Why a fish-based diet is healthy, and 7 spots for pescatarian dishes

Courtesy of Cabo Fish Taco

By Genevieve Nalls and Heidi Finley

Pescetarianism — eating fish and seafood in addition to vegetarian fare — can be a great alternative to traditional diets or a place to start if you’re planning on transitioning to becoming a vegetarian or vegan.

“Eating a pescatarian diet increases your intake of omega-3s, which reduce inflammation in your body, preventing many types of diseases. Red meat and pork have been strongly linked with heart disease and cancer, and many people are taking matters into their own hands by cutting these foods out before they cause long-term damage,” said Ashleigh Flynn, who is studying to become a holistic nutritionist. “Not only that, but a pescatarian diet has been shown to decrease the likelihood of developing diabetes, Alzheimer’s and can even help fight depression.

Fish is also a source of iron, and vitamins B12 and D.

After realizing that he liked seafood over other types of meat, Arda Bagcioglu, a guitar teacher and performer, became a pescatarian about six years ago almost by accident. “To be honest, when I changed my diet I never heard the word ‘pescatarian,’ I just decided to stop eating certain things.”

He went on to add, “I wasn’t real sure that I could keep my discipline 100%, but it was alright. I didn’t crave for the food I quit eating — maybe in the first few months I did. I didn’t lose energy since I started doing it, I feel lighter and healthier. I recommend this to everyone!”

Calisse Floyd, a Charlotte native who works for Wells Fargo and has been a pescatarian for four years, said, “I thought cutting meat out of my diet would limit my choices, so I educated myself on the different types of foods I can try, and it wasn’t that bad. I actually eat more vegetables and beans that I didn’t have a taste for when I ate meat.”

[Related: 9 spots to find some of the freshest seafood in the Charlotte area]

Just like any other restricted diet, it can be difficult to convince a group to always go to a sushi or seafood restaurant, or to frequent local meatless favorites such as Bean Vegan CuisineFern or Living Kitchen.

Just in case you aren’t able to convince your carnivorous friends to skip the steakhouse or burger joint, here’s a list of not-as-obvious places that will leave you and your meat-eating friends both happy and full:

(1) Burtons

Courtesy of Burtons Bar & Grill
Salmon romesco.

1601 E. Woodlawn Road A
What to try: Salmon romesco, with herbed jasmine rice (or julienne vegetables if ordered as paleo), haricot verts and a citrus fennel slaw.
Cost: $22.95
Other options: Crab crusted haddock with herbed jasmine rice, haricot verts and lemon butter sauce ($24.95); Asian Ahi Salad with noodles, julienne vegetables, pickled onions, a sesame ginger vinaigrette and crispy wontons ($18.95).

(2) Cabo Fish Taco

Courtesy of Cabo Fish Taco

3201 N. Davidson St. or 11611 N. Community House Road
What to try: The fish tacos, two flour tortillas stuffed with cabbage, tomato, guacamole and cheese that are finished with cilantro white sauce.
Cost: varies depending on fish choice, starting at $11.50
Other options: Thai shrimp wrap ($12.95), Mexi-mahi burrito ($12.95), baja bowl with shrimp or salmon ($14.75 or $14.95)

(3) The Dunavant

 2322 Dunavant St Suite #200

What to try: Lobster mac and cheese
Cost: $20
Other options: Request to have the bacon left off the Stuffed Oysters, which are baked with blanched spinach, garlic bechamel, hollandaise and grated parmesan ($12).

(4) Ilios Noche

1508 Providence Rd. or 426 Park Rd.
What to try: Ilios Grilled Octopus, with marinated red onions and red wine vinaigrette
Cost: $14.50
Other options: pan-seared grouper with arugula-fennel salad, an herbed potato cake, horseradish-crème fraîche and masago roe ($28); Mediterranean-grilled striped bass with arugula, lemon and capers ($28)

(5) Krazy Fish

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Oyster po boy #plazamidwood #inlandseafood #fish

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2501 Central Ave.
What to try: Blackened mahi tacos, garnished with a kimchi of julienned cabbage and cucumbers pickled with a variety of seasonings.
Cost: $9.99
Other options: Chilly Willy’s Po Boy with scallops, fish, calamari, oysters or shrimp ($9.50); Seafood Creole with fish, shrimp, calamari and scallops served over rice ($18.95)

(6) Sea Level NC

Catfish Reuben at Sea Level NC. CharlotteFive archives

129 East 5th St.
What to try: Carolina catfish blackened with swiss cheese on toasted rye featuring caper aioli and served with a side of slaw.
Cost: $14.50
Other options: Sea Level Salad with fried oysters on a bed of romaine with cabbage, corn, radish and pickled shallots, with white balsamic vinaigrette and horseradish aioli ($16.50); Lobster roll served Maine or Connecticut style ($23).

(7) Upstream

CharlotteFive archives
Sake Marinated Seabass.

6902 Phillips Place
What to try: Sake Marinated Seabass, featuring lobster dumplings, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and a shiso mirin broth.
Cost: $39
Other options: King Crab and Bay Scallop Risotto, with leeks, beech mushrooms, pine nuts and black truffle ($30); Pecan Crusted NC Trout with preserved peach relish, leek and potato puree, and wilted kale with lemongrass butter ($28).

Editor’s note: Fish is a source of iron, and vitamins B12 and D. This story has been updated for clarity.


  1. It is vegans that need to be concerned about vitamin D, B12 and iron not vegetarians. Also, there are plenty of non-animal sources of omega-3’s and the other nutrients listed above. I have been a registered dietitian for 8 years and have a masters of public health in nutrition if you ever need expert nutrition advice for a future article.

  2. Not so obvious?!?!? Two restaurants have the word “fish” in their name, and two others are clearly known for being seafood restaurants. Might want to change the article to “My 7 favorite seafood dishes in Charlotte”, since none of those seem to be less obvious than any other restaurant. Might want to dig a bit deeper next time.

  3. A fish-based diet can definitely be healthy — if you don’t include fried fish on hoagie rolls, or fish slathered in cheese and served on buttery toast, or fried fish with cheese on tortillas, or fish mixed in with a big bowl of mac n’ cheese. It’s like becoming a vegetarian and eating nothing but breaded and deep-fried okra, french fries, mashed potatoes, cheesy pasta and biscuits.

  4. Animal advocates often suggest to cut fish from your diet first, not last, since SO very many fish (farmed and wild) are killed each year. You can have the biggest impact on demand this way, especially if you consume a lot of fish to begin with. In my opinion it’s always best to leave animals off your plate, period.

  5. There’s nothing healthy about consuming mercury, PCBs, dioxins or other toxins such as those that accumulate in fish tissues, or the microplastics, parasites, cholesterol, saturated fat that also accompany fish consumption.

    All of the nutrients derived from fish, and from animals in general, can be obtained more healthfully, humanely, and environmentally responsibly from plant sources.

    Suzanne is right, cutting aquatic animals from your diet is the best way to help animals since so many are harmed by fishing and fish farming, including those who are intentionally targeted and those who are incidentally/accidentally killed, too.

    There are marvelous vegan versions of virtually every type of food imaginable, including vegan seafood.


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