Pinky Cole is on a mission to change the way the world views vegan food — and it’s not with a bowl of quinoa and a slab of tofu. Her fare of choice is more along the lines of a sauce-covered patty, piled high with pickles, shredded lettuce, “cheese” and “bacon,” all sandwiched between a soft Hawaiian bun.
Baltimore native transforms 'vegan' into creative, familiar food
WASHINGTON — Pinky Cole is on a mission to change the way the world views vegan food — and it’s not with a bowl of quinoa and a slab of tofu.
Her fare of choice is more along the lines of a sauce-covered patty, piled high with pickles, shredded lettuce, “cheese” and “bacon,” all sandwiched between a soft Hawaiian bun. And it’s creations like this sandwich, dubbed the One Night Stand, that generate long lines, sometimes lasting hours, at Cole’s Atlanta-based restaurant The Slutty Vegan.
“This has nothing to do with sex. Sex is just the selling point to get you in, and once I have you in, I’m walking you in a direction where you can see food in a different way.”
Like many vegans, Cole grew tired of the misconception that surrounds plant-based food — namely, that it’s bland and boring.
With a menu of sandwiches such as the Heaux Boy (vegan shrimp tossed in a New Orleans-style batter, served on a Hawaiian bun with pickles, lettuce and secret sauce) and the Fussy Hussy (a plant-based patty with vegan American cheese, shredded lettuce, onion, pickle and vegan mayo on a Hawaiian bun), she is selling familiar flavors while introducing a new diet — often to diners who never considered vegan accessible.
“To see so many people in the African American community jump on a movement like this — you know, in our communities, we love soul food, and veganism and being plant-based was a rich, white lifestyle. … So to see so many people of all hues come together in the name of food, it’s such a beautiful feeling,” Cole said.
Recently, Cole embarked on a six-city Slutty Vegan tour to test out her concept in other markets. Her New York pop-up attracted some 900 customers, and her Baltimore stop drew 600 in the snow. Cole said she is looking to expand her brand (the D.C. area is a consideration), and one day hopes to be in the same league as the fast food “big boys” — just hold the animal products.
But in the meantime, she wants her small menu of sandwiches to be the start of a larger conversation.
“You don’t have to be this glorified vegan; you could just eat healthier,” Cole said.
“We’re welcoming you into this community and showing you, ‘Listen, you can have better mental clarity; you can have better energy; you can lose some weight; you can limit the diseases in your family and in your community if you start to eat this way’ — even if it starts at vegan comfort food.”
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