Many people embrace vegetarianism for ethical reasons, but a growing part of society is also embracing the diet for healthful reasons.
It’s this growing vegetarian sentiment that Megan Stewart is looking to tap into with her new Grindhaus Café on Allen Street, located in the former New York Style Pizza.
Stewart’s love of café culture began as a young girl growing up in Ypsilanti, Michigan – a small town in the eastern part of the state, between Ann Arbor and Detroit. All through her formative years, she spent time going to the Ypsilanti café now known as the Ugly Mug.
That love of café culture led to her taking a job at Starbucks, and after many years of pulling espresso shots for the corporate café, Stewart said she began feeling the urge to open a café in her own vision, one with less corporate rules that catered to her passion for the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle.
Grindhaus is the realization of that vision, focusing on hand-crafted drinks and plant-based food offerings. Stewart told me the decision to go vegetarian also makes good business sense.
“That’s something I wanted to do: corner that niche and provide that for Buffalo,” she said. “Lately, there have been increasing options, but there isn’t a strictly vegetarian restaurant.”
While some people may roll their eyes at the idea of going vegetarian – even for a day – both food experts and public health officials have been increasingly calling for people to lay off the meat from time to time. Some are even going so far as to call for an embrace of veganism – or a diet without any animal products at all.
One of the most prominent champions of this push is author and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman. Bittman has authored a book called Vegan Before 6, and claims in it that abstaining from animal products before 6 p.m. each day, substituting a healthy plant-based diet, can help you lose weight. The columnist has alternatively called for people to get healthier by going vegan for just a day each week.
Grindhaus does have vegan options, but for those who need their dairy fix – the café isn’t full-on vegan. Stewart told me the menu is designed to be accessible, not the rabbit food many people associate with a vegetarian restaurant.
“Everything here is nice and balanced,” she said. “Everything is fresh and full of veggies. And everything has a protein in it.”
The food at Grindhaus has an emphasis on Middle Eastern flavors and for those who just want something to pair with their caffeine fix – the vegan biscotti is delicious and nearly identical to its dairy-filled cousin.
“It’s not just celery and peanut butter,” she added. “We have interesting and weird takes on traditional café and deli food.”
Grindhaus has been open for a couple months, and we at Step Out Buffalo have watched as the café has slowly evolved from just a place you could get great pour-over coffee and biscotti, to a quaint Allentown lunch spot. Stewart told me she plans to continue the evolution, by expanding both the drink and food offerings in the coming weeks and months. Over the course of the fall and winter, Grindhaus is set to offer whole-leaf tea, pour-over espresso, soup and baked goods made in-house.
“Customers want breakfast sandwiches,” Stewart said, “and we want to give them to you.”
“Grindhaus will always be a work-in-progress,” she added. “I like that idea, where we can constantly change and evolve. We started out just being coffee, then added biscotti, then added the food menu… and now we’re just going to keep climbing. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be satisfied.”
160 Allen Street, Buffalo, NY
Cuisine: Coffee Shop / Vegetarian / Vegan
Hours: Mon-Thu: 7:00 am-7:00 pm, Fri: 7:00 am-8:00 pm, Sat: 8:00 am-8:00 pm, Sun: 8:00 am-6:00 pm
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