of milk and cheese in them and these of course did not. I ended up getting the same amazing dish each of the times we went there; the Southern Grit Bowl. It was DELICIOUS! The service was fabulous and my aunt ended up getting the cinnamon roll which literally left us speechless! She also got the cinnamon pancakes which were gluten free, light and fluffy-just perfect! 

I really can’t say enough about how much I love this city and the delicious food we had while we were there. We had amazing meals at every place we ate so I just picked a few out to discuss, but again everything we ate was fantastic, fresh and presented beautifully.

OK, Charleston locals and enthusiasts. What vegan- and vegetarian-friendly spots did we miss? Share your Charleston, SC must-eats in the comments below!

P.S.: If you're a nutrition student, dietetic intern, or other form of RD-to-be who wants to tell us about the best plant-forward meals in your city in another Veggie Voyager post, send us a message—we'd love to feature you!