Vegan restaurant opening in former Epic Sammich Co. space. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling
Vegan restaurant opening in former Epic Sammich Co. space. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Choosing to be vegan or dealing with a gluten or soy allergy takes commitment, especially when going out to eat. Vegans and those with food allergies have to scan the menu and ask a lot of questions.

It’s not as easy as seeing an item has no meat, cheese or grain. What type of oil is used in cooking? Does it include soy sauce? Are there eggs or honey in it? Is the chicken broth the restaurant used gluten-free?

“Going out to eat becomes this very dramatic scene,” said Adriena Dame, co-owner of a new vegan, gluten-free and soy-free restaurant called NOLAFARE, which is opening Thursday.

Dame and her co-owner Julia Crittendon are both vegans, and Crittendon is gluten and soy intolerant. The idea for NOLAFARE came out of a desire to have a place to go out to eat where they didn’t have to ask tons of questions. They could order without fear.

“It’s cool to have a little safe haven,” Dame said.

NOLA is an acronym for non-GMO, organic, life-giving, allergen aware, and fare obviously is food.

Neither Crittendon nor Dame are trained chefs but said they grew up with great cooks and have experimented extensively with what tastes good since adopting a vegan lifestyle.

For its beans and boat bread dish, the pair fiddled with how to get their version of cornbread just right. Dame said they are using GMO-free cornmeal from Louisville-based Louismill Flour & Grits, but they didn’t want add canned corn. They tried replacing the corn with quinoa, but it wasn’t quite right. They finally found that a mixture of buckwheat and oats tasted best.

And non-vegans don’t worry, Dame said, she won’t pressure you into veganism if you step foot in NOLAFARE. Her parents are “avid meat eaters,” she said, but she decided to become vegan because of the harm done to animals when they are slaughtered and skinned, even on farms that offer the animals plenty of room to roam.

“It has health benefits, [but] the impetus for me was compassion,” Dame said.

NOLAFARE is located at 2009 Highland Ave., which was briefly Epic Sammich Co. and even more briefly Rumplings Slurp Shop. The storefront is just off the heavily trafficked intersection of Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road but can easily be missed on the side street.

Notably, Crittendon and Dame faced a similar problem with their sock business Sosaji! & Co., which was located in Douglass Loop. Most people travel to that section of Bardstown Road for a particular reason, to visit one of the restaurants or Great Flood Brewing Co., not to shop.

“The walking traffic wasn’t conducive over there,” Dame said, adding that they continue to run Sosaji! & Co. Customers can email Crittendon and Dame at [email protected]

Crittendon and Dame are hoping their all-vegan, allergy-sensitive menu will make NOLAFARE a destination.

In addition to the other restrictions it’s placed on its dishes, NOLAFARE isn’t using any canned foods, which can have unhealthy additives and preservatives. It will buy fresh local produce from Ivor Chodkowski — owner of Harvest restaurant and Field Day Family Farm — and Oldham County farm Rootbound Farm.

“We’ve eliminated all those things, and the food is still good,” Dame said.

Crittendon added that NOLAFARE sold out of food in less than an hour at the first Bluegrass VegFest last month.

In addition to the aforementioned beans and boat bread, the menu will include kale wraps, house-made almond milk, sweet potato pie, protein bars, and sea carrot rolls, which is carrots and nuts wrapped in rice paper and served with NOLAFARE’s spicy feisty sauce. Prices range from $4 to $12 for a meal.

NOLAFARE’s hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant will serve breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays.

After Crittendon and Dame get their feet wet with the restaurant, they will start alternating on Tuesdays between hosting cooking classes and NOLA Feast, a special four-course dinner. However, space is limited. The restaurant can hold 14 to 18 people.

Dame, who also is a yoga instructor, added that she may start hosting small group mediation classes and one-on-one healing workshops at the restaurant as well when it is closed.

“It goes hand-in-hand with what we are doing in our lives,” said Crittendon, who went to school for personal fitness and nutrition. “A lot of love has gone into this space.”

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]