The vegan restaurant world is filled with smart, strong entrepreneurial women. Some have been in the restaurant business all their lives; for others, a vegan eatery is a second or third career. Some came to plant-based eating for health reasons, while others were encouraged by family. Every single one has an interesting backstory and a life filled with purpose. Read on for 10 women-owned vegan restaurants from around the country:
1. Angela Means, Jackfruit Cafe
It’s notoriously difficult to make it in Hollywood. It’s also notoriously difficult to make it in the restaurant industry. But Angela Means, the owner of Jackfruit Cafe in Los Angeles, has done both. She played Felisha in Chris Tucker’s 1995 film, Friday (yes, she’s that Felisha from the iconic kissoff, “Bye, Felisha!” But she left acting behind, and in 2017, she opened Jackfruit Cafe, a “fast” plant-based soul food restaurant located inside a donut shop in South L.A. After running the business out of a food truck for a time, you can now find Jackfruit Cafe inside Colony, a communal restaurant space in West L.A. Dishes include a Pulled BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich, Deep-Fried Jackfruit Nuggets, and vegan “Mack” and Cheese.
2. Chef Velvet, VelTree and The V Tree
Velvet Kelty-Jacobs, aka Chef Velvet, didn’t grow up vegan. Her sister “converted” her, she likes to joke. Her family ran a vegan restaurant in Maryland before Chef Velvet and her partner, Tree Kelty-Jacobs, branched out on their own in Charlotte in 2018. Now VelTree is the city’s first Black woman-owned vegan soul food restaurant. Her dishes like Fried Drumsticks, Cajun Shrimp, and BBQ Ribz have made fans of celebs like Erykah Badu, Cam Newton, and Nick Cannon. In fact, this April Cannon helped Chef Velvet expand to a new location in Hollywood called The V Tree. This summer, Chef Velvet also launched her own line of frozen foods — vegan shrimp and vegan chicken — for customers to order online. Truly, there’s no limit to what she can do.
3. Kyleen Keenan, Frankie’s Market
Martha’s Vineyard, an island in Massachusetts, is known for its seafood. But this summer, chef Kyleen Keenan is putting plant-based food on the map with Frankie’s Market, a woman-owned vegan cafe and marketplace. Frankie’s Market — named after her daughter — serves plant-based flatbreads and vegan cheese, like almond feta and cashew cheddar. Shoppers can also pick up plant-based groceries like vegan bacon and plant-based milks. If you can’t make it out to the Vineyard, keep an eye out for Not Your Sugar Mamas chocolate bars on your next shopping trip. Keenan co-founded the raw chocolate bar company with a friend on the island and together they co-authored the 2018 cookbook Chocolate Every Day: 85+ Plant-Based Recipes for Cacao Treats That Support Your Health and Wellbeing.
4. Arielle Hawthorne, Twisted Plants
In 2016, Arielle Hawthorne was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. As she explained to On Milwaukee, experiencing chemotherapy and radiation led to her to become a vegetarian, and 10 months later, she became a vegan. In 2019, Hawthorne and her husband Brandon Hawthorne first opened Twisted Plants as a food truck before upgrading to a restaurant location this spring. The plant-based burger and sandwich shop — located inside a former burger joint, ironically — features dishes like plant-based bratwurst with grilled onions and mustard and a “build your own” burger option.
5. Brenda “Chef B” Beener, Seasoned Vegan
Brenda Beener grew up learning to cook beside her parents, who were both chefs. She didn’t enjoy meat, but her parents thought it was part of a healthy diet. However, as Beener told the Village Voice, she slowly eliminated animals from her diet throughout adulthood. After her husband completed a 21-day vegan challenge in 2007, Beener’s whole family became vegan. With her son, Aaron Beener, as general manager, she opened Seasoned Vegan, a plant-based restaurant, in Harlem in 2014. Chef B, as she likes to be called, cooks plant-based soul food including BBQ crawfish, po’boys, BBQ riblets, and baked mac ‘n cheese.
6. Pinky Cole, Slutty Vegan ATL
Aisha “Pinky” Cole set big dreams for herself when she was young. Growing up in a Jamaican household in Baltimore, she watched her mom work as many as three jobs at a time to support her family. Cole became a popular party promoter as a teen, and as an adult, worked as a producer for The Maury Show and Iyanla: Fix My Life. But the idea for a vegan fast food restaurant called Slutty Vegan “came to me like a lightbulb,” she told Bitter Southerner. And the rest is history: Slutty Vegan started as a food truck in 2018. Cole opened the second brick-and-mortar location this summer. Her Instagram page shows celebs like Tiffany Haddish, Tyler Perry, and Snoop Dogg enjoying her food. Slutty Vegan fans wait in huge lines to buy her plant-based burgers like the Fussy Hussy and the One Night Stand.
7. Tamerra Dyson, Souley Vegan
Tamerra Dyson began cooking vegan food at age 18, but she originally considered a career in nursing. After leaving nursing school, she decided to open a vegan restaurant selling her favorite Louisiana Creole plant-based foods. She was a single mother with bad credit, but Dyson was able to secure funding from supporters who believed in her dream. Souley Vegan opened in Oakland, California, in 2009 with Dyson as founder and head chef. Among Dyson’s dishes include Jambalaya with house-made seitan and Hearts of Palm Battered Calamari.
8. Carole Jones, un*cooked
Carole Jones began her plant-based journey after losing her husband to cancer. She co-founded a plant-based restaurant, Chicago Raw, in 2009, and this summer, she opened un*cooked, a vegan grab-and-go eatery. Located in Chicago’s Fulton Market, Jones runs un*cooked with her son Jeremy and her daughter-in-law Kaitlyn. All food at un*cooked is cooked at or below 118 degrees, according to their website. Among their many treats include a Golden Milk Muffin, Overnight Oats, and Vegan Sushi.
9. Loreta Ruiz, La Vegana Mexicana
Loreta Ruiz was born in Mexico City, studied homeland security, and became a member of the foreign service working in consular diplomacy. She was transferred to Southern California, where she has set down roots. In 2014, Ruiz saw her daughter suddenly become ill with an autoimmune disease, and began converting her family’s favorite Mexican foods into plant-based versions. After 30 years in the homeland security field, Ruiz created a pop-up in Santa Ana in 2017 based on her dishes, which has become her restaurant, La Vegana Mexicana. As owner and chef, Ruiz and her restaurant are famous for award-winning vegan tamales, such as the vegan cheese with rajas tamale.
10. Babette Davis, Stuff I Eat
Babette Davis suffered from asthma, digestive issues, and skin disorders before deciding to see if eating a plant-based diet could help her. She began developing vegan and raw food dishes and selling them outside of church; in 2008, Chef B, as she likes to be called, opened her own restaurant, Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, California. Her dishes include enchilada pie, burritos, quesadillas, and a soul food platter. In 2018, she published a cookbook, Cash in on Cashews: 50 Plus Desserts Using 1 Nut.
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