Vegan on the Trail – The Best Restaurant on the AT!

Haven’t I told you that I’m vegan?

One of the conversations I’ve had many times on the trail is how I manage to get by as a vegan. It is true that there are certain resupplies that leave you wanting for suitable calories, let alone nutrition. I have learned a lot of great foods from other vegan thru-hikers such as Ghost, Nemo, Skittles, and a fellow Brit named Jukebox.

Harpers Ferry, WV

I want to focus on one particular establishment that blew my expectations away. This was an unexpected delight that Clementine told me about as she had gotten ahead on trail. When she mentioned Kelley Farm Kitchen in Harpers Ferry, WV, I had low expectations. “There’s no way there’s an actual vegan restaurant, maybe Clem means they have a vegan option that isn’t fries.”

The tramily, including Clementine (yellow hair).

How wrong I was! Looking at the menu briefly online I realized this was not to be missed. The restaurant was only open Thursday to Sunday and we came into town on Thursday. I told my tramily members I would be eating there if anyone wanted to join. Ten of us decided to go and check it out. There are no on trail vegans in my group, but there are several vegetarians and some who were vegan before the trail and plan to return to that lifestyle on trail.

Pure excitement at a vegan restaurant.

A Proper Homestyle Restaurant

We were quickly seated in the beautifully decorated eating area of the downstairs of a converted house. The kitchen can be seen upon entering the restaurant with the chef and co-owner Sondra working away to prepare meals. We were seated by her partner in life and business, Ben. The menu was extensive.

In Front of My Salad

There were healthy salad-based options (and I skipped over these). I love fresh salad, but after 1,000 miles I was ready for something hearty.

A most vibrant side salad that is large enough to be a main.

I picked the Big Ben Burger—using an impossible burger, with a side of mac and cheese. The great part of eating with friends is they order different foods, and then I tried all of those too.

Big Ben Burger that even I couldn’t get my mouth around.

Even the meat eaters thoroughly enjoyed the textures, flavors, and seasonings of each dish.

A hearty reuben.

The green chili was hearty and had just the correct level of spice; the jack fruit burger had the best pulled pork flavor and texture I’ve eaten to date; and the mac and cheese was cheesy vegan heaven.

A flavorful bean chili.

Sweet Treats from Heaven

I wanted more. So I shared a homemade brownie and cookies with Orange Blaze. These were the nail in the coffin and we retired to a nearby bar with the group for a quiet drink that turned into a few hikers getting their hike naked day photo taken outside the ATC.

The extended tramily, hours before their hike naked day photo.

A Taste of Harlem

After a day trip to DC on a zero day I returned again to the restaurant as I wasn’t ready to leave without another good meal. Chicken and waffles was the answer. I’ve loved the idea of this Harlem born late night/early morning snack since I heard of the musicians and revelers who inspired its creation. OB went for a more sensible salad wrap.

Orange Blaze ready to take on this huge wrap.

A family portion of mac and cheese (with nacho cheese) found its way to our table also… because I have hiker hunger and I wanted it.

Chicken and waffles with gravy was a pure delight.

Passion in the Food

OB and I spoke with Sondra, Ben, and their associate for a good 20 minutes after paying, and their passion for their food, and their business, was so clear. They work very hard to source all of the ingredients and prepare the food items and this is why they are only open four days each week. We said goodbye and returned to the rest of the tramily, with extra mac and cheese provided by Sondra, which made a great breakfast.

Mac and cheese with nacho sauce.

Sharing Is Caring

As I left Harpers Ferry I realized the other hiking vegans would appreciate this restaurant as much as I and I managed to communicate the important information through social media. Jukebox made her group wake at 4 a.m. and hike 21 miles into town on the Sunday so she could enjoy the restaurant. I was assured it was well worth the effort.

Barbecue Jackfruit Burger with so much flavor.

The Final Verdict

Recently an article on The Trek made a battle royale for the best restaurant on trail. This restaurant only opened in fall 2018 and was therefore not included. But it is good. It is very good. It’s the best damn food I’ve had on trail. Therefore by the power vested in me, by me, I declare that Kelley Farm Restaurant is THE best restaurant on the Appalachian Trail, and probably in the world.

Happy hikers before a sumptuous feast at Kelley Farm Kitchen.

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