A Vegan on Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head is incredibly beautiful!  My family enjoyed staying at a friends’ place for a week.  I didn’t want to leave.  I have this picture as my computer background to torture console myself.

The main reason for this post is to help others who might do an internet search about vegan food at Hilton Head.  That’s what I did before we left ~ and I was very disappointed.  There wasn’t much listed that was a help.  I found out why when we got there and went food shopping.  (We had access to a full kitchen and made most of our food, thankfully.)  That’s because, evidently, most people who go there don’t buy healthy foods ~ because the stores stock little to none.  Which came first, the veggie chicken or the egg replacer, I don’t know.  Stores won’t stock what people won’t buy…but people can’t buy what stores won’t/don’t stock.

We went to Bi-Lo, Publix, Fresh Market, and Walmart.

At Bi-Lo I found organic canned beans, including some maple baked beans that were pretty good from a can!  Publix had some tofu and veggie meats near the produce aisle ~ and possibly some vegan sour cream, too, but I’m not positive.  All of them had one variety or more of non-dairy milk.  All of the mentioned stores had gluten-free items, including cereals.

The produce aisles of several grocery stores that we checked out were sparse….and contained but few organic items.  Fresh Market had the most organic stuff, but even they didn’t have much, which surprised me.  The prices for organic produce at all the stores was chokingly high, but that was the overall theme of most of the island’s pricing anyway.

There wasn’t a single store than carried my favorite curly red kale ~ agony!  How was I going to make my daily green smoothies?  Now, granted, it could be simply a case of it being too hot to grow kale in the south during the summer.  (A dear friend says that it disappears from Florida shelves due to that issue.  It becomes too bitter.)  I did find a little plastic box of baby green kale to buy…and, wow, was it bitter.  (I can hear Janice saying, “Told ya so!” now.)  ;D  I had to choke a few smoothies down simply for my health’s sake until the kale was gone.  I ended up with a plastic box of non-organic baby spinach for the rest of the week and was grateful.

I brought my blender so that I could make smoothies for everyone at the very least.  Humph.  Of the 3-4 grocery stores that we went to first, I found ~ in the whole store, nature’s market or not ~ only frozen organic strawberries and blueberries and one store had Dole frozen mango (which I snapped up.)  It wasn’t until we went to Walmart that I found the most produce (although not much organic other than boxed greens) at the best prices!  Fresh cherries were $1.50 a pound!  And get this….they had a full complement of frozen fruit ~ mango, pineapple, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.  Why didn’t I start there?  They have vegan burgers, too.

There is a tiny little health food store tucked in a little plaza on Mathews Drive near Rt. 278.  Don’t expect too much, though, as they aren’t heavily stocked.  Perhaps if you called ahead of time to order something for when you arrived it would help.  They did have Veganaise, 1 package of Daiya cheese (on sale due to it’s expiration date rapidly approaching), and some Tofutti sour cream (the hydrogenated version – bleck.)  I think I saw some Rice Dream ice cream.  Most places didn’t carry our favorite ice cream substitutes, either.

There is one restaurant that I found online that caters to vegetarians and vegans with a separate menu if you just ask for it.  It was called Roastfish and Cornbread.  (Follow the link and then click on the vegetarian menu option.)  We drove passed it once and it looked pretty small and unassuming, but very interesting.  There are picnic tables outside to choose from, as well as indoor seating.  I really wanted to go, but we had small fry vegetarians in our family group who probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the unique-sounding menu.  So…maybe next time.  Its low-country and Gullah-inspired food looked very tasty.

We did end up with some Chinese take-out (I don’t recommend Dragon 1 in the Bi-Lo plaza near Sam’s Club) and veggie-lover’s pizza without cheese from Pizza Hut.  Another night when we didn’t plan on it, we had to go out (long story…) and opted for Olive Garden, because we knew we could get salad, breadsticks, minestrone soup, and/or eggplant parmesan (again, without the cheese.)

