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Asheville, NC: Vegan Paradise? (If You Like Hippie Food)

Filed under: Food Restaurants Travel declared Asheville, North Carolina the most vegetarian-friendly small city in America. I recently had a chance to check out Asheville’s vegan options, and while I found plenty of health food, I’m definitely still glad to be a spoiled New York vegan.

My first stop was Rosetta’s Kitchen. Rosetta’s is one of those places that buys local, composts, and recycles… but unfortunately, they don’t seem to have put too much effort into the actual food. I got their signature dish, peanut butter tofu with mashed potatoes and kale. Everything lacked flavor, and the tofu was particularly egregious: plain cubes of tofu with some peanut flavor on the outside. Damn those hippies and their tofu cubes; I didn’t know anyone out there still ate like this. (On the plus side, the portions were huge, and their mac and cheese was quite good. But nothing makes up for those lame-ass tofu cubes.)

Next up was the Laughing Seed Cafe, which totally rocked. It’s like if you merged Angelica Kitchen and Candle 79: innovative daily specials, a mix of ethnic-inspired dishes, and fancy gourmet quality (plus, good selections of both caffeine and alcohol). I got the pakora appetizer (with ingredients that change daily), a delicious multi-mushroom soup, and the Pacific Rim Seitan entree. I seriously wanted to come back here every day and try the entire menu; unfortunately the prices were also at New York levels.

I was quite excited about the Early Girl Eatery‘s breakfast; I actually managed to drag myself out of bed by 11:30am in order to try their scrambled tofu. Unfortunately they seemed to have forgotten the “scrambled” part; they served me a mix of cubed tofu and green peas! I mean, it was spiced well, but on what planet does this count as “scrambled”? Is it a special New York innovation that we’ve discovered how to serve tofu in non-cube forms? Within walking distance of my apartment, Sacred Chow, Kate’s, Counter, Organic Grill, and Curly’s will all scramble you up some proper tofu; perhaps they should take this knowledge to Asheville and reveal to them the joys of tofu in its non-cube form? (Hint: scrambled tofu picks up flavors way better when actually scrambled!)

Just add beer.

Anyway, Early Girl has some tasty vegan sandwiches on its menu (I recommend the avocado and sprout), so all was not lost. Just watch out for those damned tofu cubes.

And finally, while it’s not especially vegan-friendly, I’d recommend a stop at The Bier Garden. They’ve got a great beer selection (plenty of which are vegan) and free Guitar Hero 2; seriously, what could possibly be more fun than getting drunk on good beer while rocking out to Them Bones?

I didn’t have time to check out every vegan option in Asheville, so if you’re planning a trip, make sure to check out Let us know your Asheville vegan recommendations in the comments.


  1. Comment by


    on #

    I lived in Asheville for 16 years (just moved to DC this past June). I agree with all of your assessments, although you definitely missed some wonderful vegan opportunities. (And by the way: Rosetta’s is not a bad restaurant, you just have to know what to order—not unlike plenty of vegan places in NYC).

    However, in Asheville’s defense (since you compare it to NYC): Asheville is a town of 65,000, not millions; of course it’s no NYC. But for a small town, you’ve got to admit it’s pretty darned vegan-tastic. (You sure are right about the Laughing Seed’s wonderfulness; I miss that place SO BADLY!).

    I wish I would have appreciated it more—before moving to Vegan Hell, AKA Washington, DC, which truly does serve the nation’s rottenist, most disgusting vegan food. Sigh.

  2. Comment by

    Patrick Kwan

    on #

    Now, why are we even pretending that we care about anything outside of New York?!?! Kidding, of course. ;)

  3. Comment by


    on #

    If there’s any problem that Rosetta’s has, it’s that they don’t have a huge amount of consistency in their kitchen. Asheville, being a transient town, sees people come and go all the time, so this is a problem. On any given day, the peanut butter tofu will be the most amazing thing you’ve put in your mouth – the next day, it’ll be shitty, crumbly tofu “cubes.” It all depends on who cooks it.

  4. Comment by


    on #

    Okay seriously, DC is hardly vegan hell. Yes I do hear complaints from my friends who have lived in other cities with great vegan options, such as Seattle, NY, Asheville… apparently… although Laura didn’t seem too impressed. I myself moved from San Francisco so I get it. However, there is some great food in DC. Soul Veg, Java Green, Sticky Fingers. Some of us have just been spoiled…imagine what it’s like in other parts of the country. Check out for all the veg options.

  5. Comment by


    on #


    You are right on: one day that peanut butter tofu IS the best thing you’ve ever had. It’s a shame it’s not like that every day.

    I don’t take back what I said about DC: ick. I’ve never visited a large city with such unimaginative vegan food. Thank heavens Vegan Paradise—aka, New York City—is only three hours and a train ride away.

