You don’t have to be vegan to Evolve

BY TERESA LO

It may not seem possible, but southern fried chicken can be enjoyed by anyone, even vegans.

Evolve is a vegan restaurant opened by Baruck Ban-Yehudah in Febraury 2014. Although they are “110 percent vegan”, they still offer familiar favorites such as macaroni and cheese, said Adam Tenga, a manager of the restaurant.

Ban-Yehudah has been in the vegan food business for 20 years and has been a vegan for 35 years. His vision for Evolve is a restaurant with a “soulful twist.”

evolve3

Evolve’s bar. Photo by Teresa Lo.

Many of their dishes that include “meat” products such as the macaroni and cheese and the southern fried chicken are actually made with soy products. The soy product that they use to make the southern fried chicken is also gluten free, said Ban-Yehudah.

“Our goal is to provide a finer dining experience and maintaining out commitment to vegan and health foods,” said Ban-Yehudah.

When Ban-Yehudah was looking into opening up a restaurant in Takoma Park, he did not worry too much about Senbeb Cafe, another vegan restaurant in the area. He said he is first an activist and then a businessman, so when making the decision to open Evolve, he considered the community and whether or not they would be receptive to the food.

evolve4

Evolve dining area.  Photo by Teresa Lo.

Regarding the Senbeb Cafe, Ban-Yehudah said, “I think we compliment and help strengthen and bolster each others’ business.”

Tenga said instead of looking at the competition when opening, they focused on bringing vegan food to a community that may not have had too many options.

Ban-Yehudah said, “There are aspects of the restaurant that are being created or maintained as a result of us being the unique Takoma Park [location].”

He said they are trying to fit in with the “mosaic of Takoma Park” and that the mood, menu, and even employees are being tailored to be sensitive to the culture.

evolve2

Evolve is in Takoma DC at 341 Cedar St., NW, Washington, DC. Photo by Teresa Lo.

A feature that makes Evolve different is that they offer a full service bar, which most vegan restaurants do not, said Ban-Yehudah, although they have had to remove a few drinks that are not vegan.

Some in the community tend to stay away from Evolve since they are not vegan, like Sarah Kristensen, a 5-year resident of Takoma Park. However vegetarian Deborah Jacobson, who was walking by outside the restaurant, recently heard about Evolve, and it’s “on her agenda” to go.

Tenga said that although vegans are Evolve’s main customer base, non-vegans also choose to dine at Evolve.

“You’d be surprised how many people come here as regular eaters of anything, and [they] come here and eat with no problem,” said Tenga.

Krys Burnette, a resident of New York, is not a vegan, but she visits Evolve every time she is in Takoma Park as she thinks “the food is great and that the prices are reasonable.”

evolve5

Evolve exterior on Cedar Street, NW, near Takoma Metro. Photo by Teresa Lo.

“Most of the vegan places, they don’t have a bar and most of them aren’t a sit down restaurant, it’s usually like a food truck, so it’s nice they have the restaurant and they have the bar,” said Burnette, who was walking out of the restaurant.

Evolve currently offers free meals to children 12 years and under if they come with a parent on Monday to Friday before 5 p.m. Ban-Yehudah also said they are planning on removing the specific happy hour, and transitioning the pricing of the beverages to have happy hour all the time.

Evolve
341 Cedar St., NW,
Washington, DC

Evolve Facebook page