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Entrepreneurship News Restaurants

Atlanta-Based Eatery Slutty Vegan Raises $25 Million for Expansion

Photo: Greenqueen

In addition to $25 Million, Slutty Vegan founder and CEO Pinky Cole has also secured an investment from restaurateur Danny Meyer’s investment Group. Her plan is to use the funds to open 10 more locations of the popular fast-casual eatery. Birmingham, Alabama, Brooklyn, New York and Athens, Georgia have already been announced with more to open by the end of 2022.

To help her manage the rapid expansion, Cole has hired MuHammad Yasin, a professionally trained chef and Panera veteran, as its district manager, and Joi Alexander, a former CAVA executive, as its national director of sales & catering. Additionally, she plans to hire a COO and CMO.

Cole noticed a lack of plant-based options when she first moved to Atlanta some years ago. Growing up in a vegetarian-Rastafarian household, Cole wanted to offer the community plant-based twists to familiar foods like burgers and fries. Beginning as a ghost-kitchen in 2018, Slutty Vegan currently boasts four locations in Georgia ahead of expansion.

Adding to her expansion plans is an investment from Enlightened Hospitality Investments, a growth equity firm associated with Danny Meyer’s Union Hospitality Group. The company invests in up and coming brands in the fast-casual space. For those living outside of Georgia that have been waiting to see what all the hype surrounding Slutty Vegan is all about, you just might be getting your chance soon. Follow Slutty Vegan here for updates on new locations.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Features Restaurants What's New

A Couple in Their Late 70’s Opens Their First Restaurant, Proves It’s Never Too Late to Start a Passion Project

Dwelling on a ‘what if’ is never a fun feeling, as missed opportunities are rarely ones we get a second chance on. So it’s always encouraging to see others fulfill a dream, no matter what age or stage in life they’re at. Kelvin and Amy, a Brooklyn, New York couple in their late 70’s, made sure to act on their dreams of establishing a restaurant by recently opening, Blessing, a Taiwanese spot in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

According to the Instagram post above from @far___near, Blessing’s menu consists of all the Taiwanese dishes that Kelvin and Amy love to cook, even including off-menu items. The couple are the only ones working at the restaurant, since they can’t afford to hire help right now, so if there’s some kind locals with some free time that end up reading this, perhaps lending them a helping hand is a crucial way to support a local mom & pop joint.

Blessing has a sign outside that advertises serving Asian tapas, dim sum, sushi, boba, and vegan, with plans to serve shaved ice during the summer and also cater to small parties. Kelvin and Amy’s ambition here is indisputable, so pulling up for a meal to show your support is a perfect way to respect their hustle and passion.

Photo: @far___near

Categories
Design Entrepreneurship Technology

Food Fighters Universe Is The First NFT-Backed Restaurant Group

Andy Nguyen, the notable restaurateur behind the world’s first Bored Ape Yacht Club-inspired restaurant, Bored & Hungry, has just announced the launch of yet another first — Food Fighters Universe, an NFT-backed restaurant group founded alongside Kevin Seo and Phillip Huynh. 

Connecting food and Web3, FFU is a collection of 10,000 unique tokens on the ETH (Ethereum) blockchain. For a quick overview in blockchain language, a token is any asset that is digitally transferable between two people. NFT’s, which stand for Non-Fungible Tokens, are unique cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain and cannot be replicated. 

Each purchase of a Food Fighters NFT helps to develop the world’s first NFT-backed restaurant group. With the goal of building gathering spaces in real life and in the metaverse, Food Fighters NFT-holders will gain additional access to useful tools and cool experiences.

Experiences FFU plans to offer members include tickets to their annual IRL Food Fighters Festival along with a “Easter egg hunt” style of hidden restaurants. Keeping with a community-centric approach, FFU will share governance on decisions regarding restaurants and menu items through Discord, Twitter and other platforms.

“We launched Bored & Hungry to show people that NFTs are more than ‘just a JPEG’, that the IP can be used to create brands and businesses,” said Nguyen, co-founder of viral restaurant concepts including Afters Ice Cream, Matte Black Coffee and Trill Burgers. “Food Fighters Universe is an extension of that idea. This project got inspired by seeing all the problems that are currently happening in the food and beverage industry: high food cost, high turnover of staff, quality of service. I saw the Web3 space as a way to fix those problems and save the restaurant industry.”

