Vegan Foods

Uptown Veg has been feeding Harlem for 30 years. Now Brooklyn is getting a taste of its vegan food

For nearly 30 years, vegan stalwart Uptown Veg has brought healthy plant-based fare to East Harlem, and now the beloved vegan restaurant is expanding with two new locations. Last month, the family business officially opened Uptown Veg II, a new express location specializing in juices, salads and takeout orders. Located less than a mile from its full-service storefront, Uptown Veg II offers outdoor seating and will expand the original menu with vegan brunch offerings.

Uptown Veg will also be heading to Brooklyn, with a new outpost opening in Bedford-Stuyvesant later this summer. The new location will offer the same menu as flagship Uptown Veg so hungry Brooklynites can feast on veggie burger wraps, chicken curry, veggie stir fry, macaroni and cheese, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches , and more. Guests visiting the Brooklyn outpost can also expect an outdoor patio and a selection of vegan wines and beers.

“I know Uptown Veg will be welcome in Brooklyn,” co-owner Jasmine Myrick told VegNews. “Many of our customers travel from Brooklyn to Harlem to buy food for the week. Even the owner is excited—[local residents] really need a healthy food space in the neighborhood.

Downtown Vegetarian

The borough also has personal meaning for Myrick and his father, co-owner Davie Simmons. Not only was Myrick born and raised in Brooklyn, Simmons also attended Bedford-Stuyvesant High School after his family immigrated to the United States from Georgetown, Guyana.

Uptown Veg brings healthy vegan food to Harlem

Founded in 1994 by Simmons, Uptown Veg was first created to bring healthy vegan food to East Harlem. Simmons, a lifelong vegetarian, often frequented a local vegan restaurant for meatless dishes, but soon grew tired of the restaurant and its lack of consistency, as items on the menu constantly disappeared and reappeared without notice. Fueled by his struggle to find vegetarian meals and the lack of healthy options in Harlem, Simmons took matters into his own hands. The entrepreneur found himself throwing veggie burgers, lentil and split pea soups and juices out of a small “hole-in-the-wall” storefront. And soon after, he enlisted the help of his then-teenage daughter, Myrick.

While the majority of residents in surrounding communities were not vegan, they expressed genuine curiosity about Simmons’ menu. Myrick says customers have asked about the restaurant’s vegan options and expressed excitement when they learn about the plant-based ingredients used. Within a year, Uptown Veg outgrew its original location and moved to the East Harlem flagship that locals — and the likes of New York City Mayor Eric Adams and political activist Angela Davis — frequent today. today.

VegNews.UptownVegAngelaDavisDowntown Vegetarian

Vegan food for all

Nearly 30 years after it first opened in Harlem, Uptown Veg remains true to its commitment to making plant-based foods and veganism more accessible. “My goal for Uptown Veg is to encourage others [to adopt] a vegan lifestyle,” Myrick said. “Most of the time people feel nervous about being vegan or vegetarian. I always have conversations with people, and I’m like, ‘Look, you can take it little by little and really get to know the food.’ And the restaurant’s wide variety of vegan options ensures there’s something for everyone, including vegan meats and vegetable dishes by the kilo.

“At Uptown Veg, we really like to offer everything, not just burgers, but complete vegan meals. If you don’t like soy and seitan, we have veg-only meals,” Myrick said. “We [want to] lead others to veganism. It’s just about eating healthier and taking it one step at a time. In addition to expanding Uptown Veg with the new locations, Myrick dreams of expanding the concept nationally through franchise opportunities.

Uptown Veg fights hunger

While local residents and visiting tourists can count on Uptown Veg for healthy vegan fare, Simmons and Myrick take extra precautions to ensure homeless neighbors are never forgotten. The restaurant’s flagship location is known for serving the local homeless community every night, seven days a week. And such outreach has already begun at Uptown Veg II, with plans to expand efforts to Bedford-Stuyvesant when its second outpost will open later this summer.

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In recent years, the number of homeless residents in New York City has reached its highest level since the Great Depression. In March 2022, 48,524 people in New York City were homeless.

“When we say we want to nurture the community, we’re really talking about everyone,” Myrick said. “We feed the homeless every night. [We’re not working off of] grants or allowances, that’s exactly what we do.

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