New York’s Innocent Yesterday Bringing Plant-Forward Menu to Wynwood

The Innocent Yesterday menu goes beyond what owner Jon Gabel calls “Vegan 2.0”
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Plant-forward restaurant Innocent Yesterday first opened its doors last summer in New York City, offering an eclectic menu of comfort foods with American, Latin, Italian, and Asian influences. Now the brand is headed to Miami.

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“A lot of other vegan food is what I call Vegan 2.0,” owner Jon Gabel told What Now on Wednesday morning. “Vegan 2.0 was the evolution that came after tofu and bean sprouts. It was people saying, ‘We’re going to do approachable food items, and we’re going to do them vegan.’ But they’re not elevating them to a taste level that is either better or just as good as the best non-vegan dish.”

Gabel mentioned a number of menu items for the plant-forward (read: mostly, but not entirely, vegan) café/restaurant’s menu. These include “amazing meatless meatballs,” a double Impossible burger, vegan Buffalo Mac N Cheese, “the best vegan empanadas you will ever have,” and—soon to be introduced—a line of sushi offerings.

There’s also a major focus on coffee, with a lineup of cold brews expected to accompany a variety of espresso-based coffee drinks. These go well with the brand’s vegan baked goods, including chocolate chip cookies that taste testers not only can’t distinguish from non-vegan cookies, but often prefer to them.

“That’s the difference between Innocent Yesterday and everyone else,” Gabel said. “Don’t try to say you’re always the healthiest food. If you go get a vegan mac n cheese, you’re still eating carbs and fake cheese. Don’t pretend. Embrace it. Go for it. Make it amazing. Let’s transition from healthy versus unhealthy to yumminess, to socially responsible, fresh, organic.”

Yumminess is one of Gabel’s main words for describing the quality Innocent Yesterday chases; he prefers the word to the more elusive (and perhaps illusive?) umami. The other is balance.

“Just because you’re indulging doesn’t mean it’s completely unhealthy,” Gabel said. Given the choice between low-calorie food with a lot of chemicals, “I’d rather have real sugar.”

Innocent Yesterday is working toward an opening in Wynwood sometime late this year or early next year.

Neil Cooney

Neil Cooney is a freelance writer. He has received an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University, and his work has been published in the Masters Review. He lives in Nashville, TN, where he spends his free time cooking Korean food and studying chess.
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