Vegetarianism may not be dead, but it’s certainly on life support.
The latest example? Red Bamboo, the beloved fake meat restaurant in Fort Greene, known for its popular “beef” kabobs and pseudo soul “chicken,” is abandoning the meat-free life like a college freshman running away from his parents.
Starting next month, the restaurant will change its name to Poppa’s Place and start serving — holy alfalfa sprouts — real animal flesh!
Owner Jason Wong says he won’t completely ditch his iron-seeking vegan customers — he’ll keep the most popular soy-based dishes on the menu. But Wong needed to come clean about his own personal betrayal of what insiders call The Life.
“I eat meat,” said the former vegetarian. “And I’m ready to serve meat.”
He’s not the only one. This year, “Brooklyn Goes Veg” week was cancelled for lack of interest altogether. Last year, during the second — and as it turned out, last — year of the fortnight of legumes and seitan, vegetarian proprietors were already saying their customer base was in steep decline.
The Brooklyn Paper’s coverage said it all: “Stick a fork in it,” read the 40-point headline. “Vegetarianism wilts on eve of boro fest.”
Now, more soy chickens have come home to roost.
“When we opened in 2006, we were full, people wanted to try the food,” said Wong of his Adelphi Street eatery. “Then 2008 came. I noticed credit cards sales higher than cash. Then in 2009, I was like, whoa, where did the customers go?”
But the economy was far from the only culprit.
Organic, free-range, “humanely slaughtered” meats are now all the rage, giving carnivores a full menu of excuses.
“The concern now is more about locally grown and less of a carbon footprint. Being a carnivore doesn’t mean you don’t care,” Wong said.
“The trend in restaurants is toward less processed food, more naturally raised,” added Wong’s chef Billy Ahearn. “With all the processing that the soy product goes through, and the science that has come about it, soy seems to have gotten a bad rap lately.” (Not to mention the fact that the cost of soy products has skyrocketed by 35 percent since 2006, according to Wong.)
Even Melissa Danielle, who spearheaded the ill-fated “Veg Week,” has moved away from veggie advocacy in favor of organic foods.
“I am more interested in … making sure that all Brooklynites have access to healthy, quality, affordable food, period,” Danielle said in an e-mail.
Of course, if toxic meat appears in the headlines again, the vegetarian ranks could swell again.
“There hasn’t been an animal epidemic in a while,” said Wong. “Avian flu, hoof and mouth, mad cow — those helped my business so much.”
Poppa’s Place, formerly Red Bamboo [271 Adelphi St. at Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 643-4806].
©2009 Community News Group
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