The FFU community already houses heavy hitters like rap legend Bun B, NBA All-Star/entrepreneur Baron Davis, and also NFT advisor and consultant Josh Ong. The 10,000 unique NFTs were designed by artist frothyoatmilk and consist of individually customized food favorites like pizza, ramen, ice cream and sushi. 

Lastly, one percent of revenue will be donated to Abound Food Care and Action Against Hunger, who both focus on addressing food sustainability and world hunger. 

Look out for Food Fighters Universe to launch in May.

Categories
Entrepreneurship News Pop-Ups Restaurants Technology What's New

New Bored Ape Yacht Club Restaurant Hopes to Show the Potential of NFTs Translating Into the Real World

Photo: justborednhungry

Los Angeles-based restaurateur Andy Nguyen is hoping to show the marketing potential of NFT’s with a new Bored Ape Yacht Club restaurant pop-up.

NFT’s have been all the rage recently as the world is moving increasingly towards a digital space. However, it’s easy to understand the confusion behind NFTs in their current form. We spend a good chunk of our day on social media scrolling past jpegs, so the idea of owning a digital picture exclusively doesn’t sound appealing on the surface. 

NFT’s, otherwise known as non-fungible tokens, are cryptographic or digital assets on a blockchain with unique codes that distinguish them from each other. Cryptography is the study of secure communication techniques between a sender and their intended recipient. The unique codes prevent owners from trading or exchanging them, unlike cryptocurrencies.

To clarify, though NFTs are now booming as a way to buy and sell digital artwork, they are much more than static jpegs. Think of them as art that can evolve from its original form, expanding the ways in which it can be used on different platforms and in various settings. When you purchase an NFT, it’s similar to creating a character in a multiplayer game: you start with the original art piece, and as it interacts within the digital space, it gains additional attributes and value. Much like your character creation, you can purchase items for your NFT.  

Another aspect that’s really cool about the NFT space are membership clubs. When you buy an NFT, you’re also joining the club that represents the art piece. Like any club, membership comes with benefits and the opportunity to connect with other members. As a space in its infant stage, the possibilities for curated NFT experiences are endless and allow for strong community building. 

Stepping in to set new standards is Andy Nguyen’s Bored Ape Yacht Club pop-up “Bored & Hungry.” As owner of Afters Ice Cream, Matte Black Coffee, Pig Pen Delicacy, Portside Fish Co., and many others, Nguyen knows how to offer great restaurant experiences. He hopes to showcase how NFTs can translate to the real world by combining his passion and expertise for creating exciting restaurant concepts with the potential of NFT tech.

As one of the most popular, the Bored Ape Yacht Club represents a collection of 10,000 unique NFTs. Over the past year, many celebrities have joined, securing their very own unique Bored Ape. 

Nguyen’s Bored & Hungry opens on April 9th in Long Beach, California and features a smashburger style concept with caramelized onions and special sauce. The branding includes Nguyen’s recently acquired Bored Ape #6184 and two more Mutant Apes.

Categories
Drinks Entrepreneurship Features Packaged Food

Sanzo Sparkling Water is Bubbling with Authentic Asian Flavors

Photos: Garnish Studios

Sanzo is a new sparkling water company offering a unique flavor experience. It was launched in 2019 by Filipino-American Sandro Roco, who had a desire to share the Asian flavors he enjoyed as a child. He also wanted to offer a natural alternative to most sparkling beverages, which are often sugary and filled with artificial flavors. 

Although Asians make up 60% of the global population, these flavors are hard to find at your average grocery store in the US. Noticing a gap, Roco felt Sanzo could be a great bridge between our western palates and what Asia has to offer. Before he launched the brand he recalled his initial thoughts about the representation of Asian flavors:

“I [also] wondered about this when I started. I thought that surely, someone else had to be doing it. When it became clear that no one was — or at least at a level or with a brand voice that I thought was powerful enough — that was one of my first inspirations to really go after the market with Sanzo. As to the why, this one is a bit uncomfortable for me to address, but I do think a lot of it has to do with access to capital and certain networks for minority founders in an industry that is thankfully becoming more diverse, but still has room for growth.”

Sanzo is made using actual fruit and contains zero added sugar, artificial or natural flavors. In other words, when you look at the ingredients, you can pronounce each one. Adding to a clean and crisp experience, you also get the distinct taste of authentic Asian fruits.

