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.”
Address: 610 W Lake St., Minneapolis
Owner: Louis Hunter
Chili “Cheeze” Fries: House fries topped with homemade southern chili, cashew “cheeze” sauce and sour cream drizzle.
For Your Soul Bowl: Mac and “cheeze,” collard greens and buffalo sauce topped with crumbled cornbread and a dab of maple butter.
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 is currently only open for takeout and delivery 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.
Address: 301 Broadway, Oakland, California
Owner: Tamearra Dyson
“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.
Hearty Croquettes: Breaded zucchini and hearts of palm, served with a side of creamy, zesty sauce.
Southern Staple Bowl: Buttered grits and crispy tofu topped with okra gumbo.
Current availability: Souley Vegan is open for takeout and delivery.
Drop Squad Kitchen, Wilmington, Delaware
Soul food is more than just a delicious bite of grits.
“The soul of the food comes from the culmination of ancestral DNA of the people who worked the land of their birthright,” explains owner Abundance Child. “They were able to use the energy of nature to feed generations of our own families and the families of our bond keepers with the use of alchemy and knowledge of what nature provides.”
Address: 928 Justison Street, Wilmington, Delaware
Owner: Abundance Child
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.
Address: 204 N Capitol Blvd, Boise, Idaho
Owner: Mae Gaines
Southern Fried Chicken Meal: includes yams, mac and “cheeze” and collard greens.
Southern Fried Vegan Chicken: Crispy fried oyster mushrooms dolled up with Southern fried chicken flavors.
Caribbean Jerk Jackfruit plate: Includes rice, beans and cabbage.
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.
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.
Mac and “Cheeze”: made from soy cheese sauce from scratch with soy milk, nutritional yeast and other seasonings.
Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens: Also includes cornbread.
Current availability: Veltree is open for takeout and delivery Tuesday-Friday 1-7 p.m. and Saturday 12-7 p.m.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Black-owned restaurants: Top vegan soul food, per PETA