When you think of vegan food, you probably think of serious people who avoid animal products for serious reasons. But as vegan food gets more mainstream, the old stereotypes are fading away.
At the new Guud & Evul Vegan Eats in Tonawanda, vegan food is definitely not taken too seriously. It’s even, dare we say, fun.
Co-owner Shawn Mereau recently told us that health issues forced him to adopt a vegan diet. Mereau said he tried switching to Imposible meat to get his protein fix, but stopped eating it when he realized it contains genetically-modified ingredients.
“I didn’t want that inside my system,” he said. “Once you have health problems, you try to stay away from certain things. So, I’m trying to stay on the holistic route. That’s my main thing – to go holistic.”
Mereau said he and his business partner Clarence Middlebrook came up with the idea for Guud & Evul when they were driving back to Buffalo from Arkansas.
“The only vegan food we could find was either Impossible meat or Beyond meat, and I’m not gonna eat that,” he said. “So I was eating apples, bananas and oranges across the country. It sucked. That gave us the idea for Guud & Evul.”
If your goal is to establish a restaurant, vegan or not, you have to make it fun. Fortunately, Mereau and MIddlebrook ooze fun. You can see it on their socials, and you can see it on their menu. The Smack burger, which you can get “hood dipped” (battered and deep fried), comes with vegan American cheese, pickles and Thousand Island-style Smack sauce. The Crack Rolls are deep fried apple pies, and the Weed Bowls are, you guessed it, salads.
“I want to grab the customer’s eye,” Mereau said. “So, on my window, I’m gonna put: WE SELL CRACK. And then underneath it, in small letters: rolls. Then, put: WE SELL SMACK. Then underneath: burgers.”
Vegan burgers are the main feature at Guud & Evul. There are also vegan hot dogs, chicken strips, garbage plates and poutine. Specials and new menu items are regularly announced on social media.
It’s not all fun and games though. Some culinary know-how went into developing the menu. Middlebrook is a classically trained saucier and Mereau learned classic techniques while working as a chef at Templeton Landing and the Seneca Niagara Casino. Mereau said he developed the restaurant’s own vegan “evul meat”, while Middlebrook used classic French techniques to develop the restaurant’s vegan sauces.
“We keep the standards of classical cooking but add some fun,” he said. “We play with names of dishes and give people stuff that they’re used to eating.”
“We want to inspire other people to eat vegan, and good vegan. Vegan ain’t gotta be just a salad or some pasta; because that’s what everybody thinks. If you say let’s go to a vegan restaurant to somebody, you get: AAH NAW! Like you’re gonna catch the plague or something.”
The beverage options at Guud & Evul are different types of bottled water and pop. Mereau said all of the pop at the restaurant comes in glass bottles.
“For a decade, I’ve refused to drink anything out of plastic bottles because of the harmful things that plastics does,” he said. “Soda may not be the best thing for you, but at least you can get it here in a glass bottle.”
“I’m not trying to serve nobody anything I wouldn’t eat or drink,” he added.
Hours at the time of publishing (Subject to change): Wednesday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
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