What’s really cool is that each fruit offering represents a different Asian country: Calamansi Lime is native to the Philippines, Alphonso Mango, native to India, Lychee comes from Southeast Asia, and their latest flavor, Yuzu Ginger, is Japan’s favorite citrus.

Although less than three years old, Sanzo has managed to secure shelf space in 2000+ retailers, with Whole Foods being their latest. The bold flavor and natural ingredients recently awarded them an investment of 10 million in their Series A financing round. Like sparkling water, it’s clear that Sanzo is poised to quench thirsts and expand many palates in the coming years.

Recently, Sanzo released a limited edition Lychee can to celebrate the new Disney and Pixar film “Turning Red,” which follows the story of a young Asian girl that turns into a giant red panda. The partnership continues Sanzo’s goal of highlighting the stories of Asian leads in pop culture.

To experience this new world of flavor, you can locate Sanzo at your local retailer here.

Categories
Adventures Culture Entrepreneurship

The Oldest Black-Owned Restaurants in Major Cities Across America

Photo: David

Black History Month allows us to reflect on stories and people that have set examples of what’s possible. With a closer look at the past, we find that a vision, and the right support, help to make the impossible possible.

In honor of remaining steadfast in working towards a dream, I wanted to highlight some of the oldest Black-owned restaurants in major cities across the US. With roots steeped in traditional slave and Southern foods, the founders shown below spread the taste, feel and culture of soul food all over the map.

Along the way, they’d push the cuisine to new heights, laying the foundation for many of the comfort foods we love today.

Photos: Twitter & Harold And Belle’s

LOS ANGELES

Harold & Belle’s

In September of 1969, Southern hospitality and eats by way of New Orleans opened up in Los Angeles’ Jefferson Park district. The restaurant was named Harold & Belle’s, after husband and wife founders Harold Legaux and Mary Belle. Wanting to share the Creole flavors of their hometown, Legaux started in a small kitchen, serving only po’boy sandwiches, filé gumbo and red beans & rice.

After his passing, his grandson, Ryan Legaux and his wife Jessica, would step in, refining Harold & Belle’s into the dining experience it is today. In 2019 they celebrated their 50th year of operation.

Los Angeles has lots of wonderful Black-owned restaurants to choose from. Click here for additional options.

Photos: Ajay Suresh & Su–May

HARLEM, NYC

Sylvia’s Restaurant

Sylvia’s Restaurant has been keeping the spirit alive since 1962. Founder Sylvia Woods, also known as the “Queen of Soul Food,” started cooking at the age of six. A search for a better life would convince her and husband Herbert Woods to take their hopes to Harlem.

Woods’ could never predict that a waitress job would manifest into a life changing offer. With her then boss wanting to pass down the business, Sylvia’s Restaurant was born. Now a legendary landmark, people from far and wide visit Harlem to experience Sylvia’s 55 years and three generations worth of soul food excellence. 

New York is overflowing with Black-owned restaurants to support. Click here for additional options.

Photos: TonyTheTiger & Facebook

CHICAGO

Harold’s Chicken

This South Side Chicago treasure was opened in 1950 by Harold and Hilda Pierce. At the time, white restaurant owners avoided opening locations in Black neighborhoods. With an under-served community, Pierce saw an opportunity to fill the vacancy.

Harold’s Chicken would become one of only a handful of Black-owned franchises serving South Side Chicago. In the beginning, they only sold chicken feet and dumplings. Since then, they’ve grown to offer chicken dinners and wings, along with a variety of seafood and sides. Their fried chicken is cooked to order, so diners can be confident in tasting the freshness. You can now find locations outside of Chicago in many cities around the US.

Chicago has many other Black-owned restaurants to discover. Click here for additional options.

Photos: Restaurant News & The Busy Bee Cafe

ATLANTA

Busy Bee Cafe

You may want to have some time on your hands for this busy landmark. Opened in 1947 by Lucy Jackson, Busy Bee Cafe developed a reputation for fresh Southern eats. Challenges faced years later would cause the restaurant to change hands before finding current owner Tracy Gates.

Gates re-injected some much needed soul and turned Busy Bee Cafe into what’s considered the “best fried chicken” in Atlanta. From famous patrons like Martin Luther King Jr. to Barack Obama, this spot is truly legendary.

Atlanta is a major US hub for African American culture with lots of Black-owned restaurants to grub at. Click here for additional options.

