Athens has a range of restaurants but few options for vegan customers. With that in mind, Julie Hutchins and Nick Bradfield decided to expand on a fully vegan dining opportunity.
Eden’s Cafe is an upcoming vegan restaurant to be located at 1660 West Broad St., previously home to Fish Shack and Preserve. The founders, Hutchins and Bradfield, plan to open March 22. Their cafe will focus on creating dishes from organic sources and local farmers.
“[We] always had a joy in cooking and how it brings communities together … Those are the aspects that we both really love,” Bradfield said. “So it seems like fulfilling way to, you know, try to support ourselves, also support our local farmers.”
Eden’s Cafe had a test run as a pop-up at Hendershot’s Coffee before securing its own location. Sourcing from Daily Groceries Co-op, it served up dishes such as tempeh tikka masala and vegan mac ‘n’ “cheese,” which sold out the first day.
Its founders had been talking about opening some sort of vegan establishment for about a year. As for past experience, Bradfield went to culinary school and worked in different restaurants for a long time.
“In the past year, we've just been doing a lot of market research, talking to different people and individually testing out our own recipes,” Hutchins said.
Although there is no set menu, Hutchins already has some definitive ideas about some dishes and how the cafe will function. The menu will change seasonally, providing fresh dishes. They also want to provide to-go lunches and a made-to-order dinner service.
“I really want to have a tofu barbecue mac rack with housemade barbecue sauce, and [I] think we're going to try and make our own tortillas out of here as well,” Hutchins said. “[We’ll] try to make everything from scratch as much as possible.”
They hope to work with Collective Harvest, a collaborative community which connects and supports local businesses run by local farmers who use sustainable practices.
“When you go out, you can't expect a non-vegan establishment to provide you fully vegan food."
-- Nick Bradfield, co-founder of Eden's Cafe
Ruthanna Vandegriff Reardon is an Athens local who went to support the original cafe pop-up at Hendershot’s. Reardon is a member of the Vegans of Athens, GA Facebook group which posts about the vegan community and suggests dishes and places to go out and eat. She was pleased with the pop-up and what it potentially offers.
“I feel that the vegan restaurant is long overdue; there was one in the past, but it closed. I hope this attempt can be sustainable,” Reardon said.
Although there are Athens restaurants that offer vegan options, Reardon said she feels it can be hard at times to accept a casual invitation from friends to eat out, as she has to plan ahead. Hutchins acknowledges the difficulty of eating out especially as the food may be cooked with unknown ingredients.
“When you go out, you can't expect a non-vegan establishment to provide you fully vegan food,” Hutchins said.
Eden’s Cafe founders are currently obtaining licenses and permits needed to operate their establishment. While keeping the building’s original designs, such as the outdoor eating area and the murals, they plan to add their own touch of green.
Projected opening day is around the time of the Spring Equinox in mid-March, Bradfield said, which holds a deeper meaning for the new restaurant.
“What we’re shooting for is the change of the season. The celebration,” Bradfield said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the location of the restaurant and misstated the number of vegan restaurants which have existed in Athens. The Red & Black regrets these errors and they have since been corrected.