Living Kitchen brings plant-based menu to Chapel Hill

Living Kitchen is known for its cold-pressed juices with names like Tree of Life, Power Cleanser and Gateway to Green.
Living Kitchen is known for its cold-pressed juices with names like Tree of Life, Power Cleanser and Gateway to Green. LIVING KITCHEN

Living Kitchen has opened its second Triangle location, bringing its 100-percent plant-based menu, smoothies and cold-pressed juices to a growing part of Chapel Hill.

The restaurant, which opened Feb. 10, is off East Franklin Street on the first floor of the new Alexan Chapel Hill apartment building. It’s the first retail spot in the building at 201 S. Elliott Road, which is adjacent to the Whole Foods-anchored Village Plaza.

Founder Juliana Luna opened the first location in Charlotte in 2010, then known as Luna’s Living Kitchen. She was joined by Stephen Edwards in 2011 to broaden the restaurant’s scope. They opened a location in downtown Raleigh’s Charter Square on Fayetteville Street last year.

Alyssa Stearns, assistant manager of the Chapel Hill location, said the menu is the same at all three locations, however the Chapel Hill location has a Sunday brunch that isn’t served in Raleigh (complete with a volcano mimosa).

Ingredients are sourced locally, and much of the menu is almost completely raw and served cold. There are about five to six cooked items, she said.

“When you’re looking at our menu, when you see things like manicotti or a burrito, it’s our plant-based spinoff of those well-known dishes,” Stearns said.

For example, the burrito includes sunflower seed refried beans, cauliflower rice, sprouts, pico de gallo, guacamole and cashew sour cream wrapped in a collard leaf.

The manicotti? It’s thin slices of zucchini pasta stuffed with ricotta cashew cheese, topped with tomato basil marinara. Pad Thai is zucchini and sweet potato noodles with sprouts and cabbage served with a house-made almond-butter sauce.

Breakfast, served 8 to 11 a.m., has quinoa porridge (served warm), granola, a coconut parfait, a chia breakfast bowl and a savory tomatico tart.

Lunch and dinner are served 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Salads, sandwiches and side accompany the entrees.

Juices come with names like “gateway to green” (kale, orange, apple, lemon and ginger) and “zinger” (beet, apple, orange, lemon and ginger).

While the menu technically could be considered vegan, Stearns said the restaurant prefers to say it’s plant-based to make the restaurant more inclusive and to not scare off those tentative about a menu labeled vegan.

“We like everyone to know everyone is welcome to come and try our food,” she said.

She said the staff is often most excited to introduce the menu to those not familiar with a plant-based menu. The front-of-the-house staff is trained to guide diners through the menu, both in orienting them to the ingredients but also how the diet is good for their health, too.

“The new people who don’t eat this way are the most exciting tables we have,” she said. “It’s all a learning experience.”

The restaurant seats 120 inside and has 20 patio seats.

Food can be ordered online and for takeout orders.

A grab-and-go cooler in the restaurant has juice, energy bars, yogurt and kombucha, chia pudding and cookie bites.

Info: The Chapel Hill location is 201 S. Elliott Road. 919-535-9191. The Raleigh location is open daily but Sundays at 555 Fayetteville St., Suite 100. 919-324-3515

Jessica Banov: 919-829-4831, @JessicaBanov