In Atlanta, there are dozens of black-owned vegan restaurants, food trucks and markets that are revolutionizing plant-based cuisine. While Soul Vegetarian dates back to 1979, others like Tassili’s Raw Reality and Slutty Vegan have opened in recent years, blending history with modern cuisine.
“Because generationally and culturally we’ve gotten used to being in the kitchen, we now find that because of veganism we’re creative, and we want people to have a feel for those creations,” said CrystalShae, Founder from Gregory’s. Atlanta Vegan Breakfast in Roswell.
Owned by Adaya Nijay and Maeko Reale, Gregory’s serves sausage, eggs and cheese and Slap Ya Mama Chik’n Biscuits. Since April 2021, the restaurant has been offering family-style “food with love” to the community while using social media to attract customers, including the TV host Steve Harvey. Reale said social media has also served as an education tool.
“We’re starting to see and notice and get more information about startling statistics when it comes to health, sickness, and disease in African American culture,” Reale said.
Start in a pandemic
Many black-owned vegan restaurants in Atlanta opened during the pandemic, when many members of the black community became more intentional about adopting healthier diets in response to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, about a third of people of color in America said they had reduced their meat consumption.
“Being in quarantine and a pandemic has given us a lot of time to get to know each other, more time to know what we like, to feel more,” said Deja Francis, owner of Planted Soul in Berkeley Park.
For her culturally diverse menu, the Pittsburgh native created vegan versions of the meals she ate with her grandparents, like vegan chicken fried with macaroni and cheese, collard greens and candied yams. She realized veganism was liberating as a chef after her diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
“Our goal was to reshape some of the core values of how people eat, even in their healthiest aspect, showing you that you can still love the food you eat, still eat those comfort foods,” Francis said.
The health benefits of veganism
Francis noted that the 2017 film “What the Health” further encouraged her to go vegan. According to Atlanta-based nutritionist and pharmacist Dr. Bobby Price, the movie inspired many people to be more health conscious. The pandemic has also motivated people to take holistic, plant-based approaches to their health, said Price, who posts science and health tips for her 136,000 Instagram followers.
Price, who lost his grandparents to chronic illnesses, went vegan after being diagnosed with high blood pressure. He started herbal detox programs to help people regain their health.
In his book “Vegetation Over Medication,” Price noted that the standard American diet is 60-70% processed foods and 20-30% meat, eggs, and dairy. Price said the diets “have it all upside down in terms of what really provides health.”
“A lot of people think we can only get our protein from animal sources, but all they say we have to get from meat, all these nutritional things that we can actually get from plants,” he said. Price. .
Give back to the community
For Issa Prescott, who opened gourmet vegan restaurant Life Bistro in Sylvan Hills, serving soulful, Caribbean-inspired dishes like creamy pesto fettuccine and portobello rasta pasta is giving back. Prescott described his community as a food desert with few healthy options and said his vegan restaurant, alongside others in Atlanta, has helped diners think differently about food.
Prescott also noted that the success of black-owned businesses in Atlanta had a domino effect. “When you see other black businesses doing well, it makes you want to do the same, so I think there are a lot of people who just got inspired and motivated by other people.”
This collaborative spirit was part of what drove Tan Bowers to create Veganish ATL, Atlanta’s only vegan and vegetarian food truck park. After Bowers went vegan, she rebranded and gave healthier food trucks a space to sell food in Jonesboro while giving people an experience.
“Tradition is the only thing some people cling to, so they do it that way because it was done that way, but exposure to something new, everyone deserves to have it. “, she said.
According to Bowers, food trucks are causing significant changes in the diets of Atlanta’s black community. GAS Food Truck in Decatur, run by Kelli Marshall and Jef Fleming who have been vegan for six years, has gained traction for its stoner theme, reflected in dishes like How High Chopped Cheese and Half Baked Loaded Fries.
“People are already eating hoagies, burgers, nachos and shrimp, so I had to find a way to make it a vegan version to keep people interested,” Marshall said.
Besides creative menus, marketing also plays a role in attracting people to veganism. Plant Based Drippin, a lifestyle brand founded by hip-hop artist PDB Grey, sells clothing and accessories with health-focused messages that posit veganism as cool. The brand has reached thousands of people on social media and festivals, spreading awareness of the history and benefits of veganism, especially in underserved communities.
“We were drawn from nature, we were drawn from the earth,” he said. “I think here we’re starting to see the real benefits of that.”
Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining newsletter
Read more stories like this by like Atlanta Restaurant Scene on FacebookNext @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.