Atlanta Burger Chain Slutty Vegan opens in Fort Greene
Slutty Vegan, a cult vegan burger chain, opened in Brooklyn over the weekend with a block party that shut down part of Fort Greene and left New Yorkers from as far away as the Bronx waiting in seemingly endless lines for vegan patties, fries, and sweet potato pies. “I didn’t know there were so many vegans in Brooklyn,” someone passing the stage shouted to a friend through the live DJ.
The restaurant at 690 Fulton Street on South Portland Avenue is the vegan chain’s seventh location, and only the second to open outside of Georgia. (The first is in Birmingham, Alabama). In Atlanta, where Slutty Vegan debuted as a delivery company in 2018, the brand is known for its celebrity followings – Shaquille O’Neil and Tyler Perry are both avowed fans – and its long lines of waiting. In Brooklyn, that reputation apparently took hold because fans camped out hours before the noon opening to get a taste of these vegan burgers and fries.
Jade Gardener, who was on the front line on Sunday, arrived at the restaurant with a folding chair just before 8am. “On their other sites, people arrive very early.” Her efforts were rewarded with a giant yellow “Lucky Slut Ticket” worth a free meal from the new restaurant. She planned to cash in on a One Night Stand, the chain’s most popular burger, which features vegan bacon, cheese and caramelized onions on a Hawaiian bun.
The crowd was mostly black, and those standing outside Slutty Vegan on Sunday morning say the restaurant is about much more than meatless burgers, of which there are already plenty in New York. “We’re here to show our support and love for this black-owned business,” says Dayja Ferreira, who traveled to Fort Greene from the Bronx for the opening. She’s been following Slutty Vegan online for years, commenting on her Instagram posts, like countless others, begging for a location in New York.
Founder Pinky Cole says she moved to Fort Greene after being approached by the owners of Broccoli Bar, a vegan restaurant that previously operated out of corner space and planned to close. “I’m very intentional about where I put Slutty Vegans,” she says. “It has to be either a vegan food desert, an area in the heart of gentrification, or an area that’s not so attractive to developers.” The Fulton Street restaurant – located in an area with few vegan restaurants, but many new high-rise developments – ticked some of those boxes.
It’s the first of a handful of new locations planned for the growing vegan food brand, including another should open in Harlem. The restaurant chain announced plans for 20 more locations by the end of 2023 earlier this year, after receiving $25 million in funding from a group of investors that includes Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments.
As for the name of the restaurant? “If I had to name this concept Pinky’s Vegan, how many people do you think there would have been?” Cole jokes. “We do the vegan lifestyle in a different way. I am not telling you that if you eat meat you are a bad person. There are no rules to this. We just want you to have a good time.
Uneeda Lebby, who stood at the back of a line that stretched towards Greene Street just before noon, is on board with the unconventional names that have been printed on t-shirts and shouted into megaphones. When asked what she was planning to order, she said she had her sights set on a burger with caramelized onions, pickles and gravy called the Fussy Hussy. “Isn’t that fun to say?” ” she says.
Cole arrived in fashionable Fort Greene late, around 12:30 p.m., descending the steps in a black Mercedes-Benz sprinter van to a group of fans and flashing cameras awaiting his arrival. A few minutes later, she was standing behind a red inauguration ribbon. “Slutty Vegan is no longer an Atlanta love affair,” she told the crowd. “Slutty Vegan is a household name.”
She cut the ribbon, danced in the kitchen, and employees who had traveled from Atlanta to Brooklyn for the opening went to work on the grills, handing out burgers, fries and sweet potato pies in paper bags dripping with vegan grease until they sold out five hours later. This is what the opening looked like.
Slutty Vegan is open Tuesday through Thursday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.