Harlem is the home of New York City’s highest obesity rate. According to a report released by the New York City Department of Health, 6 out of 10 adults living in Harlem are overweight or obese. Inspired by the alarming rates of obesity in the neighborhood, Chef Brenda Beener and her son Aaron are determined to prevent another person from becoming a part of that statistic. The two have decided to open up Harlem’s first full-service vegan soul food restaurant.
The new restaurant will be called Seasoned Vegan, and will specialize in meatless and nondairy meals that will not contain any animal fat or gluten. For carnivores and dairy lovers that might sound like a turn off, but the mother-son duo is set on providing customers with healthy meal options without sacrificing the taste. Imagine having a meal with lotus roots that taste like savory barbecued riblets, yams that taste like well seasoned crawfish and soy and seitan that will trick your taste buds into believing that it’s southern fried chicken. “We will satisfy even the most skeptical of carnivores,” Aaron told the Daily News.
The Beeners hope that their restaurant will inspire people to improve their health. Harlem residents won’t have to travel outside of their community anymore to search for healthy meals now that they’ll have a vegan restaurant in their own backyard. “One of our goals quite simply is to increase longevity and improve the health of the neighborhood we love,” Brenda Beener told the New York Daily News. The restaurant will be located on Frederick Douglass Blvd. near 116th St., an avenue that was recently dubbed ‘Harlem’s Restaurant Row’. Seasoned Vegan will have a staff of 15 people and will feature an upscale, 30-seat restaurant and a ground floor lounge that will offer smoothies and vegan alcoholic beverages. The food will be priced between $13 and $18.
Community leaders are excited about the new addition to the neighborhood. “Our neighborhood has sometimes been called a food desert because we just don’t have enough healthy choices,” Thomas Lunke, the director of planning at the Harlem Community Development Corp told the New York Daily. “Brenda is creating a home-grown business using fat-free ingredients that will help to change all that.”
Although the idea has gained the approval of many people in the community, the two entrepreneurs are facing a roadblock. In order to fund the restaurant The Beeners are seeking a bank loan that would require a 20% down payment or $50,000. To help them reach their financial goal the Beeners have launched a campaign on Kickstarter.com, a website that gives people the opportunity to donate money. With only 22 days left in the campaign, they’ve already gotten 48 supporters that have pledged a total of $2,397 so far.
Seasoned Vegan is slated to open in August.