Amy Cottrill remembers when lettuce was the only option most restaurants would offer when she requested vegan items. Now Pittsburgh is more aware and excited about veganism.
“I have seen the long-term changes of veganism in our city. It’s why I started my events in 1994, to help the city’s vegan scene grow,” she said. Cottrill is the owner and CEO of Pittsburgh Vegan, LLC, and founder of The Original Pittsburgh Vegan Festival & Expo.
Since the early days of the festival, Cottrill has seen a definite increase in awareness of veganism. “My events started with maybe 30 people, then 100, then 200, then 500, then suddenly it jumped from 500 to thousands,” she said.
Contributing to the vegan scene, Cottrill also organizes gatherings twice a month at J&D Cellars Winery in Washington County. “They include small business vendor events and parties. J&D makes their own wine, and it’s all vegan,” Cottrill said.
Cottrill is constantly expanding offerings and encourages those interested in learning more about vegan happenings to visit https://pittsburghvegan.com.
Ulric Joseph, owner of ShadoBeni Trinidadian Vegan Cuisine, was a professor of fine arts for 16 years when he started thinking about a new career field. A native of Trinidad, Joseph enjoyed making food from his homeland for friends and family. When he grew tired of higher education in 2019, his wife encouraged him to start selling food at the local farmers’ markets.
“Our business grew from farmers’ markets to pop-ups and once the pandemic started, meal delivery service,” he said. “I decided to leave higher ed and focus on the food business full time in 2020.”
Joseph, who recently opened a brick-and-mortar location in the Northside, said that Trinidadian food is a fusion of several cultures based on the history of the small island country. “It is now a tasty mix of many cultures,” he explained.
Con Alma Ellsworth restaurant and jazz club has been in Shadyside since June 2019 but became fully vegan this past May. “As a person who loves jazz and dining out—and is vegan—there has never been a jazz club and restaurant that has really offered anything for people like me, so why not be the first?” said Aimee Marshall, manager and part owner.
With a downtown location as well, the Shadyside site made sense when they began thinking vegan. “We were already halfway there to begin with—about 50 percent of our menu has been vegetarian or vegan from the start,” said Chef Josh Ross. “It didn’t take much to make our menu completely vegan, so why not?”
For Ross, the new menu is fun. “As a chef, I have the opportunity to be creative and experiment and find new ways of doing things,” he explained. “I get to change the menu frequently based on what I’m currently exploring or finding inspiration in, which can mean anything from the cuisine of a specific area to a spice I’ve just encountered to a picture I saw of something, often not vegetarian.”
According to Marshall, even people who don’t realize that the menu has changed have been receptive. And all of their wines are vegan. “Every wine at our Ellsworth location has been created without the addition of any animal products,” Marshall said.
Burgatory has been serving vegan options since they opened their first location in Waterworks Mall in January 2021 and is known for its Phat Patti Veggie Burger.
“It has a cultlike following with Pittsburgh vegans,” said Marketing Director Meredith Feiler. The Phat Patti is based on their vegan veggie burger which is made daily from 22 different ingredients, including lentils, bulgur wheat, mushrooms, cashews, chopped leeks, beets, celery, onion, and more.
In addition to the popular burger, Burgatory offers the Impossible Burger and vegan versions of their well-known milkshakes. “We offer peanut butter, vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry vegan shake flavors. All shakes are hand spun to order using our house-turned vanilla bean soy ice cream and topped with vegan whipped cream,” Feiler said.
She adds that having vegan options is important. “We love to delight all guests with a helluva burger and heavenly shakes. That extends to everyone regardless of special dietary preferences or allergies,” she said.
Everest Eats is a plant-based meal delivery service created by Katy and Jose Rosa in November 2019. “Plant-based is of interest to us because we know that this is one of the greatest and easiest ways to achieve sustainability for our future generations,” said Katy Rosa. “Eating more plants puts far less strain on our environment and our finite natural resources.
“We have two little children, Everest and Denali, whose future we are fighting for today,” she added.
The couple chose meal delivery services because it was more conducive to their lives as parents. “With our children still being small, we want to enjoy our time together as a family. Brick and mortar requires far more time, resources, and overhead expenses. Meal delivery gives us flexibility as it’s all preorder-based,” said Rosa.
Katy’s dad is the baker and “creator of all things bread,” while her mother is the “creator of all things dessert,” according to Rosa. Main dishes include pesto with cauliflower steak, lentil Bolognese, pad Thai and a vegan BLT sandwich. Desserts include cinnamon rolls, brownies, tiramisu and more.
For Cottrill, all of the growth has been amazing. “After an entire childhood of not knowing any other vegetarians or vegans, my adulthood—and my vegan child’s childhood—are filled with vegan options, restaurants, events, products, and everything else. And it’s all over Pittsburgh; almost everywhere we go.
“This was a drastic change to see over many years in our city,” she said.
Want to try something vegan?
Visit these restaurants or order online:
ShadoBeni Trinidadian Vegan Cuisine: http://shadobeni412.com
Con Alma Ellsworth: www.conalmapgh.com
Everest Eats: www.everesteats.com
Even More Vegan Options
With new vegan restaurants and pop-ups continuously opening in Pittsburgh, it’s helpful to follow Facebook pages such as Vegan Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Vegans & Vegetarians, and Pittsburgh Vegans.
In addition to those listed, other vegan restaurants and those offering vegan options include:
Zenith (known for their vegan brunches)
B52* features pop-ups and their sister restaurant Allegro Hearth Bakery offers many vegan options
Double Wide Grill
Veggies N’ At* pop-ups and food truck
Sweet Alchemy Bakeshop
Farmer X Baker
Pink House Chocolates also offers many vegan chocolate offerings including a brand-new vegan milk chocolate.
* All vegan venue