Mar 8, 2018
BATAVIA — Why did you become a vegan?
It’s a question that has come up often as Judy Hysek made her pitches to potential backers of her proposed restaurant.
It’s been gradual, Hysek said Wednesday after securing a $30,000 loan and grant package for EDEN, the start-up she’s opening next month at 111 Main St.
“Deep down, it was when I was a little girl,” Hysek said. “I found out where meat came from, and I wanted to do it ... I had conviction, but my mother thought it was a fleeting thing.”
Hysek said she wavered, and only dropped eating meat recently. Her husband Chris has been a vegetarian since before they met, but he’s never pushed it.
“We bought a house and some land ... and got chickens, not for meat, but just to have fresh eggs,” Hysek said. “When we got chicks, I was holding them and socializing them to not be afraid of us, and I made that connection — that was a drumstick or a chicken breast, that turned me off.”
After dropping chicken, beef followed a few months later, and eventually all meats. Her restaurant concept was based in the belief that more diners are trending the same way — and that others will enjoy tasting vegetables that have been elevated by their preparation.
A proposed “green menu” for EDEN is light and varied.
The signature dish are Not Dogs, which are billed as “two smoky carrot dogs” that come topped with spicy brown mustard, caramelized onion, or loaded with any of a half-dozen other toppings. The dogs can be served in gluten-free and pretzel buns.
“The carrots are cooked and marinated, and then grill like a hot dog,” Hysek said. “That dish is two carrot dogs because it doesn’t give you that bogged down feeling. It’s light but satisfying ... the mustard pairs really well, and who doesn’t love caramelized onions?”
That’s been the most popular dish in her demonstrations. People are skeptical at first, she said, but they find the dogs are surprisingly similar to the flavor of a grilled hot dog.
Officials from the Batavia Development Council approved Hysek Wednesday as the first of two restaurant start-ups to be the inaugural participants in the FreshLAB incubator.
“There are no other vegan dinning options in area and the samples we had at the tastings were amazing,” BDC Board President Pierluigi Cipollone said in an email to The Daily News. “The owner had a solid and workable plan. I think this is a great choice for freshLAB.”
Hysek previously participated in the program’s required training course alongside her husband, who was also exploring a vegan concept for the downtown restaurant space.
In October, they described Chris’ plans as a healthy approach to vegan food, but also one that was comforting; while Judy’s approach was more fun — with ideas like vegan takes on chicken wings and nachos.
“It developed from the foods that Chris and I eat often and thought would pair well in the bar,” Hysek said. “Chris has been a huge help when it comes to thinking of different things. He likes to cook healthier than I do — there’s a lot of junk food vegan stuff. Having me be there to help him get a more public perspective has helped him, and he’s a wealth of suggestions, and he really is a creative.”
The resulting menu also includes eggplant and chickpea Meatless Meatballs, Artichokes French, a Quinoa Chili and a Kale Salad.
The BDC is weighing proposals developed around seafood, the cuisines of the Puerto Rico and the U.S. Gulf Coast, and a crepery for the food hall. They would be situated within a brew pub setting, and patrons would be able to mix and match between the three options.
A soft opening for EDEN is scheduled for next month, with a grand opening tentatively set for Earth Day. Hysek said her initial plan is to be open from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays, when a growing campaign is seeking to turn into Meatless Mondays.
“In the vegan community, people are really excited,” Hysek said. “I’m really hoping it can take off.”