Keto, diabetic, vegan, gluten-sensitive? Here’s your cheat sheet for eating out.

Courtesy of Cafe Monte
Crab cake salad

More people are choosing to adopt special diets to improve their health. Specific food choices can help improve conditions such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders and can increase overall health for anyone. 

“Food is medicine, and more people in our community are making these choices for personal reasons or health reasons,” said Juli Ghazi, owner of Pure Pizza. “As a community, we are becoming more aware of the amazing side effects and the negative side effects of food and are learning how we can eat better to optimize our health.”

With dedication and creativity, chefs can recreate many dishes without allergens or animal products present in traditional recipes. Many chefs even appreciate the challenge. 

“For most any chef, that creative element of cooking is a very dynamic part of why they have chosen to be a chef,” Ghazi said.  “When you cue the challenge of how to make a gluten-free and lactose-free pizza taste amazing, they take that challenge on.”

When chefs invest time and commitment into building these recipes, she said, “You are getting a full flavor palette without having to compromise yourself on items that you do not want to show up in your food, whether it be gluten, lactose, animal products or animal byproducts.”

Although it can be difficult to go out to dinner with a group when several people have different dietary restrictions, you can still enjoy the best of Charlotte’s culinary scene without sacrificing flavor or experience. This guide provides a list of restaurants in the area that will cater to guests with special needs while offering something everyone will love. 

Have additional suggestions? Add them to the comments section.

Diabetic friendly restaurants

(1) 131 Main

17830 N. Statesville Rd., Cornelius; 9886 Rea Rd.; 5970 Fairview Rd., Suite 100

Each location of 131 Main is an “all fresh, no freezers” restaurant, taking processed foods out of the equation. The North Carolina Rainbow Trout with kale salad is a healthy and delicious local treat.

(2) Café Monte

6700 Fairview Rd.

Courtesy of Cafe Monte
Lobster salad

This delightful French bistro has a wide variety of dishes where low carb options don’t detract from the decadence of traditional French cuisine. Diabetic diners can enjoy a Quiche Florence filled with egg, spinach and Swiss off the brunch menu, or the chilled lobster salad or duck confit with broccolini for dinner.

(3) Fish Market

990 Market St., Fort Mill, SC 

The Fish Market in Baxter Village serves up fresh seafood, Maine lobster, chicken and steak served with fresh veggies. Start your meal with a charcuterie plate or a sashimi trio for a protein rich meal perfect for the diabetic diet.

(4) Seoul Poke Bowl

3609 South Blvd., Suite D

Diabetics can enjoy custom seaweed wrap burritos filled with a choice of 11 proteins, such as spicy tuna or bulgogi beef, and a selection of exotic fillings, including kimchi, daikon radish, pineapple and edamame. Fans of spice can finish off their meals with gochujang chili sauce.

(5)  The Yolk Café

224 E. 7th St.

Conveniently located right next to the Seventh Street light rail station, the Yolk Café has great options for a protein-rich start to your day. Try the mojo hash, made of coffee-braised steak, diced sweet potatoes and roasted mushrooms with an over easy egg, or choose from a selection of veggies and meats to craft your own healthy egg white omelette.

Gluten-sensitive friendly restaurants

Note: Please alert your server or restaurant staff of any food allergies before ordering. 

(6) Amelie’s

380 S. College St.; 2424 N. Davidson St., #102; 4321 Park Rd.; 7715 Pineville-Matthews Rd., Unit 34B

Amelie’s offers a gluten-free version of its local favorite salted caramel brownies, and most of its macarons are made from gluten-free almond flour. Gluten-free dieters can also choose from a selection of freshly made soups and salads.

(7) Cantina 1511

4271-B Park Rd.; 7708 Rea Rd.; 120-D Marketplace Ave., Mooresville

Almost anything on the menu at this favorite local chain can be made gluten free. Wrap your tacos in white corn tortillas, get them “protein style” with bibb lettuce cups, or get a burrito served as a bowl for a hearty gluten-free option.

(8) Pizza Peel

1600 Central Ave.; 100 Matthews Station, Matthews; 4422 Colwick Rd.

Pizza Peel can make any of its 10″ signature pizzas with a gluten-free crust. Try the roasted veggie pizza, which comes topped with portobellos, roasted garlic, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, eggplant puree and mozzarella. Ask for spicy tomato sauce to give your pie a little extra kick, and finish your meal with a gluten-free flourless chocolate cake.

 (9) Sunflour Baking

2001 E. 7th St.; 5040 Highway 49, South Harrisburg; 14021 Conlan Circle, Unit B-9; 220 East Blvd.

Sunflour Bakery has a daily selection of gluten-free baked goods, including berry tarts, cheesecakes, almond cakes, pies and cupcakes.  Any sandwiches can be served in a bowl for a gluten-free alternative. 

(10) The Pickled Peach

202 S. Main St., Davidson

In addition to having a great salad selection, the Pickled Peach deli in Davidson can make any of its delicious sandwiches on gluten-free bread for only an extra $0.50, or wrapped in a collard green for no additional charge.  This local favorite spot has something for everyone, ranging from a hefty meatball sub with fresh mozzarella for meat eaters to a shaved red beet sandwich with honey goat cheese for those with a lighter palette.

