EXCLUSIVE: Longleaf Swine BBQ Announces Shift to Vegan Menu

After a long-awaited opening, the downtown restaurant pivots again, this time to an entirely plant-based menu.
by Walter Weekly staff

Please note that this is an April fools joke, not a real news item. 

In a surprising move, Longleaf Swine. BBQ, one of Raleigh’s most celebrated barbecue joints, has announced that it will be switching to a 100% vegan menu, replacing its signature whole-hog offerings with plant-based “pork” made from banana peels.

“This is not a decision we’ve made lightly, but it just feels right,” says chef and co-owner Marc
Russell, citing a recent deep-dive into books about sustainability and the health benefits of a plant-based diet. “At first, Adam was resistant, but after I sent him a bunch of research, he started to change his mind.”

In addition to the Whole Banana BBQ, the updated menu will include Portobello Ribs, Jackfruit Brisket and ingredient swaps like vegan cheese on its popular Pimento Mac & Cheese and Esquites. “Our mission is, and will always be, to serve the highest quality North Carolina-style barbecue to our customers,” says co-owner Adam Cunningham.

Russell has been working around the clock to perfect the recipes, testing dozens of fruits and vegetables to find ones that could stand up to cooking in the restaurant’s giant smoker and would pair with their sauce offerings.

“Banana peels have a great depth of flavor, and they’re fibrous enough to give you the bite you’d expect from a pulled pork,” says Russell.

Cunningham himself was impressed by the authenticity of the new product: “Marc knocked it out of the park — like I knew he would. Seriously, you won’t be missing anything.”

As part of the switch, the restaurant will change its name to Longleaf Vine BBQ, and customers will see new signage and merch in the coming weeks to advertise its vegan offerings.

Co-owner Ben Davis will also be investing in an all-solar, hydroponic banana farm in Fuquay-Varina to support the restaurant. “Sourcing local is so important to us, and if this takes off like I think it will, we’re gonna need a lot more bananas,” Davis says.

Most area barbecue pros have rallied around the Longleaf team, even if they are not planning to make the switch themselves. “For me, pork will always be central to the way I do Carolina barbecue, but if anyone can do it, these guys can,” says Southern Smoke BBQ pitmaster Matthew Register.

Lawrence Barbecue pitmaster Jake Wood says he wishes them well: “I get people asking about vegan options all the time, so maybe Marc and Adam will create some new traditions in Southern cooking.”

But another local pitmaster, who asked to remain anonymous, isn’t convinced: “It’s un-North Carolinian! If it ain’t whole hog, it ain’t barbecue.”

One benefit, the Longleaf team said, is that the new vegetable-based products take a fraction of the time to cook as the previous meat products.

Cunningham has used that time to brush up on the cello, and Russell doesn’t miss the late nights and early mornings manning the smoker. “I’m sleeping more than I ever have,” says Russell. “Everyone around me keeps joking that I’m glowing.”

April fools!

This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.