Soul food, a style of American cooking that emerged from Black slaves of the southern United States, has become an iconic cuisine in the culinary world. According to non-profit organization African American Registry, many of the foods that we consider to be quintessentially American emerged from soul food traditions, such as fried chicken, cornbread, mac and cheese, biscuits and gravy, mashed potatoes, barbecue ribs, and more. Slaves held by their white owners were usually left with nothing more than scraps of meat, vegetables that they grew themselves, and whatever type of wild game could be hunted. Unfortunately, much of this food is high in meat, dairy, and oil, which have all been linked to increased risk of heart disease and other conditions. So, if you’re looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, does that mean that soul food is off the table? Not at all.
At Detroit Vegan Soul, an all-vegan restaurant located in the city’s West Village, you can order classic soul food dishes such as tempeh smothered in mushroom gravy with a side of mashed potatoes, cornmeal battered “catfish” tofu, seitan pepper steak, southern fried tofu, and more dishes inspired by traditional soul food. “The Soul Platter,” for example, is a dish consisting of “mac-n-cheese, tenderly smoked collards, maple glazed yams, black-eyed peas and a cornbread muffin.” Although the cuisine sounds just as tempting as classic soul food, executive chef Erika Boyd developed a menu that is 100 percent plant-based, organic, and free from trans fat, hydrogenated oils and cholesterol. In addition to that, all of the sweets on their dessert and brunch menus use only natural sweeteners such as agave nectar and maple syrup. Their website proudly states that they create “soul food made from whole food.”
While many people are quick to dismiss plant-based versions of the foods they grew up loving as inferior to the original, Detroit Vegan Soul has seen enormous success since opening up for business in 2012. According to The Detroit News, the restaurant has served famous patrons such as Stevie Wonder, members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Nicole Ari Parker, and former President Bill Clinton. In late July, co-owners Kirsten Ussery and Erika Boyd are set to open a second location of Detroit Vegan Soul in Grandmont-Rosedale, an area that is dominated by fast food restaurants. Detroit Vegan Soul’s second location will be the area’s first full-service eatery.
Located in Detroit, Michigan’s historic West Village, restaurant Detroit Vegan Soul serves vegan versions of traditional soul food.
After co-owner and executive chef, Erika Boyd lost her father to cancer, she and her partner, Kirsten Ussery, decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
Erika learned to cook soul food from her grandmother, who grew up in Georgia and began experimenting with veganizing classic Southern cuisine.
Two years later, thanks to Erika’s culinary creativity and Kirsten’s background in the food business, the couple opened Detroit Vegan Soul.
Five years later, the Kirsten and Erika are set to open up a second location of Detroit Vegan Soul, situated in an area lined with fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, White Castle, and Little Caesar’s.
Co-owner Erika Ussery told The Detroit News why they chose to open a restaurant where most people are used to getting their food to go: “Part of our mission is to help people live healthier lives, and in this community, they currently do not have any place where people who live here can sit down and have a meal. It’s all take out. It’s all fast food, so they needed a healthy option.”
Ambitious? Perhaps. But Erika and Kirsten have already proven that healthier, plant-based versions of comfort food can be successful by building a loyal customer base at their first location. Detroit Vegan Soul’s second location will open on July 22nd.
Disappointed that you don’t live in the area? Luckily, making vegan versions of soul food is easier than you think. We highly recommend checking out the Food Monster App, available for both Android and iPhone that makes cooking at home easier than ever. On the Food Monster App, you’ll find 8,000+ vegan recipes with 10+ recipes added daily. Not only that, the app has cooking tips, how to’s, and more. What are you waiting for? Give it a try!
All image source: Detroit Vegan Soul/Facebook