21-year-old Francesca Chaney has big plans for Sol Sips, the small vegan café at 203 Wilson Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
What started as a pop-up subleased from a Cuban café from December to March is now having its grand opening as a permanent space for nutritious, plant-based food in the neighborhood aiming to make healthy eating and wellness accessible for anyone.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is a vegan himself and has recently helped start an initiative to eliminate bologna and other processed meats from the city’s public schools, is set to cut the ribbon at Sol Sips’ April 5 grand opening.
“We’re having sort of a soft opening in the morning where people can get breakfast, before opening for the real rush,” Chaney said.
Sol Sips has come a long way since it started out as a series of small vending gigs.
Chaney said that her mother has been vegan for 20 years, but she started to get interested in plant-based eating herself in 2013. In 2015, she began to spend more time at her cousin’s apothecary, before becoming a doula, which is when she first saw the sliding scale model that inspired Sol Sips’ sliding scale vegan brunches.
Chaney first started with small gatherings where she would cook food, and guests began to tell her that her food and drinks were helping them feel healthier.
“They would start to see results, and tell me something like, ‘the red raspberry leaf tea is really helping with my cramps,’” explained Chaney.
The apothecary then offered her the chance to sell juices out of the shop, which set her on a path toward starting Sol Sips.
Now, Chaney said she’s excited about the plant-based options that Sol Sips will serve after it officially opens.
“I’m really excited about our sunny oats,” she said. The oatmeal dish will include hazelnut milk and turmeric for a combination of spicy and sweet tastes. Here are some of the health benefits of turmeric.
The café will also serve a “bacon, egg and cheese” with chickpeas, Violife coconut cheese, and tempeh bacon, with plans to offer an eggplant bacon in the future.
Chaney also mentioned the café’s root coffees, with coffee-style beverages made from dandelion, burdock, and chicory. Here are 8 Drinks, Besides Coffee, That’ll Wake You Up!
The café also offers a weekend sliding scale brunch, where customers can pay between $7 to $15 for a full meal and beverage.
Chaney has plans to get a farm-to-table program with local farmers started this year, and has started an internship program for young girls of color from Brooklyn neighborhoods including Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville and East New York to help give them experience that Chaney hopes may help them start their own businesses in the future. Here are some small businesses that are bringing healthy food to food deserts.
“We’re constantly having dialogue about the neighborhood,” Chaney said of the interns – being a Brooklyn native from East New York herself, she’s conscious of the issues of gentrification in the borough.
“I know some people may think it’s just another café, another sign of gentrification,” said Chaney. But she said that she hopes as a small, black-owned business, Sol Sips will be able to help serve the community.
She compared the internship program to resources that she had growing up, saying since she was old enough to work, there were always local black-owned businesses there to help show her the ropes.
“This came from the ‘it takes a village’ mentality,” she said, comparing the program to the support she received from the apothecary.
“In order to generate more women of color-owned businesses, this will be a good start,” she said.
For more info on plant-based eating, download the Food Monster App, where you can find tons of recipes for meat alternatives and other healthy food. The app is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day.
Lead Image Source: Sol Sips