Swizz Beets burgers, ‘Cajou’ ice cream: Black vegan eateries expand in Baltimore as interest in plant-based diets grows

They’ve been popping up across Baltimore in the last few years: eateries that serve up dishes like sweet potato salad, broccoli burgers and even ice cream made from cashew milk. As polls find that Americans — and particularly people of color — eat less meat, local Black entrepreneurs have launched restaurants to cater to the growing demand for vegan food.

Within the past 18 months, at least two Black-owned vegan restaurants — Gangster Vegan Organics franchise in Cross Street Market and My Mama’s Vegan in Waverly — have opened in the city. Another, With Love Co: A Plant-Based Sip & Eat Joint, opened a year ago in Parkville.

The decade-old, Black-owned city restaurant Land of Kush plans to open a second, larger location next year near Johns Hopkins Hospital, and its owners have long-term ambitions to franchise. The founders of Cajou Creamery, who create vegan ice cream, have been delivering pints to porches around the city and expect to open a retail space this fall on Howard Street.

While one in four Americans ate less meat in the past year, nonwhite people report having reduced the amount of meat in their diet at higher rates than white people, according to a recent Gallup poll. Experts say that the trend here and nationwide is driven by a combination of factors: Black Americans see it as a way to address generational health disparities such as diabetes and heart disease. In addition, Black celebrities are modeling and partnering with makers of meatless products — raising the profile of the trend.