There must be some kind of delayed-effect magic spell at the Sudra. How else can we explain why, in a single month, two former Sudra chefs (Torri Rubi and Sean Sigmon) and one Sudra owner (Sanjay Chandrasekaran) are all starting new vegan enterprises?
While not officially affiliated with one another, Mija/Mija, Folklore, and Rabbits Cafe all center on a similar premise: offering thoughtful plant-based meals at accessible prices. Read on for the full scoop on this summer’s newest vegan dining options.
When culinary partners and friends Torri Rubi and Dani Blanco (both of Back to Eden Bakery) were feeling burnt out and longing to reignite the love for cooking that carried them through culinary school, they turned to their roots—literally and figuratively. Vegan Puerto Rican-Mexican fusion is the star of Mija/Mija’s pop-up dinner in June. After all, what better way to rekindle the flame than a healthy feast of plant-based comfort food with a dash of nostalgia?
The menu is committed to aesthetics as much as flavor, working in colors that will ignite the eye as much as the tastebuds. For example, a vibrant taco trifecta: root vegetables, hibiscus carnitas, and jackfruit ceviche cradled in beet-infused, blue corn and yellow squash tortillas. “I’m obsessed with masa," says Rubi. “They’re my baby, the thing I’m most excited about.” Also on the menu, pasteles—the Puerto Rican version of tamales—made with pumpkin yucca plantain masa.
The duo focuses on pre-colonial indigenous foods, which tended not to include much meat or dairy. “Bringing it back to a plant-based place is actually like bringing it back to the traditional way of cooking,” Rubi says.
In an effort to make the meal accessible to as many people as possible, each item is available a la carte. Or you can purchase the entire “family” menu ahead of time for $30 and share it with friends. (For $50, add three specialty cocktails.)
Another special element of this dinner is that it will be completely created by people of color, from the photographer to the servers to the back-of-house staff. “We’re trying to intentionally create a space where it can just be accepting and loving to everyone,” Rubi says. “But specifically to bring joy to brown people.”
3–9 p.m. Mon, June 18, DC Vegetarian, 5026 SE Division St
Soon, fans of downtown eatery Rabbits Cafe can enjoy their salads, wraps, and smoothies on the other side of the river. Next month, the former Broth Bar space on Northeast 6th and Couch will be reborn as a primarily grab-and-go extension of the popular Big Pink lunch spot.
At roughly 350 square feet, it may be small, but the menu is expanding to include vegan ice cream, milkshakes, and kombucha floats, as well as beer and wine. Owner Sanjay Chandrasekaran (who also runs Mediterranean vegan spot Aviv) looks forward to adding dinner to the established breakfast and lunch repertoire. “I think it’ll be cool to have evening hours,” he says.
After some cosmetic remodeling, Chandrasekaran anticipates opening in June, at first with limited service Wednesday through Sunday, and then seven days a week once a full staff is hired. For up-to-date information on exactly when you can get that chai protein smoothie without crossing the Willamette, follow Rabbits Cafe on Facebook or Instagram.
Opening in June, 115 NE 6th Ave
Sean Signon, the founding chef of now-shuttered Harvest at the Bindery, is going back to basics: his love of cooking with local, seasonal vegetables. Enter Folklore, his new plant-based agrarian pop-up, inspired by the craft and folk art of his rural North Carolina upbringing.
“I’ve always identified with the idea of working with the raw materials of the earth around you and creating a product of simple beauty,” Sigmon says. The lineup for this month’s menu will include comforting, Southern-inspired “green goddess” dumplings featuring Camas Country flour from the Willamette Valley, and vegetable-centered dishes with produce from the likes of Groundworks Organics and Fiddlehead Farm. And, of course, dessert: a hazelnut granite with sweet pickled rhubarb and ginger shortbread.
Not only is Sigmon looking forward to getting his hands dirty again, he’s eager to interact and talk with diners to get a sense of what people are enjoying—all fodder for a possible new restaurant. To sweeten the deal further, this five-course prix fixe dinner is a wallet-friendly $35. “I want people to come and have a fancy night out but be able to afford it and not feel like they’re breaking the bank,” he says.
5:30 and 7:30 p.m. seatings, Wed, May 30, Bad Habit Room, 5433 North Michigan Ave, $35. Buy tickets here.