Recently I’ve had a lot of occasions to eat out in Charlotte. Between friends visiting, family in town, birthdays, Mothers Day and Fathers Day, I’ve done more restaurant hopping than usual. With out-of-town guests especially, I have been asked to recommend a restaurant or pick the place to eat, so I’ve compiled a list of my favorites to share on the blog.
In choosing where to eat or where to buy food, I prefer places that offer at least one of the three options below:
1. Organic food – As I’ve mentioned before, eating organic is often better for your health and the environment. Most conventional foods today have been exposed to some type of pesticide, herbicide, chemical or antibiotic during cultivation. I try to avoid those chemicals when possible, so I like to support restaurants that serve organic.
2. Local food – According to the documentary, Food Inc., the average meal travels 1,500 miles from where it was grown to your plate. Transporting food that far takes an incredible amount of gas, and keeping it fresh for that long takes a lot of water and energy. Produce is also at its nutritional peak right when harvested. The more time that passes between harvesting and eating produce, the more nutrition you lose. There are also tons of reasons to support locally owned farms.
3. Plant-based dishes – Meat does not need to be the center of a meal. I’ll say it again. Meat does not need to be the center of a meal. Animal products are most meat-eaters’ primary source of bad (LDL) cholesterol and saturated fat. Protein is very important, yes, but it can be found in often healthier, more sustainable plant-based forms. Conventional meat production is also bad for the planet. Did you know it takes about 1,300 gallons of water to produce one hamburger? I love restaurants that are creative enough to base dishes around something other than meat. Learn more here!
With that said, here are some of my favorite places to eat and buy food in Charlotte:
- Fern, Flavors From the Garden: This is an all vegetarian restaurant, located on Central Ave., that uses many locally grown ingredients and offers tons of vegan options. I love the root vegetable chips, the OM burger, the juices, and the signature cucumber water.
- Luna’s Living Kitchen: Luna’s is a small raw, vegan, local and organic restaurant located next to Atherton Mill on South Blvd. It’s open for breakfast and lunch, and while I’ve only been for breakfast, I’ve loved everything I’ve ever ordered! I recommend the kale lemonade, the ogre smoothie, the hola granola and the parfait.
- Harvest Moon Grille: I actually got to eat lunch here today with my friend, Stuart, and her mom, Jeannie! I recommended Harvest Moon because it was close to my office uptown, and because it is a true farm to table restaurant. All of the ingredients are local, from the wheat to make the bread to the locally farmed catfish in the fish tacos. I got the fish tacos and potato salad today and loved them both.
- Zada Jane’s: While famous for its breakfast, I love Zada Jane’s for dinner. My boyfriend and I like to go on Sunday nights and sit outside (all bottles of wine are half-price on Sunday nights, I believe). Zada Jane’s uses drug-free meats and local produce when available. I love the sweet potato quesadillas, the NoDa salad, and the vegetarian nachos.
- Energy Cafe: I usually pack my lunch for work, but on days I don’t, or when I am meeting a friend, I like Energy Cafe uptown. All ingredients are whole, unprocessed, and organic when possible. I like the salad bar and the hummus sandwich with extra vegetables.
- Healthy Home Market: This is a locally owned grocery store with a huge selection of local, all-natural, organic, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free foods, vitamins, beauty products, and household products, to name a few. I love its juice bar and its bulk bin aisle! This is where I usually go for bulk oats, chia seeds, grains, nuts, nut butters and flours.
- Earth Fare: Earth Fare is another locally owned healthy supermarket that has a great selection of local and organic products. I love Earth Fare’s bulk bins, hot foods/salad bar, juice bar and baked goods. This has a more upscale feel than Healthy Home Market, and it’s a great place to pick up a quick and healthy lunch or dinner on the go.
- Farmers Markets: Have I talked about farmers markets enough on the blog yet? I love them for so many reasons! My three favorites in the area are the Regional Farmers Market, the Center City Farmers Market (corner of Trade and Tryon on Tuesdays and Fridays), and Atherton Market.
So there you have it! I have several other places on my list I’d like to try soon, but these are the stores and restaurants I frequent the most these days!
**Another great tip for out-of-towners or people traveling and looking for healthy restaurants is HappyCow.Net. Search by city, and this site will produce a list of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants and health food stores in that area. I just came across it recently, but I’m planning on using it a lot for future travels!