Overall, if you are adventurous, you could probably go to some of the seafood restaurants and live on salads and hush puppies ~ perhaps you could even ask to speak to a chef about a special vegan plate if you are brave.  Or you could fix your own meals with access to a kitchenette.  Plan on bringing a few items in a cooler from home so that you don’t have to try to find them locally (i.e., vegan cheese, sour cream, etc.)  It can be done, it just isn’t very easy.

If I had known, I would have prepared ahead more.  I was thankful that I did take soy curls, chicken-style seasoning, Bragg’s, our favorite gluten-free pasta, and a few other items along.  Next time ~ I will take more!  And I do hope there will be a next time.

Please see the addendum posted here.


18 thoughts on “A Vegan on Hilton Head Island

  1. if you return to Hilton Head, you must go to DelisheeeYo! They have organic salads, wraps, gazpacho in the summer, smoothies, and fresh pressed organic juices! It is a wonderful, cheerful little place; we had many meals and snacks there during our 6 day stay! What a blessing it was to have found this great little place to nourish our bodies with living foods. 🙂

  2. No need for Pizza Hut! Mellow Mushroom, also a pizza chain but much less corporate, offers a vegan cheese option on all of their pizzas

  3. Kroger in Bluffton has a good vegan/vegetarian section. Moes in Bluffton also has veg options, including tofu. Also, Fiesta Fresh has great veg Mexican offers with wheat tortillas and black beans. I love Mellow Mushroom’s tempeh sandwich. And Amigos has veg burritos and tacos.

  4. For future reference – I think Harris Teeter is the best for products like that, although, they still lack some products. Also, many restaurants will prepare a vegan dish if you call ahead. Catch 22 is great for that and their food is delicious.

  5. Newly opened is Daphne’s Cafe which is only open for lunch in the Wexford shops. They have great veg and vegan options. Also TJ’s Take and Bake Pizza has vegan cheese options (you take the prepped pizza and bake it at home). Fusion has Indian based vegetarian options. I’ll second the Catch 22 option. Call Daisy there and she will coordinate vegan for you. Harris Teeter is a grocery store chain (one in Park Plaza and one on Main St.).

    HHI is slowly catching on to the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle…

  6. Hi! We are vegans who just moved to the island and have been actually amazed at all that we can find here on the island. I suppose in the years since you visited, Veganism has grown a lot and thus, the demand has as well. We get LARGE soy creamers at Publix along with many other great items – they have a lot of foreign foods available, which is great because we often prepare Indian, Japanese, or Thai foods at home. We’re huge Publix fans since moving here, and have been so very pleased with their offerings. That said, we’ve also found great stuff at Harris Teeter – it’s just a good bit pricier. But their bags of organic berries make for perfect smoothie additions! There also seem to be a lot of vegan options available in dining out form, like Roastfish & Cornbread (http://www.roastfishandcornbread.com/) + Pino Gelato offers SIX “sorbetos” (www.pinogelato.com)… We also have heard of Urban Vegan in Palmetto Bay Marina (but haven’t tried it yet). It has a large menu of many salads and entrees, sides, desserts, and beer + wine that are ALL vegan! We’ve only been here almost 2 months and already, we are amazed by the options we’ve found – and we keep hearing about more, too. There is also a health food store called “Good Health Unlimited” which I am delighted to say offers nutritional yeast in bulk – one of the last things I anticipated finding close to home! I am confident we’ll continue to learn of more places to check out, but I have also heard that there is a growing community of vegans who gather and share food. Perhaps during a visit you’d be able to join them! (Us, if I can get there 😉

  7. Thank you for posting this, we are planning to go this fall, so I really appreciate all of your advice.

    • Things may have changed a lot since I posted this several years ago. Definitely check around – maybe even ask for ideas at a health food store, or at Mellow Mushroom if they are still open.

  8. There is a place before you get onto the island called Olive The Above. They have gluten free pasta and many other vegan items! It’s worth a look and the people who work there are super friendly.

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