Local, Sustainable, Plant-Based — Oh My!

plant-based healthy eating
Photo credit Jamey Price

“If it came from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.” These simple words from food expert Michael Pollan succinctly express the best nutritional path forward. So much of what we eat today did not exist just a century ago. And we’re seeing the negative effects of an ever-increasing distance between what we put in our bodies and what thrives naturally on our planet. Meanwhile, a growing body of research on plant-based diets is revealing benefit after benefit when it comes to improved health. These benefits include lower blood pressure, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, healthier cholesterol levels, and longer life spans. As a result, many Americans are switching to plant-based diets — if not to enjoy the myriad benefits for their health, then to live more sustainably or ethically.

This shift in eating habits and revised understanding of how the food we consume affects our bodies, the environment, and the local economy is being reflected and amplified in the restaurant scene — from the introduction of meat substitutes like Beyond Meat at Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts to an expanding selection of independent vegan restaurants and a higher prioritization of sustainable business practices. Many of these small businesses are finding ways to operate more sustainably even beyond plant-based menus.

We’ve compiled a list of some of Charlotte’s most trailblazing restaurants. These are pioneers in the realm of plant-based offerings or sustainability more generally.


Haymaker has two feet firmly in the farm-to-table world. It has an eye on everything from seafood sustainability to conserving the energy used to power the restaurant each day through LEED accredited building practices. Owner and head chef William Dissen sources ingredients that are indigenous to the area. He also uses pickling and other preservation techniques to maximize out-of-season or excess ingredients.


plant-based healthy eating

Plant Joy

From its earthy, welcoming food stall at Camp North End, Plant Joy dishes out internationally-inspired vegan fare. Everything on the menu can be gluten-free, and many offerings brim with superfoods that pack a healthy punch of vitamins and minerals. Created by the same people who founded Nourish, a vegan prepared food delivery service, Plant Joy is an ethical addition to Camp North End’s food offerings.


Suffolk Punch

Sedgefield’s Suffolk Punch is a coffee bar, brewery, taphouse, and culinary cafe that offers a rotating menu of seasonal, scratch-made meals. A portion of ingredients are locally and sustainably sourced.


Free Range

Free Range Brewing, located across the parking lot from the original Amelie’s location on North Davidson Street, brews with 95% locally sourced ingredients and recycles their spent grain by donating it to farmers for feed. Additional waste is composted – in fact, Free Range even operates as a centralized composting site for its staff and neighbors.


plant-based healthy eating

Oh My Soul

From its street corner in Charlotte’s funky NoDa neighborhood, Oh My Soul radiates color and compassion with its robin egg blue exterior and 100% vegan menu. It also boasts one of the best outdoor seating areas in the Queen City. Enjoy an order of grilled BBQ “ribs” or a Buddha bowl beneath the shade of a 100-year-old oak tree.


Kid Cashew

At Kid Cashew, plant-based options abound, including a decent selection of vegan choices. When Kid Cashew does incorporate meat in a dish, trust that it will be fresh, never frozen nor fried. In recent years, the restaurant has found such success in Charlotte that it has expanded to Charleston and Atlanta.



Birdsong Brewing has long been a pioneer when it comes to running a sustainable business, both economically and environmentally. 100% of the brewery’s spent grain (and peanut shells!) is used by a local cattle farm and all cardboard, glass, and aluminum is recycled. Birdsong is also setting new standards for water conservation; the industry consumption average is about 8 gallons of water to one gallon of beer, whereas Birdsong’s ratio is 4:1. Additionally, Birdsong has installed a rooftop solar array composed of 220 panels. The brewery is committed to growing their sustainable efforts each year, so expect more innovations to come from this team in time.


Living Kitchen

At Living Kitchen, expect to find plant-based versions of classic dishes that are 100% organic, plant-based, and locally sourced. Stop by this South Boulevard gem for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or grab-n-go options. And rest easy knowing that there’s enough variety on this menu to keep things interesting even after many return trips – from avocado basil sandwiches to curry to sweet potato sushi rolls and everything in between. Before you visit, check out their website for a list of their local partners, including Carolina Mushroom Farm and Albert’s Organics.


Fern, Flavors of the Garden

Fern has garnered local and national praise for its seasonal, Southern, hand-crafted dishes. The restaurant prides itself on providing “flavors from the garden;” it is committed to offering the kind of freshness that only comes from locally-grown, seasonal produce. Through the use of recycled and recyclable service products, starch to-go wares, and waste management systems, Fern’s commitment to sustainability extends far beyond the dining table.