Anthem Vegan: Restaurant, deli and market all in one North Park location
It’s difficult to miss Anthem Vegan in North Park.
Whether you're barrelling down El Cajon Boulevard in your car or casually walking by, the prominent yet inviting green coloration of the restaurant does plenty to steal your attention. At the very least, it stole mine a week or two ago on a drive back home.
Although I'm not exactly a vegan --- frequent trips to taquerias can attest to this --- I was nonetheless excited to try it out. Once I stepped in, I was immediately impressed with the lay-out of the building.
There's something undoubtedly visionary about a vegan restaurant that not only has a deli, but also a small store situtated within its location. As for the food itself, my inner-carnivore had no complaints about the "pulled porque tacos" I had ordered.
The place easily exceeded my expectations, and for those already in the know about Anthem's strong presence in local San Diego farmers' markets, it's probably not much of a surprise that the new restaurant has already hit the ground running since opening earlier this month.
Following my visit, founder and majority owner Patrick Murray was kind enough to do a quick Q&A with The San Diego Chroncicle. Through a recent email conversation, here's what I learned.
Hernandez: Take us through a quick timeline of Anthem. Sounds fascinating that it was initially started as a vegan brunch at a bar and at a house.
Murray: The Speakeasy Vegan Brunch was a lot of fun. Stared 2010. It was a 30 person invite-only outdoor brunch that we threw in the yard of my and my neighbor's house. We served beer, mimosas, had music, and had an 11 item menu. It was a lot of fun and asked [sic] a few months. After that came Vegan Happy Hour, and that was held in a bar I ran with live music and a roasting menu. Then Anthem started July 2013, actually September 2013, as a farmers' market pop-up and catering stand. And then we opened the restaurant just 2 weeks ago now.
Hernandez: What inspired the decision to open up a restaurant?
Murray: We were doing 10 farmers' markets a week all over San Diego county. We were getting plenty of private events as well. This works great but you’re limited as far as what you can serve.
For instance if you take a bag of spinach from the fridge, to the van, to the market, back to the van, back to the fridge, the spinach gets pretty cranky and you can’t use it anymore. Opening tube restaurants will allow us to be far more creative and serve many different types of dishes. The restaurant is huge and will also allow us to develop our sauce line, meats, cheeses and more.
Hernandez: The current restaurant spot in North Park is an awesome one, were other organizations pushing to lease it as well?
Murray: The owners of the building told me that they had 40 LOI’s [letters of intent] in the one year that it was vacant, so yes.
Hernandez: What was the inspiration for also incorporating a deli and store into the restaurant? It's an audacious idea for any restaurant that just opened.
Murray: The information here was that when I was doing the farmers' markets, many times I would have to drive to multiple stores to get the supplies I needed to cook the food I wanted to serve. Some vegan restaurants offer cookbooks and like to share the recipes. I figured why not take it a step further in selling raw ingredients in the same building. Plus, San Diego needs an all-vegan market. We’re the only one in the whole county.
Hernandez: I have to admit, I'm sometimes hesitant when it comes to vegan food. How do you guys plan on winning over more people like me?
Murray: Come taste ours and you’ll see.
People are hesitant for many different reasons, mainly reasons that they were fed as a child or societal hang-ups. We simply discuss those things with people and teach them what vegan food really is. Most don’t know it’s very high in protein and much, much cleaner.
Hernandez: Would you say there is a strong vegan/vegetarian community in San Diego? What would be the one thing you would like to see change from the community?
Murrary: The vegan community in San Diego is very strong, and is growing rapidly. There are so many places to eat now, and LA’s Vegan Street Fair is even coming to San Diego this May.
The one thing that needs to change is how many Anthem Vegan locations there are. We need more. Everywhere.
Anthem Vegan is located on 2611 El Cajon Blvd in North Park. Website: anthemvegan.com