Kale yeah, vegan food can be good

It was hard to find a friend who’d go to the new-to-Chapel Hill, plant-based restaurant with me.

I’d heard about Luna’s Living Kitchen from friends who live in Charlotte. I’d see the location in Raleigh and looked longingly inside from the street while my omnivore friend led me into a pizza place. So when I found out Chapel Hill would be getting a Luna’s Living Kitchen, I scoured my contact list for my healthiest/most agreeable friend.

Let me just say: No, I’m not a vegan. I’ve been vegetarian for the past five-ish years and very occasionally I eat fish. I love cheese, yogurt, eggs and honey, but I’d give them up quickly if being a vegan were less expensive and more convenient. (I know that last sentence will anger some vegans.) I try to source my animal byproducts locally when possible, trying to avoiding factory-sourced products that are, in my opinion, as harmful to the animals as killing them.

But back to Luna’s.

The restaurant itself has an airy, natural feel to it. Light wood is prominent and the kitchen has a spacious window so patrons can watch their food being prepared. The hosts and waiters were open and friendly. Our waiter in particular was your typical Birkenstock-wearing, hip vegan. The atmosphere reflects the food: simple, clean and fresh.

The menu is diverse, featuring smoothies, juices, “shots and elixirs,” sandwiches, salads and even desserts. There’s a special Sunday brunch menu, too, which was available when I went.

The best part about the menu: I wasn’t limited because none of it had meat!

It came down to three items:

  1. The “Tomatico” tart made with almonds and filled with cashew mascarpone crema, cherry tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, arugula and basil-cilantro dressing.
  2. The sweet potato sushi roll with avocado, red bell peppers, cucumbers and arugula, wrapped with sweet potato cashew rice and nori leaf.
  3. The avocado & basil sandwich on toasted multi-grain bread with tomatoes, red onion, sprouts and the option of homemade lemon-parsley sunflower seed hummus or cashew sour cream.

After some long conversations with the waiter, my friend and myself, I chose the avocado & basil sandwich with their off-menu curry hummus. Instead of the bread, I had it served wrap-style in a big collard leaf and ordered a side kale salad.

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My friend ordered the entree portion of the oyster mushroom kale salad. It came with walnuts, green cabbage, carrots, radishes and an orange ginger dressing.

Both our meals were delicious, flavorful and filling. I highly recommend trying the collard leaf wrap hack for sandwiches at Luna’s (or at home). It added a really nice crunch and freshness and held the fillings in surprisingly well.

When I go back to Luna’s (in the very near future) I’m definitely going to try the smoothies. With names like “Popeye Punch” and “You’re Kalein’ Me,” who couldn’t?

 

LUNA’S LIVING KITCHEN: 201 South Elliott Rd. Chapel Hill, NC 27514, (919) 535-9191, livingkitchen.com. Open Mon – Sat 8 am – 9 pm, Sun 9 am – 3 pm. $$. Credit cards accepted.

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