Amid Providence’s growing vegan scene, 28 restaurants will soon participate in the third annual Providence Vegan Restaurant Week, which aims to celebrate vegan cuisine and showcase innovative plant-based options. From Oct. 29 to Nov. 7, diners can indulge in either two to three specials or a three course prix-fixe menu at participating restaurants.
Providence Vegan Restaurant Week is the brainchild of Chris Belanger, a long-time vegan who operates Like No Udder, a vegan ice cream store in Fox Point, with Karen Krinsky, his wife.
The week is meant to expose non-vegans to more plant-based options and show current vegans and vegetarians that “there are some places that think about them and care and want to go out of their way to cater to them,” he said. Belanger also hopes restaurants will see the demand for vegan food in the area.
Vegan Restaurant Week in Providence is one of the first in the country — according to Belanger, there were around four to five across the nation when he first started, compared to 11 now. Vegan options have also become more available as restaurants have added the specials featured during the event to their permanent menus or offered them more consistently.
The Herald spoke with seven establishments participating in the event — and these restaurants are no small potatoes.
Like No Udder, 170 Ives St.
Owned and operated by Krinsk and Belanger, Like No Udder began as a vegan soft serve truck — the world’s first, according to its website — in spring 2010. The shop opened six years later in spring 2016. The couple was inspired in part by Krinsk’s hometown on Long Island, where soft serve is popular but not as accessible to the vegan community. The goal of Like No Udder, Belanger said, is to provide “a normal ice cream experience for people,” offering flavors that customers know and love.
The Afro Indigenous Vegan, 669 Elmwood Ave., Unit A-3
The Afro Indigenous Vegan was started in 2019 by Bree Smith and originally offered only delivery. Pop-up locations began opening at the start of summer 2021, and Smith now also works as a private chef and caterer. She serves vegan comfort food from all cultures, and during the week, specials include a combo with three egg rolls and a side.
One of Smith’s goals is to expose communities of color to more vegan food. She noticed sentiments among BIPOC that being plant-based was not accessible, and has since worked to create plant-based versions of popular comfort foods to make vegan food feel more familiar.
On Sundays, Smith serves meals from her childhood as a tribute to her grandmother. Her menu changes every day and will be available beginning a few days before the start of Vegan Restaurant Week.
PiANTA, 65 Bath St.
Open for just over half a year, PiANTA is an Italian-influenced vegan takeout-only restaurant run by Michelle Politano, who started her plant-based journey by veganizing her family’s traditional Italian dishes after seeing unhealthy foods take a toll on her family members’ health.
Politano’s goal is for guests to never feel like they are eating an alternative. For her, one challenge was resetting expectations about what food can look like and building trust that food will taste as good as the non-vegan version. “Our mission is that it tastes even better,” she said.
For Politano, plant-based eating is “the way of the future,” and “the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint,” in order to create a more sustainable world. She has also found a unique joy in this different way of cooking. “It’s wildly exciting to transform plants into things that look and feel like your favorite comfort foods,” she said.
Politano opened PiANTA after being laid off from her corporate job due to the pandemic. She sold her house, put the proceeds into PiANTA and started what she’d always wanted to do: cook. “No matter how hard you work,” she said, “nothing is nearly as fulfilling as when you’re doing it because it’s what you love.”
Though PiANTA currently does not have a dining room, Politano hopes to expand in the future. Specials currently include the steak and cheese egg rolls, pastas and a different pop-up style menu on Tuesdays.
Casa Azul Taquería, 890 Allens Ave.
Casa Azul is a Mexican taquería which opened in July 2020 and is run by Alejandra Ruelas and her husband Javier Soto. The taquería combines traditional Mexican cuisine with alternatives for vegetarians and vegans.
Ruelas said she is excited for the upcoming Vegan Restaurant Week. “It’s just nice to see that we are part of a community,” Ruelas said. “Not all Mexican restaurants have that opportunity.”
Additionally, like many restaurants fighting to stay open through the pandemic, Ruelas is glad for the support the week aims to provide. “It’s a battle … this is another leg that we can stand on,” Ruelas said.
Casa Azul features a few plant-based specials each month in addition to regular specials. Ruelas’ goal was to incorporate vegan options, fresh ingredients and quick service into her restaurant. The Casa Azul team offers pre-order and catering options to try their plant-based and regular offerings, and they welcome suggestions — the tamales were originally a customer suggestion that ended up making its way on the main menu.
Beatnic, 223 Thayer St.
With 10 locations across New York City, Boston and Rhode Island, Beatnic, an evolution of the previous brand By Chloe, offers an all-vegan array of burgers, signature salads, sweets, sides and sandwiches.
Specials include the chicky deluxe sandwich on a pretzel bun, queso, cheesy broccoli and peanut crunch salad. New items are set to come out around the start of World Vegan Month this November.
Despite the name change, several classics are still on the menu, with the team “working intently on culinary innovation to bring forward many new menu items,” according to Beatnic President Catey Meyers.
For Meyers, the week will offer the opportunity to forge new connections in the community and share “new culinary innovation.”
Head of Marketing at Beatnic Aly Vanderwalde spoke about the company’s goals in accessibility. “We’ve always focused on making vegan food accessible and bridging the gap between vegan food and non-vegans,” Vanderwalde said.
“Once you’re used to the style of vegan cooking, it’s pretty easy to find delicious things that vegans and non-vegans alike can enjoy,” Meyers added.
Kabob and Curry, 261 Thayer St.
Kabob and Curry, opened in 1987, is the longest serving Indian restaurant in Rhode Island, according to Manager Rajesh Mahajan. It’s also a consistent favorite among Brown students. Their menu has a variety of options, including traditional dishes along with vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options.
In terms of specials, “I always say the specials are our guests who come in and eat here,” said Mahajan.
Beyond Kabob and Curry’s classic chicken tikka masala, some of its popular plant-based items include dal tahalka with spinach, tofu saag, tofu mango curry and gluten-free fritters and chickpea bread.
The Glow Cafe & Juice Bar, 389 Admiral St.
The Glow Cafe & Juice Bar is a plant-based cafe with smoothies, fresh-pressed juices, wellness shots and plant-based snacks.
Owner of The Glow Cafe & Juice Bar Priscilla Edwards worked in the Providence area for several years before opening her cafe. Feeling like there were few healthy options and places to get fresh fruits and vegetables, Edwards looked to build “something the community could enjoy,” whether they were plant-based or not.
Some of the cafe’s most popular items include smoothie/acai bowls and vegan Jamaican patties.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Karen Krinsky's name. The Herald regrets the error.