Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Extra, Extra!! Vegan Cafe Opening in April!!

As I've lamented over and over again, Memphis doesn't have one single, totally-vegan restaurant with a full menu. Cosmic Coconut, a vegan/raw juice and smoothie bar, is opening soon, and there is Belawa's tasty little raw vegan burger stand inside Smooth Moves cafe (which is also home to a Middle Eastern food counter that serves meat). But where does a vegan go for "junk" food?

We do have some guilty pleasure options (BBQ tofu nachos at R.P. Tracks, the best vegan burger ever at Fuel) at veg-friendly places around town, but Memphis will soon be home to a totally-vegan comfort food eatery called Imagine Vegan Cafe. It'll be in the old Casa Grill location at 2156 Young Avenue, and they're opening on April 18th.

Co-owner Kristie Jeffrey (who's opening the cafe with her partner Adam, both pictured here with their kids) took some time out of prepping the new space to answer a few questions about Imagine Vegan Cafe:

1) What inspired you to open a vegan cafe in Memphis?

Feeling like a weirdo. Our daughter Savannah loves to eat out, but 90% of the times we do, our order is messed up, and we get some sort of animal product on our food. This can be hard on many adults, but it is much harder on a child. She winds up feeling like a weirdo and we all wind up feeling bad for being so complicated.

So, after numerous experiences of getting our food wrong, not knowing in detail how they make certain items, and sometimes just bad service from people who don't understand the vegan lifestyle, I was bound and determined to open a place that was different. A place where you never have to question what is in your food, a place where you will never accidentally wind up with some sort of animal product in your food, and where you never feel out of place for eating vegan!

2) What kind of entrees, appetizers, and sides will you be offering?

We are so excited about the menu! It is very extensive. Appetizers range from cheese sticks to spinach dip, pigs-in-blankets to chicken drumsticks. Entrees include items such as mahi mahi, flank steak, tacos, beef tips and even country fried steak.

We will also offer close to 15 sandwiches including Memphis BBQ and Philly cheesesteaks. Sides will primarily consist of southern comfort foods such as hush puppies, mac 'n' cheese, black-eyed peas, cole slaw, etc.

We are also very excited about the build-your-own menu items of pizza and chili dogs. You can keep them simple or order them as messy as possible!!! We will also offer gumbo year-round, which is one of our favorite items!!!

3) Any desserts?

YES!!! This is Adam's favorite part of the menu. =) We will offer a lot of ice cream desserts, such as brownie sundaes, banana splits, and milkshakes. We will also have homemade chocolate chip cookies, killer chocolate cake, and pecan pie.

4) Will you be serving alcohol?

LOTS of Beer!!! As soon as we are approved with our beer license, we will sell a range of odd beers. The more unique the better!

5) What hours will you be open?

We are not entirely certain of this yet, but we think Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.

6) Will the restaurant have table service or counter service?

You will order at the counter but all food and most drinks will be brought to you. Iced tea will be self service.

7) Yours will be the only totally-vegan cafe with a full menu in Memphis, and it will surely go over well with the vegetarian population. But how you plan to attract omnis?

1) By offering items they never even thought could be vegan. Many of our family and friends have tried items such as the corn dogs and beef tips and enjoy them just as much, if not better than the original. There's nothing better than enjoying great foods like these without biting into a piece of fat, gristle, or that thing you bite into sometimes not knowing what it is but you swallow really fast before you gag. =)

2) Live music. We want to get local bands in to play on the weekends. Not only because we are actually musicians ourselves but to have a place musicians can come show off their talent.

3) GOOD cheap beer! This always attracts people. We hope they might actually try a new item while they are enjoying a brew!

8) You've said you're not going for the "healthy vegan" approach, but rather you'll be catering to vegans who want junk food options (like me!!). Why are you taking that approach?

This is really important to us because sometimes you just want to eat what society calls "normal" without having to ask someone to give up their life in the process. You don't want to HAVE TO eat salad or tofu. Although these items are great, they are the standard option anywhere you go.
Our children want to go out and get chicken nuggets or pizza just like every other kid in America. They just want to do it without harming their animal friends in the process. For us, being vegan is about respecting all life that surrounds us. Being healthy is the added bonus.

Stay tuned to Vegan Crunk for further updates on Imagine Vegan Cafe's opening. This place is so right up my alley — comfort food, good beer, vegan cheese sticks, dairy-free milkshakes. I don't think I'll ever leave this place once it opens.

