Mama’s Cookin’ Vegan—in Harlem

Mama’s Cookin’ Vegan—in Harlem

There’s that wonderful lyric in the Rodgers and Hart song “The Lady Is a Tramp” that goes something like this: The lady is a tramp because she “won’t go to Harlem in ermine and pearls.” Well, by extension, foodies won’t go to Harlem for anything but smothered chicken and waffle, barbecued ribs, fried pork chops, blackened catfish, grits, collard greens, etc. Right? Wrong. Seasoned Vegan, Harlem’s first full-service organic vegan restaurant, has opened just in time for Mother’s Day (May 11). That’s a significant point because the owners are a mother-and-son team. What’s more, they’re also the chefs. Mama Brenda Beener and son Aaron are in the kitchen cooking up an exclusively plant-based menu sans animal products, cholesterol and trans fat. Gluten-free options abound, too.

The restaurant’s catchphrase is “the food you love, veganized.” So don’t think your taste for soul food, not to mention Asian, Italian, Middle Eastern and Caribbean dishes, is going to be sacrificed in the name of health and well-being. This is born-again cuisine. “Crawfish” are made from yams; “crab sticks” are crafted from soy, corn and seaweed; lotus root forms BBQ “riblets.” A spicy chocolate cupcake (made with organic flour, beet sugar, no alkaline baker’s cocoa and organic Scotch peppers) is the signature dessert. There are daily themes and specials, too, like Italian Wednesday, International Thursday, “Fish” Friday and Soulful Saturday. And to wash it all down, organic nonalcoholic beverages: blended juices, smoothies, mocktails, and nondairy malteds and shakes. Obviously, Seasoned Vegan is kid-friendly.

While dining, be sure to pay attention to the “green” décor. Walls are covered with brown paper bags. And check out the hand-laid floor: It’s paved with pennies. A penny saved is a penny earned, so when it comes to paying the piper, the tab won’t break your piggy bank. Appetizers range from $3.50 to $20 (at the high end are party-sized portions); main courses run $9 to $20. Lunch and dinner is served daily, except Monday, when the Beeners rest and rev up for Chef’s Showcase Tuesday.

>> Seasoned Vegan, 55 St. Nicholas Ave., corner of 113th St. btw Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X blvds., 212.222.0092

Photos by Kori Raishon: (1) Red baked chicken, sautéed string beans with tomatoes, macaroni 'n' cheese, coconut/raisin squash; (2) Owners and executive chefs Brenda Beener and Aaron Beener