Vegetarian-friendly restaurants

(11) Eastside Local Eatery

3102 Eastway Drive

This new local cafe in Eastway has a great variety of vegetarian, vegan and raw options. Try a tomato basil avocado toast off its all-day breakfast menu, or get a comfort food fix with the chilirito, a spinach wrap filled with veggie chili and cheese and topped with salsa, avocado and cilantro. Round out your meal with a latte made from soy, almond, coconut or oat milk. 

(12) Fern

1419 East Blvd., Suite A

Courtesy of Fern
CharlotteFive archives

Fern serves up fresh vegetarian fare in Dilworth 7 days a week. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner but is especially known for its brunch menu. Start your day with breakfast nachos topped with tofu, beans and aji verde, or a vegetarian plate of chicken and waffles. 

(13) Ma Ma Wok

11914 Elm Lane, Suite 100

Ballantyne Chinese restaurant Ma Ma Wok serves up Chinese food with all vegetarian “meats.”  Try your General Tsos with mock chicken, or sample a Kung Pao dish with vegan “shrimp.” You might not even taste a difference.

(14) Sabor

Various locations

CharlotteFive archives
Sabor’s Quinoa Avocado Bowl

Local fast-casual favorite restaurant Sabor can make vegetarian friendly versions of most of their entrees, including nachos, burritos, tacos, quesadillas and salads. The quinoa avocado bowl is another veggie-friendly meal (and you can add black beans and tofu for some extra protein).  

(15)  Trade and Lore-Belmont

933 Louise Ave., Suite 301

Courtesy of Trade and Lore

Local coffee shop Trade and Lore recently opened up a second location in the Belmont neighborhood with a full kitchen. A whole selection of its menu is dedicated to the Impossible Burger, a plant-based burger-alternative. Try the Just Beet It with a house-made cashew basil cheese and a side kale salad marinated in a house-made orange dressing and topped with goat cheese. 

Vegan-friendly restaurants

(16) Bean

3001 E. Independence Blvd.

CharlotteFive archives

Bean serves up a selection of home-style vegan meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Vegan Pimento Cheesish Dip and Old Fashioned Meatloaf will satisfy your craving for plant-based comfort food.

(17) Living Kitchen

2000 South Blvd. Suite 300

Living Kitchen’s menu is entirely organic and plant-based with a variety of hearty options that will satisfy vegans and meat-eaters alike.  Try the raw manicotti with sliced zucchini pasta, ricotta cashew cheese and tomato basil marinara, or a vegan pad thai with sweet potato noodles. 

(18) Passage to India

9510 University City Blvd., 101

This unassuming spot tucked away into a strip mall in University City has a separate vegan menu with a great variety of curries, stir-fries, dosas — with are thin rice crepes stuffed with a variety of delicious fillings — and other south-Indian delicacies. Guests can even start their meal with a vegan appetizer platter and a variety of vegan breads that the whole table will enjoy.

(19) Pure Pizza

224 E. 7th St. or 1911 Central Ave.

Courtesy of Pure Pizza

Pure Pizza has a separate vegan menu and can make any pizza with Daiya vegan cheese. Try a vegan She-Rex pizza with mushrooms, onion and peppers, topped with greens tossed in lemon vinaigrette. The kitchen is nut-free for those with food allergies, and it also has a gluten-free menu available.

(20) Veltree

7945 N. Tryon St., Unit 110

Courtesy of VelTree

This café in the University City area serves up plant-based Southern soul food and has been visited by singer Erykah Badu, among other celebrities. The menu changes daily, with specials like Chik’n and Waffles available everyday, and sides like Mac N Cheeze available every Saturday.

Keto-friendly restaurants

 (21) Dandelion Market

118 West 5th St.

Dandelion Market’s tapas-style menu has a selection of keto-friendly favorites, such as zucchini pasta, lamb lollipops and deviled eggs

(22) Freshwaters

516 N. Graham St.

Freshwaters has a tantalizing selection of Cajun-style proteins, such New Orleans Catfish or Freshwaters’ Blackened Salmon. Complete your keto meal with a side of collard greens or string beans.

(23) Gusto Farm to Street

4400 Sharon Rd.

Courtesy of Gusto Farm to Street
Cauliflower crust pizza

Any of the pizzas at this farm-to-table cafe can be made keto-friendly by substituting a cauliflower crust for $2.95. Or diners can choose from a variety of keto-friendly bowls full of fresh veggies and a selection of meats. 

(24) Mac’s Speed Shop

2414 Sandy Porter Rd.; 2511 South Blvd. or 19601 Liverpool Pkwy., Cornelius

For a healthier take on BBQ, you can get any Mac’s salad topped with any of the restaurant’s barbecue meats, such as pulled pork, beef brisket or smoked chicken, or blackened catfish or shrimp.

(25) Yafo Kitchen

720 Gov. Morrison St.; 1331 Central Ave, Suite 101; or 1231-A East Blvd.

CharlotteFive archives

Customize your own keto meal at Yafo Kitchen. Choose from low carb veggies like cauliflower topped with Mediterranean meats such as shawarma or Marrakesh lamb.


  1. Diabetic diet? Seriously, as someone who’s been diabetic for upwards of twenty years this is insulting. Don’t turn a chronic condition that affects so many people into something that’s a “diet” ….. And if you’re gonna do it, at least add the carb counts because that’s what we have to care about.

  2. I was cured from Diabetes with the use of different combination of Africa herbs. You can contact him via Robinsonbuckler@ hotmail. com


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