The South is known for its extra use of butter, ham-seasoned side dishes and gravy-covered meats, but in Charlotte, N.C., signs that vegetarianism is on the rise can be spotted throughout the “Queen City.” While the number of individuals in the United States that consider themselves to be vegetarian remains unchanged, around 5 percent, according to Gallup polls in 2001 and 2012 – the number of vegetarian restaurants in Charlotte tells a different story.
Just five years ago, the city had no strictly vegetarian restaurant to call its own, but now there are several.
Fern, Flavors from the Garden is one of Charlotte’s most popular vegetarian restaurants according to Yelp reviews. Fern is tucked away in the outskirts of Charlotte’s Uptown on Central Ave.
The restaurant offers diners a selection of kimchi lettuce wraps, carnitas tacos with braised spaghetti squash and braised “beef” papardelle made from house-crafted black pepper papardelle, braised seitan brussel sprouts and arugula gremolata. The restaurant breaks the mold for those that associate vegetarian meals with a simple dish of leafy greens and canned green beans.
“My goal is to help people interested in becoming a vegetarian open their mind to new ways of cooking,” said Jasiatic, a vegetarian meal coach in Charlotte. Jasiatic, a local artist, has been a vegetarian for about 10 years and decided to use her talents to help others that want to remove meat from their diet.
“It’s all about creativity,” says Jasiatic. “I’ve had a number of new clients that come to me because they’re not sure where to start. I’ve taken them on grocery store tours, pulled items from the shelf and said ‘did you know that you use this as a great meat substitute?’”
While there are numerous reasons that people switch from living as a full-time carnivore to a vegetarian, one of the top reasons is weight loss. Fad diets like the Atkins high-protein meal regimen seem to come and go, but vegetarianism is one trend that appears to be here for the long-run – especially in Charlotte.
VegCharlotteNC.com and similar websites seem to be popping up on the scene, creating a community for those that are interested in becoming a vegetarian or even vegan, also ridding their diet of dairy products.
“For me, it was about becoming more fit and healthy,” said Allison Maxwell, one of Jasiatic’s newest clients. “I wanted to make a clear choice to healthier and I needed help getting started.” Maxwell, a Charlotte native, connected with Jasiatic via Facebook after hearing about her services through word of mouth. “It seemed like the best choice for me at the time and having support was important.”
Religion also plays a huge role in diets. Some people make a clear choice to move toward vegetarianism based on their way of life. “Vegetarian and Vegan Meetups” are sprouting up around Charlotte as well. These meet-ups help local Charlotteans exchange ideas on where and how to eat. There is even a raw food meet-up, a movement that is somewhat new to the Charlotte scene.
“It’s minimalism at its best,” said Actor John W. Love who is a raw foodist. “Raw foodist eat only raw vegetables and are able to create a truly balanced diet from what comes directly from the earth.”
Regardless of the reason for the transformation, Charlotte’s vegetarian food scene is blossoming and gaining momentum. From new restaurants to food coaching, the “Queen City” lends itself to an old trend with a new twist.