Photos: Eugene Kim

OAKLAND

Lois The Pie Queen

Always promoting the spirit of family and love, Lois The Pie Queen would come to be known as “Mom” by customers. Unsurprisingly, Lois learned how to make her signature pies from her mother. A love for cooking would define her life: later when given an opportunity to open a restaurant along with her husband Roland, also a cook, Lois chose Sacramento Street in Berkeley, CA.

Knowing her pies were popular within the church community, Roland named their restaurant, Lois The Pie Queen. Together, they began a 50-year journey which still exists today. Serving down-home specialties like short-ribs, candied yams, black-eyed peas, cornbread muffins, and many more, the restaurant is now run by Lois’ son Chris Davis. 

Oakland is an important historical piece to African American history and has many Black-owned restaurants to experience. Click here for additional options.

Photos: Ben Schumin & Skeejay

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Founders Ben and Virginia Ali popularized this Black-owned eatery using the same original secret chili recipe that’s still used today. Much like the name suggests, the chili is fresh and homemade while the wider offerings consist of American classics like chili dogs, burgers and banana puddin’.

Since 1958, Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a faithful remedy to D.C.-area residents’ hunger. The location still sports a retro aesthetic, retaining the warmth of yesteryear. What’s even better is that you can bring a bowl of Ben’s Chili home by ordering online.

Not only has Washington, D.C. been a pivotal spot in the push for civil rights, it also has some of America’s best Black-owned restaurants. Click here for additional options.

Photos: thisisit.com & Facebook

HOUSTON

This Is It! Soul Food

With an infectious jingle and straight to the point name, This Is It! Soul Food has been a recognized name in Houston for more than 50 years. I even recall watching the commercials growing up, which played frequently to everyone’s amusement.

Still family-owned, it was founded in 1959 by Frank and Mattie Jones. The legendary spot is now operated by their grandson Craig Joseph. If you’re looking for foods originated from Southern cuisine, including smothered pork chops, ham hocks, oxtails, chitterlings, and black-eyed peas, search no further than This Is It! Soul Food.

Houston is a soul foodie’s dream and has lots of Black-owned restaurants to try. Click here for additional options.

Photos: Facebook & GatorFan252525

DETROIT

Raven Lounge & Restaurant

With a legacy that spans over 56 years, The Raven Lounge & Restaurant has seen it all. It’s one of the oldest blues clubs in Detroit, opened in 1966 by Sam Watts and Myrtle Freeman. They joined the Great Migration towards the mid 1900s, which saw many African Americans leave the South in search of opportunity.

Although lesser-known, The Raven Lounge & Restaurant has persisted throughout Detroit’s tumultuous history. Their piping-hot fried fish comes in several varieties and is served up with other favorites like hot-water cornbread and melty mac and cheese. Live performances are held Thursday through Saturday from 9 PM to 2 AM.

A Black music mecca, Detroit has no shortage of soul. To check out what other food options the city has to offer click here.

Photos: Krista & Facebook

NEW ORLEANS

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant

Opened in 1941, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant would go on to become a historical landmark and focal point not only for food, but music, entertainment, culture and civil rights in New Orleans. The upstairs was a meeting place for Martin Luther King Jr. and other Freedom Fighters during the Civil Rights Movement. It started as a sandwich shop founded by Emily and Dooky Chase Sr. and grew into a sit-down Creole restaurant after son Dooky Chase Jr. and his wife Leah Lange Chase took over.

Introducing one of the first African American fine dining restaurants in the country, Leah Chase would later be called “The Queen of Creole Cuisine.” The restaurant remains family-owned and operated to this day.

New Orleans is well known for its culture, music and food. Check out a list of Black-owned restaurants that be hard to pass up in The Big Easy. Click here for additional options.

Photos: Facebook

SAN DIEGO

StreetCar Merchants Chicken Bar

Only a mere eight years old, Streetcar Merchants is one of the oldest Black-owned restaurants in San Diego. Founded in 2013, owner Ron Suel is considered a pioneer in the scene, helping to pave the way for other restaurant hopefuls. They serve an all-day menu that specializes in Southern cuisine. 

The Black-owned restaurant scene is fairly new to San Diego. To support this burgeoning community, click here.

It’s amazing to learn about the history of these landmarks. Each had to endure the challenges of discrimination and building something from the ground up. The love each restaurant poured into their food put a spell on customers, leaving many in a life long trance. If you happen to find yourself in one of the above cities and haven’t tried these historical staples, you’d do yourself a favor by stopping in for a tremendous meal.

