Most of us have heard of Dryuary, the healthy kick-start to the new year centered around ditching booze for the month of January, but what about Veganuary? Vegan Action, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce environmental impact and promote healthy eating, is challenging Richmonders, and area restaurants and chefs, to get in touch with their plant-based side with 72 Hours of Plant-based Power.
Vegan72, the 72 Hours of Plant-based Power is a three-day event where participating restaurants offer a specially curated vegan entree on their menus, kicks off Friday, Jan. 25, and continues through Sunday, Jan. 27. The first Vegan72 event in Richmond was held last year and brought visitors from across the state — this year there are almost twice as many participating restaurants.
“It’s really fun to enable that connection with restaurants and highlight the vegan options in restaurants throughout the city,” says Krissi Vandenberg, the executive director of Vegan Action, a VCU graduate who has eaten vegan for almost 25 years.
Just a few years ago, the number of vegan and vegetarian options in the city were slim. Kendra Feather’s longstanding outpost, Ipanema Cafe, which recently celebrated 20 years, along with the VCU mainstay 821 Cafe, and Jenna and Jimmy Sneed’s Fresca on Addison were popular destinations for an herbivorous bite.
But recent months have brought a handful of fresh vegan options — NuVegan Cafe, hailing from D.C., opened a location on Grace Street last summer; Hang Space, an eatery from the brains behind Go Go Vegan Go and Yummvee’s Catering, hosted its grand opening this month in Bon Air; and Mind Your Belly Deli, a vegan bakery and deli, is set to open this week in Short Pump.
Richmond was also recently named one of the “10 Best Cities For Vegetarians in America.”
“I think there is more of this interest in the health aspect, and I think part of that is folks are interested in trying it, when the option is there, and making a more healthy and ethical choice,” says Vandenberg. “They may not always be seeking it out, but when it’s available more people are opting for it.”
Although Vegan Action has chapters across the country and there are hopes of reproducing the event in other cities, Richmond is currently the only city to have hosted Vegan72 the 72 Hours of Plant-based Power.
“We thought, ‘How can we celebrate our community and have presence in Richmond and highlight the fact that was have so many vegan options in the city?’ ” says Vandenberg of the weekend-long challenge.
“Our goal is definitely to target vegans, but also to get omnivores to try something maybe they haven’t tried before. Or maybe get them to try something different at one of their favorite restaurants.”
Krissi says part of the excitement of Vegan72 is teaming up with restaurants that aren’t known for vegan options, which creates a welcome challenge for chefs and restaurants.
“Of course, we want to work with restaurants that are tried-and-true vegan options, but we love working with restaurants that aren’t,” says Vandenberg. “Perly’s doesn’t have a single vegan option, and their vegan Reuben sold out so quick last year.”
Perly’s wasn’t the only restaurant trying new things. At Vegan72 in 2018 Boulevard Burger & Brew debuted a fish and chips dish that was so well-received by diners it became a permanent menu item. This year they are presenting vegan milkshakes and chili dogs.
New participating restaurants include Cobra Cabana, City Dogs, The Hop Craft Pizza & Beer, Hang Space, Root Stock Provisions, Soul N’ Vinegar, Sticky Rice, The Daily Kitchen & Bar, WPA Bakery, Bar Solita, Proper Pie Co., Kreggers at Hand, The Savory Grain, Union Market — which promises a vegan chorizo torta — and Little Saint, offering a vegan chicken picatta.
Repeat participants include 821 Cafe, offering buffalo cauliflower wings, Brewer’s Cafe, Harrison Street Coffee Shop, Postbellum, Idle Hands Bread Company, India K’Raja, Lamplighter Coffee Roasters, Mean Bird, Mojo’s, Saadia’s Juicebox, GWARbar, Secco Wine Bar and The Good Leaf.
Along with vegan bites throughout the weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 26, The Highpoint will present a vegan bazaar featuring local vendors including Maven Made, The Raw Aura, UnMoo cheese and Wildearth Fermentation, with activities and speakers from noon to 6 p.m.
Author Carol J. Adams of “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and “Protest Kitchen” will speak, the sibling duo Aubry and Kale Walch — owners of Herbivorous Butcher, the first vegan butchery in the United States — will host cooking demos, and rapper and vegan activist Grey will perform.