  6. Comment by


    on #

    That was a condescending article. I just moved from Battery Park City to Asheville one year ago. If I were an Asheville blogger writing with your self-righteous style, I would write:

    “Some people that write for a blog said some vegan food in NYC was worth eating. Since I have a special tongue compared to other human beings, I went to check it out. When I arrived, the cabs smelled, the streets were filthy, everywhere I walked was crowded, I felt like I was on an industrial construction site with all the scaffolding and noise, I felt anxiety ridden from the military soldiers patrolling the 34th street subways, I felt ashamed at all the homeless people being ignored, and I didn’t have a moment of relaxation or peace (but I did like some of the mac and cheese at Angelica Kitchen).”

    You are a regular critic: so buried in your own monkey mind that all you can do is judge everything without truly enjoying anything. Seriously, keep your self-righteous mouth in Brooklyn with all the other hypocrites. God forbid you all start ruining Asheville too — but poor quality of life is well balanced by exceptional food … LOL.

  7. Comment by


    on #

    Mokeys are the coolest!
    A. they never go on assholish tyrades in blog comment sections
    7. it’s hard for them to “sweat the small stuff” when they’re so busy, what with all the shit throwing.
    * they actually make people LOL

  8. Comment by

    Laura Leslie

    on #

    Aww, look at the cute little troll! Folks, you’re welcome to disagree with us on this site, but personal attacks neither amuse nor enlighten, and will be deleted in the future.

    That said:

    1) My article wasn’t about the city of Asheville (which is fine, if you like that kind of place). It’s about the food. Even the troll couldn’t come up with a defense of Asheville’s lame hippie food; it had to resort to attacks on the city of New York instead.

    2) You’re posting on a blog read mostly by people who live in and love New York. We’re laughing at you.

    3) For the record, I saw more homeless people per block in Asheville than I see in NYC.

    4) Anyone who’s been there would know that Angelica Kitchen doesn’t serve mac and cheese.

    5) I’m neither a professional critic nor a Brooklyn resident. You probably should’ve read my bio before attempting to attack me personally. And don’t worry, there’s not a chance in hell that I’d leave NYC for Asheville.

    6) I said at least one nice thing about all three of the restaurants I reviewed, highly recommended one of them, threw in a complement to an Asheville bar, asked readers for their suggestions, and put a link to Anyone who knows the first thing about publicity will recognize that this is good.

    7) Try reading SuperVegan before throwing a bitch fit over one of our articles. We’re snarky about everything; Asheville got it easy. There are plenty of other sites where you can read about how everything in the vegan world is super duper wonderful. We’re here to share our honest opinions and to entertain other snarky vegans. (You can make a logical defense of snark–if no one points out what sucks, nothing will ever improve–but mostly we just think it’s more fun this way.)

    8) This isn’t really addressed to the troll (whose comments will be deleted if it continues trollish behavior) but to those reading who may be curious.

  9. Comment by

    pseudonymous in nc

    on #

    All the criticisms are valid: Ashvegas’s restaurant scene has much more to offer if you do dairy. And that’s partly because there’s not really a range of established vegan influences that go beyond, well, hippie food. Ultimately, if you want good ethnic vegan stuff, then it’s off to Charlotte or Atlanta (or possibly Greenville).

  10. Comment by


    on #

    OH BOY!

    Well, I was searching for great Vegan food in Asheville — NOT to see peaceful, harmonious Vegan’s FIGHTING over which city is BEST!!!

    Of course, New York City will have more options than Asheville. Try living in Lexington, KY if you want to REALLY search for options!

    And, no, “MOST” people reading this blog DO NOT come from NYC – Nor would they WANT to!

    I love that people are choosing to eliminate animal products from their diet (if we don’t, then who will?). We need to balance out the McMeaty people of the world (Yes, I can’t even blame America for this one!). But, come on … let’s not drop to the low standards of the meaties, please!

    Anybody want to encourage the to bring a Vegan/Veggie show to broadcast?!?!?!? They sure need one.

    Remember WHY you chose this in the first place.

    Peace & Love – From Not a Hippie.


  11. Comment by


    on #

    I read this once before trying to find a similar recipe for rosetta’s tempalo wings. This time I am going to leave a comment. I agree that you have to try different menu items at any restaurant. I personally think laughing seed is snarky, great food though. I have never heard of this site/ blog except for the one previous mentioned happenstance before. So I wouldn’t know it’s ‘style,’ but what is so great about being “snarky” anyway? “Lame Hippie food” is not a real opinion. “Lacking flavor and creativity,” is.

  12. Comment by


    on #

    I just moved to a small town near Asheville from Oakland, and though I was very spoiled by the myriad vegan options in the Bay I wanted to find all the great vegan options in the area. After reading this sad review of Asheville I had to post a quick defense of Rosetta’s Kitchen. Rosetta’s is so amazingly good and cheap too! Their desserts are so incredible, especially their triple layer cakes. They have awesome sandwiches and always serve up great daily specials. I think they are much better than Laughing Seed, but that’s just my opinion. For a restaurant that charges as much as SF and NY restaurants, it’s sadly lacking.

