Significant changes need to occur to move towards an anti-racist society. One small, but impactful, step we all can take is to support Black owned businesses. According to a study by the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research, Black owned businesses have not only had a more difficult time accessing capital, but they have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington Post noted the “number of working Black business owners fell 40 percent amid coronavirus.” As many small, Black owned businesses are struggling, it’s important to seek out and support them now and in the future.
Numerous Black owned plant-based restaurants exist throughout the country. Many people incorrectly assume that eating vegan is a lifestyle only for white people. The Black vegan community, however, is thriving. Black veganism has been a long-time practice in Rastafarianism and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, as well as the Nation of Islam, where the avoidance of meat is a core principle. The New York Times reported on accomplished Black chefs in the United States, and how between 2007 and 2012 the number of Black owned eating and drinking establishments increased by nearly 50 percent. One of the chefs interviewed said “the political conversation around uplifting marginalized communities has helped to increase the visibility that Black chefs are receiving.” Pop culture has helped highlight Black veganism among well-known public figures such as Beyonce, Kyrie Irving, Serena and Venus Williams, David Carter and Senator Cory Booker, each of whom has endorsed a vegan lifestyle. The New York Times interviewed Black vegans around the country who all emphasized that being vegan is not just for personal health or animal welfare, but for social justice and food access. Veganism is about compassion.
Below are a sampling of Black owned vegan restaurants open for some form of takeout in major cities across the United States.
New York City —
Sol Sips is a community-centered, vegan café in Brooklyn focused on “making plant-based food accessible.” They offer sandwiches such as a jackfruit panini and avocado mushroom melt, along with smoothies and muffins. In the first week of June, Sol Sips was providing NYC’s Black community with free meals to aid in “nourishing and healing the Black community”. The founder, 23-year-old Francesca Chaney, is focused on providing food to low income communities, which often suffer from food insecurity. Not only does Sol Sips provide delicious fare, but it also hosts sliding scale brunches and free cooking classes.
Whipped Urban Dessert Lab is a minority and women owned vegan ice cream shop with locations in NYC and Boston. It’s the first shop serving only oat-milk soft serve ice cream, which has no preservatives or artificial flavors. The shop puts an innovative spin on classic ice cream desserts, with flavors such as salted pecan, strawberry shortcake and cinnamon apple crisp.
Vegan-ish Philly is a casual sandwich shop that opened its doors only months ago. Its mission is “to provide healthy food options to the community through quality service and a lasting impression.” Vegan-ish serves fast food style vegan dishes like “Cheezsteak,” chickpea burger samosas, milkshakes and more. One of its most popular items is the “When Smokey Sings” burger, with an Impossible burger base, barbeque sauce and caramelized onions. (Note — this restaurant includes pescatarian options, hence the name “Vegan-ish”).
Washington, D.C. —
Nu Vegan Café is a family-owned, soul food and casual dining spot with three locations in the D.C. area. All natural and organic ingredients are used, when possible, in their cafeteria-style serving spaces. They offer vegan chick’n, roast, steak and barbeque, along with mac and cheese and cinnamon rolls. They emphasize that food should “not only nurture but satisfy the soul.”
Tassili’s Raw Reality is known for having the “best kale in Atlanta” and shows that super foods are healthy and delicious. The café offers wraps, salads and snacks which defy the notion that raw food is bland. Every summer, it hosts a raw food event with booths full of gourmet food and information about the raw food movement.
Conscious Plates is a gourmet alkaline plant-based restaurant, which means that its food does not contain meat, dairy, eggs, soy, wheat or starch. The eatery sees being healthy as a holistic experience and wants “to cultivate a conscious perspective and healthy responsibility” for the planet. It serves chick’n and waffles, “egg” sandwiches, avocado fries, and — on Saturdays — creative pizzas.
Los Angeles —
The mission of Happy Ice is to bring happiness to the community. It serves premium water ice which has the “rich and creamy texture of ice cream with the light refreshment of a sorbet.” Its colorful, flavorful and nut-free water ice is currently sold from two food trucks.
T&T Lifestyle serves Ethiopian cuisine with a twist. Its smoothies, tacos and spinach and oat pancakes contain lots of flavor and spice. Right before the pandemic hit, T&T opened its permanent location and now has both drive-thru and delivery.
San Francisco —
Kubé is a vegan ice cream shop working to serve delicious scoops and rebuild food structures within the industry. The founders wanted to create creamy, non-dairy ice cream without artificial flavors. It uses raw, unpasteurized coconut cream, which has a very mild flavor and a silky and smooth texture. Kubé serves flavors including coffee latte, orange turmeric, cardamom and key lime. It currently sells pints of ice cream for curbside pickup.
Plum Restaurants is a group of eateries created by Chef Makini Howell that all have the same philosophy of “answering the need for complete, plant-based meals.” Chef Howell uses organic and local fruits and vegetables from family-owned farms to create dishes that attract vegans and non-vegans alike, such as Cajun “mac and yease” and chorizo mushroom quesadillas. The Plum eateries include an upscale bistro, a to-go salad bar, an ice cream shop and a fast-casual café; the bistro and salad bar are currently open for pickup.
Melanie Metz is a sophomore in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected].