Pizza is arguably the perfect food. But for vegan eaters, opting out of cheese and meat leaves little but crust, veggies and tomato sauce behind. What’s left may be vegan-friendly, but it’s not much of a meal.
Fortunately, dairy-free cheese has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, and pizzerias are catching on to the fact that a growing number of consumers avoid dairy products. Thanks to these developments, many local eateries are adding vegan cheese to their menus, often at no extra charge.
Cory Gates, COO of Asheville Brewing Co., says his company started trying to add vegan cheese back in 1999, before there were any real options available locally. After doing a push to get the word out, people started clamoring for vegan items.
“We went from selling 3 pounds of vegan cheese a week to 45-50 pounds per store every week,” he says. “That’s like 70-80 pies alone, but we put also put it on cheese fries or on top of burgers. It ends up having a bigger reach than just the pizza aspect. It’s definitely grown.”
Scott Unfried, co-owner of West First Wood-Fired Pizza in Hendersonville, which makes vegan crust and offers dairy-free cheese as an option on any of its pies, says it helps that the quality of vegan cheese products is improving. “[The manufacturers] are figuring it out and there’s more demand,” he says. “It’s easier for restaurants to offer options that are both vegan and tasty.”
For those who are into all of the taste with none of the lactose, there are a number of spots in Western North Carolina to score a hot, cheesy and cruelty-free pie. (All the eateries in the following list offer Daiya brand vegan cheese.)
Asheville Pizza & Brewing Co. (three locations)
This iconic Asheville restaurant offers dairy-free cheese at all three of its locations, meaning you can dig into a vegan pie while watching Suicide Squad at the Brew ‘n’ View. Customers can create their own pizzas by picking their favorite fruits and veggies, and tofu is an option, too. Opting into the vegan cheese is $1.50 extra on a slice, a pita or with gluten-free crust. For whole pies with regular crust, it’s an additional $2 for a medium, $2.75 for a large and $3.25 for a jumbo.
675 Merrimon Ave., 254-1281 (dine in, carry out, delivery)
77 Coxe Ave., 255-4077 (dine in and carry out only)
1850 Hendersonville Road, 277-5775 (carry out, delivery)
Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria
This iconic Asheville hangout has plenty of options for vegan eaters. Guests can order a pie piled high with veggie options — from green chilies to jerk tofu to sun-dried tomatoes — and complete it with vegan cheese at no extra charge. Regular and gluten-free crusts are both vegan-friendly. 42 Biltmore Ave., 255-0504
This fast-fired chain, co-owned by NBA darling Lebron James, has plenty of plant-based options. Guests can veganize any of the signature pizzas or build their own from an array of veg-friendly toppings. Vegan cheese comes at no extra charge, and vegan-friendly crust choices come in traditional or a gluten-free, cracker-style version.
1840 Hendersonville Road, 575-9242
Another fast-fired, make-your-own pizza spot, Brixx makes wood-fired pies that are easily customized for vegan eaters. Traditional and whole-wheat doughs are vegan, and vegan cheese is available on pizzas, salads and sandwiches at no extra charge. The pear and gorgonzola, for example, is easily veganized by leaving off the gorgonzola and adding vegan cheese instead.
Biltmore Park, 30 Town Square Blvd., 654-0046
Del Vecchios Italian
This traditional Italian eatery is surprisingly vegan-friendly. Vegan cheese is available on any whole pizza order ($3 extra on a large pie, $5 extra on an extra-large) or as an option in the calzones and strombolis ($1 extra). Guests can create their own pies (or calzones or strombolis) using the wide variety of fruit and veggie topping options. And they deliver!
333 Merrimon Ave., 258-7222
Fresh Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta (two locations)
This eatery has two spots in WNC and offers handmade vegan dough as well as vegan meats and cheese ($1.25 extra) as topping options. Customers can veganize specialty pies like the Veggie Delight — made with fresh spinach, garlic, olives, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and onions — or build their own from a lengthy list of additions. Vegans will want to steer clear of the gluten-free crust, however, as it contains honey.
342 Depot St., 552-3917
100 S. Ridgeway Ave., Black Mountain, 669-6999
This ’60s-themed eatery offers vegan cheese as an option on any of its pizzas, hoagies and calzones at no extra charge. The thick, doughy crust is vegan — just be sure to tell your server to leave off the butter and Parmesan cheese. Guests can build their own pizzas or veganize the specialty pies. The Holy Shiitake pie, for example, made with mushroom and truffle oil, can be veganized by switching out the cheeses and leaving the aioli off. Mellow also has tofu, tempeh and locally made No Evil Foods sausage as topping options.
50 Broadway, Asheville, 236-9800
My Father’s Pizza and Pasta
If you’re venturing northeast of Asheville, this Black Mountain eatery makes a mean gourmet pie. You can start with your choice of the traditional-style, olive oil and garlic or pesto pizza (just be sure to ask for vegan cheese) — then add your own toppings. Or you can opt to veganize one of the gourmet specialty pies. There are plenty of choices, and the Primavera Supreme with vegan cheese (topped with black and green olives, tomatoes, red onions, mushrooms and mild banana peppers) is a local fave. Vegan cheese is $1.50 extra on a small pizza and $2.25 on a large.
110 Cherry St., Black Mountain, 669-4944
West First Wood-Fired Pizza
This popular downtown Hendersonville pizza spot offers vegan cheese as an option on any of its pies for $1.25 extra. Commonly veganized choices include the veggie pizza (made with fresh garden vegetables and sweet basil), the mushroom pizza (made with shiitakes and truffle oil) and the potato pizza (made with Yukon gold potatoes, walnuts and sweet onion marmalade). And, should you feel like tasting a bevy of brews while you eat, nearby Sanctuary Brewing Co. has an order-in menu that features West First’s vegan pies.
101B First Ave. W., Hendersonville, 693-1080
Earth Fare and Whole Foods
Both grocers offer made-to-order vegan pizzas in their prepared-foods sections. Shoppers can call ahead or place orders in-store.
Earth Fare Westgate, 66 Westgate Parkway, 253-7656
Earth Fare South Asheville, 1856 Hendersonville Road, 210-0100
Greenlife, 70 Merrimon Ave., 254-5440
Whole Foods Market, Suite 100, 4 S. Tunnel Road, 239-9604