  13. Comment by


    on #

    I am most certainly moving to the Asheville area in the immediate future, so am always checking out different sites about Asheville, and found this one. Well, despite the bickering, I think I would have no problem finding a place to eat anywhere I am. I AM OF THE HIPPIE GENERATION. When I became a vegetarian/vegan there were no restaurants. Born and raised in NY–BROOKLYN, and now living in Boston, I think I would enjoy my food more outside the hustle of the city. I’m not a elitist about how my tofu is served to me, so give me the cubes as opposed to animals. Although I am older than the writer of the initial article, let’s not be ageist, so I hope you don’t call me a troll. Everyone should take a deep breath, and enjoy the food.

  14. Comment by


    on #

    A shame you didn’t visit more recently: a new cafe and book store opened in Asheville about a year ago, called Firestorm Cafe and Books. One of the great things about it is that they’re completely vegetarian, and in fact mostly vegan (one small exception: milk for coffee, but they have soymilk as well.) They’re located at 48 Commerce Street in downtown Avl. I suggest checking them out and trying their Maple BBQ Panini (yum)!

  15. Comment by


    on #

    On Saturday, July 4, Noon-1 PM the author of The Vegetarian Myth went from Vegan to eating meat. See and call in on Saturday and share your opinion.

  16. Comment by

    Bruce Lloyd

    on #

    I’m not a vegan, but I live outside Asheville, after moving from NYC. After living in this area for a while, I might perfer eating a bullet to anything in Asheville. It’s like being in prison, but with less interesting people.

  17. Comment by


    on #

    I just wanted to add that I think you’re dead on with your review of Asheville vegan food. Laughing Seed is my favorite spot.

    I read your review of Early Girl Eatery prior to eating there and figured that “cubed” tofu, just meant tiny little cubes mixed into the veggies. Nope, these were big friggin chunks. I got the tomato gravy along with it, added a bunch of salt and pepper, and smashed up the tofu with my fork. Finally, it tasted pretty good. But yeah, cubes… you think they would have read Vegan with a Vengeance or something. Cubed tofu just doesn’t taste as good as it would torn up and then crumbled.

    I also agree with another poster that Firestorm Cafe is a tasty place. It has a variety of sandwiches and baked goods all for the vegan. Plus, the book selection rocks.

  18. Comment by


    on #

    I guess this is to vegan gal from Ca, try veggigrill. We came from ca and are comparing every vegan resturant here to the taste,amound of choices and prices of veggigrill and all we basically see is tofu,rice and beans for at least twcie as much money and way less taste from veggiegrill. Sorry I am sure if we hadnt eaten at veggigrill we would have liked some of the places and been ok with the prices here.Once anyone tries veggiegrill its hard to settle for less and pay more. Even meat eaters love the vegan place named veggiegrill. For anyone not in ca look up veggiegrill and their menu and let us know if there is anything similar here. We too wish we would have been at veggiegrill more often before leaving and only basically seing rice and beans and tofu for vegetarian and vegan food.Maybe a local can tell us where a place even we would like would be.

  19. Comment by


    on #

    I forgot to mention we are from Lake Forest Ca and thats a small city and irvine also a small city next to Lake Forest is also small and has two veggiegrills so the size of the citys usually doesnt have anything to do with it,for vegan gal there are veggiegrills closer to you then orangecounty too in big and little cities.We asked them if they could ship us stuff and they said no cause everything is made fresh.

  20. Comment by

    Good Tofu

    on #

    It’s a badly-kept secret that quaint southern towns like bad press. It keeps away the tourists while the food is most fresh. Good travel writers already know this, yet maintain a sense of profound subtlety throughout their work surrounding it.

  21. Comment by


    on #

    Sorry that you missed our VEGAN establishment during your visit to Asheville. VEG-IN-OUT ( is a completely vegan bulk meals delivery service (we also offer pick-up service). Check us out the next time you come to town!

  22. Comment by

    Dance Shoes

    on #

    Ok, i think i will save this for thenext time I?ll have to argue with Frank (friend of mine) about it! I wasn?t wrong

  23. Comment by


    on #

    Come visit again and try out Plant! It’s Amazing! I’ve tried many veg restaurants around the country and it is in my top 3 with Millennium in San Fran and Matthew Kenny in Oklahoma City (weird location for Amazing vegan food I know). Follow it up with some vegan ice cream at The Hop! No comparisons to Maggie Mud in CA but.still delicipus!

  24. Comment by


    on #

    First of all, some of you need to realize vegan means no dairy, so stop calling yourself vegan and then talking about mac and cheese.I have lived in Asheville for almost my whole life and I have never eaten meat ever.Asheville has some ok vegetarian reataurants but not nearly enough.Asheville is a great city,but it’s still the south.

  25. Comment by


    on #

    We just moved to Asheville, and I have to also weigh in and disagree with your assessment. The ingredients are fresh and local here, which really make a difference in my mind. And Emily, there’s no dairy in the Mac and Cheese.