Vegan Restaurant News – Vegan and vegetarian options are expanding for downtown Phoenix foodies
Mention vegan and vegetarian food in conversation, and thoughts of tofu, lettuce and plain ingredients with little taste may cross some people’s minds. Although the diets do contain those ingredients, local restaurant owners offering vegan and vegetarian menus said their dishes are far more delectable.
Three years ago, it was a rarity to see vegan or vegetarian restaurants in Phoenix, but now they have become more available, an important change according to Claire McLoone, a 25-year-old social worker who has been a vegan for four years.
“I think it’s important because it normalizes a vegan diet,” she said. “It makes eating more inclusive for different kinds of people.”
While vegetarians do not eat meat, they may eat eggs and dairy. Vegans, on the other hand, do not use any type of animal byproduct, such as milk, lard, eggs, gelatin, butter, other dairy products — and even honey, because it is made and harvested by bees. A major staple of both types of diets is tofu and vegetables.
She said those who think vegan and vegetarian food is bland just haven’t eaten the right meal.
Many of the local vegan/vegetarian restaurants offer both meat and non-meat choices in the hopes of catering to varying customers and diets. They also aim to make the vegan and vegetarian foods that they do serve more delicious.
Bragg’s Factory Diner
Chef and owner of Bragg’s Factory Diner Liam Murtagh said it was hard for him and his family to find vegan and vegetarian restaurants before they opened their own.
“Vegan and vegetarian diets are much more popular in the past few years than they have been in quite a while,” Murtagh said. “As much as Phoenix is a new and developing city, it does have a pretty cool culinary scene and I think people are just excited to go out and try something different.”
When he and his staff opened on Grand Avenue and McKinley Street, they decided on a vegan and vegetarian menu with a diner-style twist, Murtagh said.
“That is how we eat,” he said. “We were trying to meet somewhere in the middle of whole food and comfort food, and having another vegan/vegetarian option in town was our goal.”
Bragg’s Factory Diner offers just that with its diner-style food. They also sell homemade pies everyday. Even if an individual isn’t a vegan or a vegetarian, people are more open to the idea of trying that type of menu, he said.
Murtagh said people often have a misconception about what vegan/vegetarian food really is, and that he tries to make Bragg’s food accessible to people who may not necessarily want to follow that diet when eating there.
“We try to make it not intimidating.” Murtagh said. “We even carry organic free-range eggs, and we have waffles, sandwiches and pancakes. They can see the environment and be less intimidated to try something.”
He said the type of ingredients they use plays a huge part in flavor, which is why Bragg’s uses locally sourced and organic products from Farmyard, a self-reliant urban-micro farm, in its menu.
Green New American Vegetarian and Nami
Green New American Vegetarian, owned by Chef Damon Brasch, is a 100 percent vegan/vegetarian restaurant located slightly outside of downtown on Seventh Street north of McDowell Road. Brasch said they offer food not just for vegetarians and vegans, but for anyone looking for fantastic flavors.
Green offers new American style “comfort food” such as pizzas, po’boys, noodle bowls and salads. Like Bragg’s Factory Diner, Brasch also said they use fresh ingredients wherever possible. Green uses unrefined sugar in their sauces and soy ice cream, along with 100 percent vegan cheeses and mock meats as a replacement to tofu, if wanted.
Green also has a gluten free menu with dishes that do not include products such as wheat, barley, rye and oats.
Brasch said his inspiration behind Green was the need for more vegetables in restaurant menus.
“So often you can go out into other restaurants and taste tantalizing meat dishes, and people just fall short when it comes to the vegetables,” Brasch said. “We didn’t want to be that — we wanted to be a full-flavor restaurant with food that made you crave more.”
Nami, also owned by Brasch, is a 100 percent vegan dessert place located directly next door to Green on Seventh Street near Palm Lane. They offer cakes, cookies, ice cream and various vegan breakfasts. They also serve drinks ranging from coffee and tea, to vegan hot chocolate.
He said Nami came from his wife’s love of soft-serve ice cream, but after their vegan transition they needed vegan version of the treat. He felt that pairing ice cream and sweet pastries with coffee just made sense.
Brasch said anyone who is hesitant to try vegan or vegetarian food should come and try his menu.
“They think vegan food is plain, tasteless and uninteresting, with lots of lettuce,” Brasch said. “I would tell them to come in my restaurant and see what we have to offer. I think they would be blown away.”
Brasch said he is incredibly proud of the types of food that Green and Nami offer.
“It’s simple, flavorful and awesome.” Brasch said. “The best part is that even meat eaters love it.”
He said it is important that different markets offer vegan and vegetarian menus instead of just meat dishes.
“A vegan diet can solve many of the world’s problems like water shortages, food shortages, eco-footprints,” he said. “We have to make these options available to people if we want it to be easy for them to make a transition.”
Tara Brooks, owner and founder of Vegan House on Adams Street and Central Avenue, said she opened her restaurant because she didn’t see any vegan or vegetarian places in the heart of the city.
“Most people at lunchtime eat whatever is easy, like hamburgers,” Brooks said. “I just wanted to share that people really can eat healthier.”
Brooks is from Thailand, and she said her Thai-themed restaurant offers a large amount of vegetables, options like soy chicken substitute, vegan fish and even vegan cheeses and bacon that taste like the real thing.
She said Vegan House uses local ingredients and co-op produce to ensure the best quality. Brooks said a lot of the food we eat today is processed, so eating with vegan or vegetarian diets is a great alternative and safer for the environment.
She also said those who may be skeptical about vegan or vegetarian food shouldn’t be.
“Just try it,” Brooks said. “It’s healthy and you don’t have to kill any animals. Nowadays, they are raised with too many hormones. That’s not healthy. You want to save for a long life. It’s about peace of mind.”
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