GR catering to vegans, vegetarians


Earlier this month, 18 people signed up for Brewery Vivant’s first vegan beer dinner, which offered five vegan courses and beer pairings. Courtesy Brewery Vivant

Local restaurants are changing their menus to accommodate vegetarians and vegans.

Jim Powell, corporate executive chef of Noto’s Old World Italian Dining, said his restaurant has received many requests for vegetarian and vegan meals. He said Noto’s will be adding vegan food items on the menu at its Grand Rapids location this fall and its Grand Haven location already offers vegan options.

“There are so many requests for it now from people in their 20s and 30s for lifestyle choices, health choices or because they are just bored with traditional meat-based cooking,” Powell said. “There is a lot more call for it.”

Outside of special events, Powell said about 150 people visit his restaurant per day and about 10 percent order vegetarian meals.

Nationally, however, the percentage of people who consider themselves vegetarians only account for 5 percent of the U.S. population, according to a July Gallup poll. During the same month in 2012, the Gallup poll noted the same percentage.

In the July Gallup poll, 3 percent of Americans consider themselves vegans — a 1 percent increase from the same time six years ago.

Despite the low percentage nationally, Grand Rapids Veg Fest co-founder Erica Wisniewski said since starting in 2015, organizers have seen growth in the annual plant-based expo that includes food that is free of animal products, as well as speakers, cooking demonstrations, vendors and food sampling.

“Every year, we have had a heavy increase in attendance and we have had more vendors with all kinds of plant-based food,” Wisniewski said. “The first year, we had about 1,200 (attendees), and last year, we had 2,000. For us, that is a huge increase.”

Wisniewski said she believes GR Veg Fest this year, which is scheduled for Oct. 7 at DeltaPlex Arena, will have a lot more people.

Since Grove opened in 2011, head chef Jeremy Paquin said the restaurant has had vegetarian and vegan options. He said about half of his menu offers vegetarian food items, but vegan meals can be prepared on request.

An average of about 50 customers visit Grove per day and about 20 percent order vegetarian or vegan food items, according to Paquin. He said the restaurant makes a conscious effort to feature vegetable food items that reflect locally grown crops.

“The highlight of our menu truly reflects the bounty of our local farmers and artisans,” Paquin said. “It is important for us to showcase what Michigan has to offer. We also wanted to be accommodating and inclusive of guests with dietary and lifestyle restrictions regarding meat and animal products.

“We try to focus on the vegetables since people tend to be more interested in ordering veggie-centric options.”

Earlier this month, Jason Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant, said 18 people signed up for the brewery’s first ever vegan beer dinner. Guests had the option of choosing from five vegan courses, and each course option was paired with a different beer.

“It was pretty popular, and people really enjoyed it,” Spaulding said. “We were trying to reach the audience, and we thought it was a fun challenge. We were talking about it for quite a while, and we actually put it all together. There are more and more vegans and vegetarians showing up all the time, so we wanted to include them in these private types of events.”

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