A Syracuse entrepreneur with a mission is bringing vegan soul food to the heart of Armory Square.
Rev. Curtis Levy entered the Syracuse food scene in 2016 with a mobile Italian ice cart that was an instant hit on downtown street corners and at area festivals.
The Razzle Dazzle Italian ices moved to Destiny USA in September 2018, and expanded to a neighboring storefront following year with Our Neighborhood Chefs, which offers vegan tacos, paninis and wraps along with desserts from Syracuse-area businesses, including vegan treats Cathy’s Cookie Kitchen.
His latest venture – Razzle Dazzle: Our Vegan Corner – opened Friday on Walton Street, in the space formerly occupied by a Subway franchise.
The restaurants help support Last House on the Block Ministries, a non-profit run by Levy, an ordained minister. The ministry provides housing and services to those dealing with substance abuse problems, mental health issues, domestic violence and other challenges.
The menu at the new location focuses on soul food, with collard greens, candied yams, mac and cheese, corn bread, smoked chicken(less) wings and vegan barbecue ribs.
Levy explains the trick to vegan soul food: “Most soul food is cooked with meat to get that flavor, so I found another way… The concept of the chicken and the meatless beef is you season it as you season the meat. It’s sauteed and marinated overnight. We use seasoning, flatten the spare ribs, and grill it for the lines to have the effect of an actual rib. We have chicken, drumsticks, wings, fried chicken, and it looks just like it.”
Levy not only focuses on the flavor but the quality as well. The restaurants rely on organic produce, sourced from local farmer’s markets when possible.
Part of Levy’s business plan has been educating customers and vendors on plant-based and animal-free cuisine. Although Levy is not 100% vegan, he said he has most noticed the difference in his body and how it feels when he eats vegan. He describes it as more healthy, fresh, and less congested.
Levy said the hardest part about converting is your brain and body balancing the change.
“When you first stop eating meat, your brain doesn’t agree with you,” Levy said. “Your body will be mad at you. You’ll start seeing mirages of chicken running by your bed. It’s a struggle, it’s like smoking cigarettes. But once you get past that point, your body balances what you’re eating.”
Meals at ‘Our Vegan Corner’ end with 16 flavors of Italian ice and gelato or vegan soft serve ice cream .
“People are skeptical about veganism until they try it,” Levy said. “You can’t tell that (the food is) meatless if you know how to cook.”
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Source: Thanks https://www.syracuse.com/living/2021/03/vegan-soul-food-restaurant-with-a-mission-opens-in-armory-square.html