I’ve lived in Chapel Hill my whole life. Well… kind of… I was born in Orange County in the Bingham Township, but I had a Chapel Hill mailing address even thought I didn’t actually live in Chapel Hill. Technically I lived in Carrboro for a while too, but not in the official city limits, in the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) area… I’m going to stop now.
Complicated municipal and county governance boundaries aside, let’s talk about something I know very well: local food, and specifically, the local vegetarian restaurant scene.
I’ve been a vegetarian for about eight years. There are a lot of reasons why I made the switch, but one of my biggest motives was a desire to be healthier.
According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegetarian diet can lower your risk for a range of health-related conditions including “Heart disease, certain forms of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and hypertension (high blood pressure)” among others.
That being said, being vegetarian does not automatically equate to a healthier life. I know plenty of unhealthy vegetarians and have seen many unhealthy vegetarian eating habits. Like all diets, in order to stay healthy, you have to maintain balance, listen to your body, and be conscious about what you eat.
Cooking vegetarian food is an art, and deserves it’s own blog post. For today, let’s start with the fun (albeit at times very expensive) stuff—eating out!
Over the years I have compiled the following list of my favorite healthy vegetarian restaurants close to the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. (Click on the name of each restaurant for information about their address, hours, and menus.)
Vimala’s offers a home-style South Indian cuisine cooked to perfection with vegetarian options galore. You can’t go wrong with the Vegetarian Curry Thali, a large sample platter full of fresh veggies, curries, and delicious assortments.
Med Deli offers a HUGE variety of Middle Eastern, North African, and Mediterranean foods that will tempt your taste buds. Check out the Mujaddara, a Palestinian lentil dish cooked with rice and onions that tastes amazing and fills you up.
Lime and Basil is a small Vietnamese restaurant boasting a full vegetarian menu and an amazing selection of Pho, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. I recommend the Vegetarian Broth Pho with Tofu. For $8 you will easily get two meals out of this GIANT bowl of warm and delicious soup.
A Chapel Hill classic, no list is complete without Cosmic. This local Mexican restaurant is open at what seems like all hours of the day, and offers good, cheap, vegetarian friendly food. While I will admit it may not be the healthiest option on this list, a $3 Veggie Burrito is a great deal that you can’t refuse.
Another local classic, Weaver Street Market offers a great Salad Bar (both hot and cold) with freshly baked bread, sushi, and much more. If you are looking for a hearty vegetarian salad, this is your place. The salad bar cost is associated with weight, so a strategic vegetarian can pile on the fresh light greens, vegetables, and proteins for a great meal at a good price.
If you are looking for a nice sit-down lunch, check out The Spotted Dog. Located right across from Weaver Street Market, this locally owned restaurant prides itself in featuring a vegetarian, healthy, and organic-centered menu. I love the Lunch Special with a small house salad, a grilled pita sandwich, and a side of tabouli.
Special Side Note
While this blog post has been focusing on dinning out, one of the keys to maintaining a healthy diet is learning to cook your own meals. Cooking at home will save you TONS of money, and is both a practical and necessary life skill. The best place to get fresh and affordable vegetarian food to cook is the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Check out this awesome local institution and stock up on fresh foods you can cook in your home or dorm room.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the amazing vegetarian food you can find in and around the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, but I hope it’s a good start. Being a vegetarian is a great way to eat healthy, but there are lots of other ways as well. It’s really about being conscience and intentional about what you eat. It’s about finding balance and listening to your body. I encourage everyone, vegetarian or not, to check out the restaurants above, support local businesses, and try to eat healthy this week!