November 26, 2020

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These Black-owned vegan soul food restaurants are the best in the country, according to PETA

Soul food has a rich history deeper than its delicious collard greens and black-eyed peas. The cuisine with African American roots dates back to the time of slavery in the Deep South and was later repopularized in the 1950s and ’60s. Many crucial ingredients of soul food, such as sweet potatoes or collards, originated from the rations given to enslaved people.

Some modern soul food restaurants have revolutionized their historic recipes to be both hearty and healthy. Offering plant-based patties or chicken is one example of the growing modernization of traditional soul food. 

“Many know it isn’t easy to change traditions, especially when it comes to that baked macaroni and cheese,” says Mae Gaines, the owner of Vegan Soul in Boise, Idaho. “Introducing vegan options is one that will be met with opposition, so your vegan version better be on point. Simple changes like swapping out white sugar for agave and adding coconut milk and powder vanilla candied yams for richness and flavor are changes that add more love into the labor of your soul food.”

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced its top five vegan soul food restaurants across the United States Tuesday based on online reviews, input from PETA staff and supporters, along with traveling campaigners.

In addition to being vegan favorites and offering a tasty bite, all of the picks are Black-owned businesses. Many consumers have been looking to support Black-owned businesses amid protests related to racial injustice and police brutality against Black people following George Floyd’s death. The 46-year-old Black man died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. 

PETA’s website has more information on the restaurants. 

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Trio Plant-Based in Minneapolis

Soul food is more than just a tasty bite; it’s love, says owner Louis Hunter. 

“Soul food is not an effort of one individual, but that of many who share in the love and heritage of community. Because when soul food is prepared, it feeds a community, our Black community, and offers a space for others to learn, laugh, build strong relationships that build strong communities.”

Websitehttps://www.trioplantbased.com

Address: 610 W Lake St., Minneapolis

Owner: Louis Hunter

Notable dishes: 

Chili “Cheeze” Fries: House fries topped with homemade southern chili, cashew “cheeze” sauce and sour cream drizzle. 

Share these hearty chili cheeze fries with the whole family.

For Your Soul Bowl: Mac and “cheeze,” collard greens and buffalo sauce topped with crumbled cornbread and a dab of maple butter.

The "For Your Soul Bowl" includes mac and cheeze, collard greens and cornbread.
The “For Your Soul Bowl” includes mac and cheeze, collard greens and cornbread.

Soul Food Platter: Diners can choose among mac and cheese, collard greens, cornbread with maple butter, yams, house barbecue ribs (jackfruit and gluten-based) or Southern slaw. 

Current availability: Trio Plant-Based reopened in-person dining on June 1 but only at 50% capacity to adhere with social distancing protocols. There is 6 feet between tables, and reservations are required in advance. Trio Plant-Based is open from 12-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, but closed on Monday.

Souley Vegan, Oakland, California

Souley Vegan makes everything to order. “Your mac is baked on the spot, hot dog grilled on demand. If we have to store it, we don’t want to serve it,” says owner Tamearra Dyson. 

Websitehttps://souleyvegan.com

Address: 301 Broadway, Oakland, California

Owner: Tamearra Dyson

Notable dishes: 

“Pray 4 Me”: Double-decked, house-made patties dressed with “cheeze,” coleslaw, onions, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and a special sauce, served with crispy seasoned fries.

Souley Vegan's "Pray 4 Me" dish is "made from scratch and proudly stacked!"
Souley Vegan’s “Pray 4 Me” dish is “made from scratch and proudly stacked!”

Hearty Croquettes: Breaded zucchini and hearts of palm, served with a side of creamy, zesty sauce.

The hearty croquettes are gluten-free and soy-free.
The hearty croquettes are gluten-free and soy-free.

Southern Staple Bowl: Buttered grits and crispy tofu topped with okra gumbo. 

The Southern Staple Bowl includes buttered grits, crispy tofu and okra gumbo.
The Southern Staple Bowl includes buttered grits, crispy tofu and okra gumbo.