In other vegan news, Midtown Yolo (a local yogurt joint with a few dairy-free options) will feature the top five winners from their Project Green Fork Flavor Creation gelato contest on Friday, April 1st from 2 to 6 p.m. I have the inside scoop (no pun intended) that one or more of the winners will be dairy-free! The address is 6 S. Cooper St.


Emily said...

Did someone say build your own chili bar?! I'm officially moving to Memphis.
And that is such a good reason to open a vegan place. I sti feel "weird" am annoying asking for chicken salad with no chicken or ordering 4 random side dishes as my meal.
I can't wait to see pictures of this stuff. Chicken fried steak? Mmmmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Chili dog bar is what I meant to say. Oops.

KTBuns said...

Omg, Bianca... I am SO JEALOUS!! These people sound fantastic and their restaurant is going to be the envy of every city, large and small!

You have no idea how green I am right now. :P

Vegan Georgia said...

Wow, this is great!! I eat pretty healthy vegan food at home, so when I go out, I like to splurge and get something a little more junk-foody. I would definitely visit this restaurant if I was in Memphis.

Jessica said...

This is exciting!

Anonymous said...

I just died from excitement. If they have a rueben on the menu my life will be complete. It's about time Memphis got on the damn bandwagon! I mean, we don't even have an all vegetarian restaurant, and now we're going to have a vegan one!

I'm going to make every person who ever wants to go out to eat with me go here to make up for all the years of making me go to steakhouses. We will win them over with cheese sticks and milkshakes!

alldaynatural said...

This sounds too good to be true! Thanks for sharing, Bianca. I have to tell my readers too. :-)

I know where my paycheck will be going....Finally, Memphis is on the vegetarian map!

Lauren (PB&G) said...

Now I wish I lived in Memphis. This place sounds AMAZING! Please post a review and lots of photos once it opens! I'm so excited for you!

foodfeud said...

Awesome for you guys! This is really exciting. Even in NYC there aren't a ton of ONLY vegan restaurants.
I like the idea of live music there, too. Plus the beer. Beer sounds good. Do I forsee many nights out in your future?

Amber said...

I'm a Memphian and I am freaking out! This is the greatest news I've ever heard! Dreams really do come true ;-)

Anonymous said...

As a former resident of Memphis, I now reside in a city with about 36 incredible vegan restaurants. I will be shocked if Memphis will support this cafe enough for it to stay in business.

Jordan said...

This is awesome! Now, when we come back to visit, we can have a home-base restaurant.

I need to get my band to play there!!

Ash said...

This kicks some major ass! Woohoo!

Jennifer said...

How exciting! On a completely unrelated note, have you ever tried making compound butter? I make the omni version, but I'm wondering how it would work with earth balance. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

While I am not Vegan, I am excited to hear about this. Seems like this will be a quality addition to Cooper-Young. Good luck!

Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day said...

Wow.. this sounds like an amazing restaurant! Maybe I'll be able to hit it up on my road trip!

Anonymous said...

Since moving to Memphis from New York, we have pretty much given up on eating out. Our toddler is also vegan, and we are always trying to provide a balanced diet that is hard to get ordering odds and ends from non-vegan restaurants. So we are super excited to have a place where we know we can order anything on the menu! We will come as often as possible to show our support. I'm loving Memphis more and more . . .

Chris J said...

Can't wait!

Tender Branson said...

Sounds like a great place. Answer number one is very telling about the way people view vegans and how something like a messed up order can really do numbers on people's psyche.

Carol... said...

Fantastic - now, when passing through Memphis, I'll have a place to vegan-eat! Thanks for posting this! If you're ever in Chattanooga the vegan place to be is "Sluggo's"... their breaded-baked tofu pieces are to live for!, plus all their other dishes, especially their "bowl" meals.

morganbb said...

OMG this is the best news I have heard in a long time! I just went vegan this past year and I have been hoping someone would open a full vegan restaurant. I go to so many other big cities (Nashville, Atlanta, etc.) and they all have them...I'm so happy Memphis does now too! Thank you so much! I can't wait to visit.

Brian said...

i'm actually coming to memphis in june for a week. i'll have to scour your blog for all the places to go... i may just ping you on twitter the week before too :)