Categories
Celebrity Grub Entrepreneurship Packaged Food Plant-Based Snacks Sweets

Legendary Music Producer Jermaine Dupri Launches Plant-Based Ice Cream Brand

As a lifelong fan of hip hop, the little kid in me would be amazed to see how far the culture has come. It was rare to see a hip hop figure expand their brand outside of music back in the days. RUN DMC, who basically reignited the Adidas cool factor with their love of the Shell Toe, were the first hip hop act to land a deal with a major sneaker brand. In subsequent years, as the genre gained popularity, many notable artists would follow suit. The rapper/sneaker combination had become commonplace. 

Alcohol is another business venture hip hop acts have frequently pursued. Once upon a time, alcohol brands would receive free endorsement from music videos, but that was simply because everybody liked a particular brand. That type of free endorsement famously ended in 2006 when the managing director of popular champagne Cristal expressed prejudiced sentiments regarding its use by rap acts. The highly publicized statements threw fuel on the entrepreneurial gas of hip hop.

Since those days, hip hop has expanded beyond mere sneakers and alcohol, as rappers and artists have even begun to move into the food space in recent years. One legendary figure of hip hop culture that’s stepping in that direction is famed music producer Jermaine Dupri.

With a solidified discography, it makes sense Dupri would have his sights set on exploring another space. His newly launched plant-based ice cream brand JD’s Vegan is here to do just that. As a practicing vegan for 15 years, Dupri wanted to share the benefits he’s experienced with others. Many people are interested in healthier alternatives, but need something familiar to help them take further steps. 

To help realize this dream, Dupri teamed with international dessert legend, Malcolm Stogo. Stogo has helped major ice cream chains around the world for over 25 years. The collaboration resulted in a coconut-based ice cream, with the initial offering available in three Atlanta-inspired flavors; Welcome to Atlanta Peach Cobbler, Apple Butter, and Strawberry Sweetheart. Check out the descriptions below for a taste:

  • Strawberry Sweetheart ($6.47) – creamy dreamy strawberry puree swirls and real strawberry chunks dipped into a velvety cloud of coconut cream will be your new sweet romance
  • Welcome to Atlanta Peach Cobbler ($6.47) – fresh cut slices of golden peaches and crumbled cobbler will make you feel the warm summer sun of Atlanta, Georgia
  • Apple Butter ($6.47) – delicious crisp apples are whipped into a fine buttery spread then stirred with a toasted cinnamon streusel crumble

You can now purchase JD’s Vegan ice cream at all participating Walmart locations. Additional flavors are Key Lime Pie, Chocolate My Way & (404) Cookies & Cream are also available.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Food Trends Pop-Ups Restaurants

This ‘Secret’ Restaurant Unites Italian and Japanese Cuisine

Pop-up restaurants are not new, and neither are speakeasies. However, I recently had a dining experience that was a bit of both mixed with a bit of “Fight Club.”

Pasta Ramen is a Wafu-Italian omakase, revealing an intricate multi-course exploration of the Wafu pasta concept that originated in the 1950s at Tokyo’s Kabenoana (meaning “hole in the wall”). Launched in Montclair, New Jersey and later setting up shop in nearby Jersey City, a chef who asks not to be identified (you remember the first rule of Fight Club) and their team presents in secret, continuously changing settings to create an unforgettable dining experience.

Noodles are the centerpiece of the aforementioned concept that brings together only the best Japanese and Italian ingredients, flavors, textures, and techniques. Cooked in an open kitchen, each course is presented by the chef as they explain the origins of the dishes, highlight ingredients, and answer questions. 

The night I attended, the menu started with Chutoro L’Acqua Pazza – prawn head brodo, lemongrass, ginger prawn, tuna belly, tuna “Owan” soup; an essential meal starter in both Italian and Japanese cultures. Other highlights included the Cacio e Pepe Gyoza, a deep-fried, hand-pinched dumpling filled with a rich cacio e pepe sauce; and the duo of A5 Dry-Aged Tsukune Yakitori, A5 wagyu, aged tsukune, shiso, dry-aged fat, enoki, aceto balsamico and yakatori.

Throughout the meal, a sake sommelier pours a selection of pairings chosen specifically for the menu. A ceramic artisan was even commissioned to create a custom set of dishes which are brought to each location. 

Upcoming Pasta Ramen locations will include New York, Miami, Philadelphia, and more. To find out more follow them on social media. Just remember, “It’s a secret society/all they ask is trust.”