Current availability: Souley Vegan is open for takeout and delivery.

Drop Squad Kitchen, Wilmington, Delaware

Website: https://dropsquadkitchen.com

Address: 1908 N. Washington Street, Wilmington, Delaware

Owner: Abundance Child

Notable dishes: 

Olmec: Barbecue jerk “chickun,” avocado, kale, tomato with “cheezy” garlic sauce served on a steak roll. 

Buffalo Soldier: Mildly spicy buffalo “chickun” with kale, tomato, pickles and special sauce on a steak roll.

Tunut: Pumpkin seed pate with sunflower mayonnaise, pickles, tomato and lettuce on whole grain bread.

Current availability: Drop Squad Kitchen is open for in-person dining at a limited capacity. Indoor seating can only hold 15 people, but customers can request counter service or outdoor patio seating. Reservations must be made in advance. 

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Vegan Soul, Boise, Idaho

Soul food is no longer Southern, says owner Gaines, who attributes her meat-free eating to her childhood on her Boise, Idaho, mini farm. 

“It is now loved by many races, throughout the nation, and I am proud to be a part of the new generation that introduces soul food to those who never imagined it could be revised into all vegan versions and still be full of the richness that soul food is.”

Gaines hopes to open Boise’s first all-vegan food truck in the future. 

Website: https://ohvegansoul.square.site

Address: 204 N Capitol Blvd, Boise, Idaho

Owner: Mae Gaines

Notable dishes: 

Southern Fried Chicken Meal: includes yams, mac and “cheeze” and collard greens.

The Southern Fried Chicken meal includes fried chicken, mac and cheeze, yams and collard greens.
The Southern Fried Chicken meal includes fried chicken, mac and cheeze, yams and collard greens.

Southern Fried Vegan Chicken: Crispy fried oyster mushrooms dolled up with Southern fried chicken flavors.

Vegan Soul's fried "chicken" is crunchy, delicious and all-vegan.
Vegan Soul’s fried “chicken” is crunchy, delicious and all-vegan.

Caribbean Jerk Jackfruit plate: Includes rice, beans and cabbage.

Dinner can be served all vegan and Caribbean style with this jerk jackfruit served with cabbage, rice and peas.
Dinner can be served all vegan and Caribbean style with this jerk jackfruit served with cabbage, rice and peas.

Current availability: The pop-up vendor offers online preorders with pickup only on Mondays and Thursdays 12-7 p.m. Other available days may vary and are posted each week on their social media pages. 

Veltree, Charlotte, North Carolina

At Veltree, it’s all about the seasoning and spices to create the ultimate soul food experience. 

“Every time you take a bite of my food, I want your taste buds to dance. I want you to remember big family dinners and reunions at your auntie’s or grandma’s house,” says co-owner Velvet Jacobs. 

Websitehttps://www.veltree.com

Address: 7945 N Tryon St Unit 110 Charlotte, North Carolina

Owner: Velvet Jacobs and Tre’ona Kelty-Jacobs

Notable dishes: Veltree also has a daily changing menu, which is always vegan and gluten-free.

Sweet Heat Drumsticks: dipped in “House Sauce” with spicy and sweet flavors made from agave.

Feel the sweetness and the spice with Veltree's famous Sweet Heat drums.
Feel the sweetness and the spice with Veltree’s famous Sweet Heat drums.

Mac and “Cheeze”: made from soy cheese sauce from scratch with soy milk, nutritional yeast and other seasonings.

Veltree's Mac and Cheeze is only offered on Saturdays.
Veltree’s Mac and Cheeze is only offered on Saturdays.

Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens: Also includes cornbread.

Check out their black-eyed peas with collard greens. Topped with a hearty piece of cornbread.
Check out their black-eyed peas with collard greens. Topped with a hearty piece of cornbread.

Current availability: Veltree is open for takeout and delivery Tuesday-Friday 1-7 p.m. and Saturday 12-7 p.m. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Black-owned restaurants: Top vegan soul food, per PETA