Slutty Vegan, a vegan burger chain with a cult following, opened in Brooklyn this weekend with a block party that shut down a stretch of Fort Greene and caused New Yorkers from as far as the Bronx to wait in seemingly unending lines for vegan patties, fries, and sweet potato pies. “I didn’t know there were that many vegans in Brooklyn,” someone passing the scene shouted to a friend over the live DJ.
The restaurant at 690 Fulton Street, at 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 got its start as a delivery business in 2018, the brand is known for its celebrity followers — Shaquille O’Neil and Tyler Perry are both outspoken fans — and hours-long lines. In Brooklyn, that reputation apparently preceded itself because fans camped out hours ahead of the noon opening to get a first taste of these vegan burgers and fries.
Jade Gardener, who was first in line on Sunday, arrived at the restaurant with a fold-up chair just before 8 a.m. “I thought I was going to be late,” she said, having seen videos from Slutty Vegan’s other openings online. “At their other locations, people get there really early.” Her efforts were rewarded with a giant yellow “Lucky Slut Ticket” worth one free meal from the new restaurant. She planned to cash in on a One Night Stand, the chain’s most popular burger, which comes with vegan bacon, cheese, and caramelized on a Hawaiian bun.
The crowd was overwhelmingly Black, and those standing outside of Slutty Vegan on Sunday morning say the restaurant is about more than meatless burgers, of which there are already many in New York City. “We’re here to show 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 its Instagram posts, like countless others, begging for a New York location.
Founder Pinky Cole says she settled on Fort Greene after being approached by the owners of Broccoli Bar, a vegan restaurant that previously operated out of the corner space and planned to close. “I’m very intentional about where I put Slutty Vegans,” she says. “It either got to be a vegan food desert, an area that is in the heart of gentrification, or an area that is not so attractive to developers.” The Fulton Street restaurant — located in a neighborhood with few vegan restaurants, but plenty of new high-rise developments — checked some of those boxes.
It’s the first of a handful of new locations planned for the growing vegan food brand, including another slated to open in Harlem. The restaurant chain announced its plans to 20 additional 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 restaurant’s name? “If I were to name this concept Pinky’s Vegan, how many people do you think would have been there?” Cole jokes. “We’re doing the vegan lifestyle in a different way. I’m not telling you that if you eat meat, you’re 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 toward Greene Street just before noon, is on board with the unconventional names that were printed on t-shirts and shouted from megaphones. When asked what she planned to order, she said that she had her sights on a burger with caramelized onions, pickles, and sauce called the Fussy Hussy. “Isn’t it fun to say?” she says.
Cole arrived in Fort Greene fashionably late, around 12:30 p.m., descending the steps of a black Mercedes-Benz sprinter van to a group of fans and flashing cameras waiting for her arrival. A few minutes lateer, she stood behind a red grand opening ribbon. “Slutty Vegan is no longer an Atlanta love story,” she said to the crowd. “Slutty Vegan is a household name.”
She cut the ribbon, danced through the kitchen, and employees who had traveled from Atlanta to Brooklyn for the opening went to work on the grills, handing out burgers, french fries, and sweet potato pies in paper bags that dripped with vegan grease until they sold out five hours later. Here’s what the opening looked like.
Slutty Vegan is open Tuesday to Thursday from 12 to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 12 to 9 p.m.