It is not a secret that healthy eating is a major component of building and maintaining healthy bodies and minds. However, many people in metro Detroit equate healthy eating with depriving themselves of the good tasting food that they have been accustomed to enjoying, especially soul food. However, two new local restaurants have discovered that people can eat nutritionally, feel great, have more energy, and never miss out on the soulful taste that pleases the palate. Meet Detroit Vegan Soul Restaurant and Southern Nosh Vegetarian Soul Restaurant, two eateries that have people talking, but more importantly, have people eating healthy.
Detroit Vegan Soul, located at 8029 Agnes St. in the city’s historic West Village on the east side, has only been opened for a month, but has already created a buzz amid vegans and soul food lovers, and co-owners Erika Boyd and Kirsten Ussery couldn’t be happier.
Inspired to eat healthier after the death of her father to cancer, Boyd felt that a poor diet was a major reason for many diseases. “After looking closely at my father’s diet, which was one that many African Americans have, I changed my way of eating from a standard American diet to a plant-based diet.”
Boyd said she began traveling to other American cities that had vegan restaurants, Chicago in particular. In the Windy City, she was especially motivated by the chain of Soul Vegetarian restaurants that has been in business for 30 years and has maintained a great clientele of vegans and vegetarians who still loved the taste of soul food. “My partner and I thought how great it would be to have something like that in Detroit,” said Boyd, Detroit Vegan Soul’s head chef. “Therefore, I began experimenting with vegan dishes based on my family recipes. From there, people began trying my vegan dishes and liked what they ate.”
Boyd defined veganism as meaning,“a type of vegetarian who does not eat foods served with animal based ingredients, which means no eggs, cheese, milk or other dairy products. In the beginning, Boyd and Ussery (the baker) served their vegan dishes through a meal delivery service. However, due to the overwhelming demand for vegan food, the two owners decided that people would patronize a café. The two were right and business has taken off. “The day that we opened, we had a line stretched at least one block,” Boyd recalled. “People are happy that there is now a place in Detroit that serves strictly plant-based food.”
Boyd said that Detroit Vegan Soul’s menu of food is 100 percent plant-based, trans-fat free, uses organic ingredients, no hydrogenated oils, uses naturally cholesterol-free ingredients and natural sweeteners like agave nectar and maple syrup. While the eating establish serves numerous vegan dishes, Boyd said that one unique and popular menu item is Catfish Tofu, which is tofu dusted in cornmeal and has a blend of sea vegetables used to achieve the taste of catfish. “Everything that we use at Detroit Vegan is top shelve ingredients,” Boyd said. “Everything we use is also purposeful to give the body healthy and nutritional ingredients.”
Patrick Coleman, owner of Southern Nosh Vegetarian Soul Restaurant, can relate to healthy and nutritional ingredients meals, with a soul food taste. In late July of this year, he opened his restaurant as a plant-based, vegetarian down home soul restaurant. Located in the Sunset Plaza at 29540 Northwestern Highway in Southfield, the eatery is a casual dining concept with a big emphasis on vegetarian items such as buttermilk fried sandwiches, sweet potato fries, okra, fried green tomatoes and collard greens. Vegan and gluten-free foods are also on the menu.
“Southern Nosh is gaining traction,” said Coleman. “We started Southern Nosh out of a sense of responsibility to the community. There are many diet related illnesses that plague our community and we thought if we could take the same soul food flavored profiles and seasoning and put them into a plant-based capacity, we could educate folks into eating a little differently as they explore many other options to eating meat.”
Coleman says people think if they eat like a vegan and vegetarian that would mean saying goodbye to soul food. “Many people have never heard the words vegetarian and vegan and soul food in the same sentence,” he said with a laugh. “ When you think of soul food, you think of lard, fatback, fried foods and the way Grandma used to cook. However, we are preparing a healthier brand of soul food by taking a lot of soul food staples and putting them in what we do at Southern Nosh, where it’s still 99 percent vegetarian.”
It was important for Southern Nosh to fill a void of limited eating opportunities for vegans and vegetarians in greater Detroit.
“We believe our flavor profile is perfect for vegetarian cuisine that will attract everyone,” said Coleman. “Many people who are not vegetarians simply want to reap the benefits of eating meatless meals, one or twice a week without sacrificing dinner with friends or great taste. Southern Nosh presents another dining option for a vegetarian, which is completely different than anything else currently available.”
Southern Nosh does offer a daily seafood special, but the rest of the food is 100 percent plant-based. The eatery is kosher certified.
Coleman knows about “certified” great tasting food. In addition to owning Southern Nosh, he is also the sole owner of Beans & Cornbread, located just five doors from his new restaurant. Now in its 16th year of serving award-winning Southern and soul food, Beans & Cornbread has become a destination restaurant that some have called the best soul food eatery in the region. Now, add Southern Nosh to the mix. “I’ve been a restaurateur for 16 years and prior to that I managed fine dining restaurants more than 10 years before embarking on Beans & Cornbread,” Coleman said. “I’m what you called a foodie…I love good food. Being a restaurateur is my calling in life.”
For more information on Detroit Vegan Soul, visit the restaurant’s website at www.detroitvegansoul.com or call 313.649.2759 For additional information on Southern Nosh Vegetarian Soul, visit www.southernnosh.com or call 248.352.1682.