After starting out with pop-up sales featuring their takes on lasagna, mac and cheeze, burgers, ranch dressing, and more in 2017, Trio Plant-based moved into their space at 610 W Lake Street in Minneapolis to start serving up plant-based comfort food daily this September.
Founded by Louis Hunter and Sarah and Dan Woodcock, the new plant-based restaurant is featuring a grand opening menu that includes comfort food classics like Grilled Cheeze with Tomato soup, House Salad with Trio Ranch, Spaghettrios (their veganized take on SpaghettiOs), and other mouth-watering choices.
Trio’s most popular dish is their Soul Food Platter, where you can combine three, four, or five items together for dinner. “We’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on this,” said Sarah of their signature dish featuring Herbivorous Butcher smoky house ribs, a macaroni and cheeze recipe that Sarah worked on perfecting for over six years, cornbread with maple butter, sweet potatoes, and a recipe for collard greens from Louis’ family. “It’s definitely unique. There’s not a lot of soul food in Minnesota for vegans.”
Sarah said her real passion for cooking came after she became vegan. “I could always cook, but my interest developed after I became vegan because I still wanted the same foods, I just didn’t want to eat animal products or use them in any way anymore. Cooking became being about veganizing dishes and seeing how I can make them taste at least as good or better than they did before.”
Aside from deli ham and ribs from the Herbivorous Butcher, everything Trio has on their menu is house-made. The trio used their pop-ups as a testing ground to find out which dishes to serve at their restaurant and also hired on a number of people who helped them during this time to continue working at their permanent location.
If you asked Dan and Sarah if they were working toward opening a restaurant a couple of years ago, you would have likely gotten a ‘no,’ but not from Louis, who had been interested in starting a food truck. “A restaurant was never on my radar,” said Sarah of their start.
The three met in 2016 while fighting charges Louis was given after attending a Black Lives Matter protest for a black man who was murdered by the police. After the charges were dropped, three decided to build their futures together to open Minneapolis’ first plant-based restaurant owned primarily by people of color.
“We were talking about doing a food truck during the Super Bowl and that if Dan and I were involved we’d want it to be vegan. It wasn’t until we were advised by a business consultant that we seriously considered a brick and mortar restaurant. It was something we thought, ‘Oh maybe down the road if the food truck goes really well,’ but we never really set out to do a restaurant.”
The team ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to get their business started, raising over $10,000 more than their $50,000 goal with 600 individual backers from around the world. Behind the counter at their restaurant, they have a column that recognizes some of their Kickstarter backers.
The team credits working with business consultants Nekima Levy Armstrong and Marques Armstrong of Black Pearl as another part of their successful campaign. “Nekima and Marques were instrumental with helping us reach and succeed our goal. They provided really amazing direction and consulting strategy for our Kickstarter campaign.”
“It’s been exciting to take ideas and values and put them into practice. Once you start living and integrating those values into what you do, people respond really well. I’ve been actually really surprised by how many people really are hungry for change and are willing to support it.”
Together, their restaurant reinforces that plant-based food is for everyone and that you do not have to be vegan to own a vegan business. (Dan and Sarah have been vegan for over 6 years while Louis is not––but eats a lot of plant-based foods and confirms when a new veganized dish is a hit.) They look to serve the intersecting plant-based, plant-curious, and foodie communities alike.
“The commitment to the principle of veganism is the same and it’s just a matter of welcoming people to explore the concepts, learn that plant-based eating can be nutritious and delicious, and getting people comfortable with the type of cooking and meals and to know that you can be full and happy [after a vegan meal],” said Sarah of their business.
Their business is another addition to the shifting tide in the Twin Cities where plant-based cuisine is gathering steam. Sarah believes that increasing access for the ability to live vegan on many levels is really important, not just for the individual but on a broader level. “So many of the issues going on today could be at least somewhat alleviated by the transition to plant-based living.”
In the future, Sarah, Dan, and Louis plan to host events and fundraising days at the restaurant that support nonprofits and other groups that reflect and champion their community values. “Our two most prominent values are our commitment to racial justice and to being vegan,” said Sarah. “So often there are people that support one cause over the other but there’s a lot of people that support both. I think the most surprising thing has been how many people have been supportive of what we are doing. Even if they’re not vegan yet, they’re open and are drawn to plant-based ideas for some reason.”
Their current hours are 5-10pm Sunday through Thursday nights and 5-11pm Friday and Saturday nights. They are open for to-go orders as well and plan to add lunch, breakfast, and beer and wine service in the future. Check back on their website for more updates about their open and keep a lookout on our events page for a dine-out at Trio!