HENDERSONVILLE – For some, the pandemic was a time of soul-searching. That was the case with New York’s Eleven Madison Park chef-owner Daniel Humm, who recently told NPR he’s dropping the foie gras.
When his three-Michelin Star restaurant reopens in June, it will serve an all plant-based menu.
That trend has already made its way to Hendersonville, where 2 Guys Pizza and Ribs has dropped the word “Ribs” from its name and launched a vegetarian menu. Prior to the new menu, the restaurant served ribs, pizza and wings for 14 years.
2 Guys Pizza and Ribs is now 2 Guys Planet Friendly Food and Brews, said Melody Crawford, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband John Crawford.
She said she and her husband struggled to make takeout profitable in the year-plus since they closed their dining room in reaction to the pandemic. More than that, they struggled with their feelings about serving meat.
The couple — he’s vegan, she’s vegetarian — estimate their business has served meat from approximately 300,000 chickens and 10,000 pigs over the years.
“I just couldn’t abide by it anymore,” Melody Crawford said.
They’d been mulling over dropping meat from their menu for years, but didn’t think they were financially stable enough to do it. The pandemic, however, gave them time to refocus and think about what mattered to them.
To execute their vision, the Crawfords sold their Hendersonville home and a Tryon vacation rental. They then moved into a studio apartment behind their restaurant with their two dogs.
Seven months later, Crawford said she and her husband couldn’t be happier.
“When we decided to open back up, we wanted to go full-bore vegetarian with vegan options, and that’s what we did,” she said. “We took a leap of faith, and it worked out.”
Some customers leave confused after walking into the reopened restaurant and finding plant-based pepperoni and Impossible Burger vegetarian “meatball” subs instead of ribs, Crawford said.
One customer wrote a disgruntled review about missing the chicken wings — the restaurant now serves plant-based “nuggets” — but Crawford shrugs it off. “Haters gonna hate,” she said.
The reviews, she said, are otherwise largely positive.
There’s good news for people with shellfish allergies, too. The Crawfords have sourced faux shrimp made from seaweed and other plant-based ingredients that reportedly looks and tastes just like the real thing.
They’re also sourcing vegan cream to make the Alfredo sauce dairy-free, serving gluten-free pasta and crumbling plant-based protein into the vegan “meat” sauce. The pizza can be had with vegan or dairy cheese.
Melody Crawford said all of these specialty ingredients come at a cost. But even though it costs her twice as much to source vegan and vegetarian proteins, she’s not passing the costs on to diners. “Our menu prices stayed the same,” she said.
IF YOU GO
Address: 1307 7th Ave. E., Hendersonville.
Hours: 2 Guys is open from Wednesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
COVID restrictions: 50% capacity inside, 100% outside. Masks required.
Mackensy Lunsford has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years, and has been a staff writer for the Asheville Citizen Times since 2012. Lunsford is a former professional line cook and one-time restaurant owner.
Reach me: [email protected].