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These 16 Women-Led Restaurants Are Taking on the Male-Dominated Worlds of BBQ, Sushi, Soul Food, and More

The restaurant scene in the US is still overwhelmingly led by men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than a quarter of chefs and head cooks are women in the US, while they make up nearly 70 percent of servers. There is a long way to go before professional kitchens are equal, but this gender imbalance is slowly changing. And if you’re looking for evidence of that, the vegan restaurant industry is a good place to focus your attention. Across the US, women are leading game-changing vegan restaurants and food businesses—in areas that are traditionally associated with men.

Jump to the restaurants

Take barbecue, for example. For most of us, the stereotypical image of grilling and smoking meat involves a man, but on the list below, you’ll find Kerry Fitzmaurice’s New York Restaurant Pure Grit restaurant, which can rival any male-dominated, meat-heavy barbecue joint—without even needing to touch a real animal. Sushi is another historically male-dominated market, but at Los Angeles’ Kusaki, head chef Pearl Steffie excels at plant-based innovation in the category.

Whether you love sloppy, juicy burgers, fine dining, hearty comfort food, soul food, or a plate of delicious vegan wings at the bar, you’ll find something on the list for you below—all founded, owned, or led by women.

16 must-try women-led vegan restaurants across the US

VegNews.sluttyveganburgersfries.sluttyveganSlutty Vegan

1 Slutty Vegan

Multiple locations

Pinky Cole changed the vegan burger game when she launched the first Slutty Vegan food truck in Atlanta, GA in 2018. Due to unprecedented demand (and some big celebrity fans), a brick-and-mortar restaurant followed in 2019, and now the vegan burger joint is a bonafide chain. Across its 11 locations (in Georgia, Alabama, New York, and Texas), you’ll find mouthwatering vegan burger options like the Fussy Hussy, the One Night Stand, and Sloppy Toppy, all stacked with vegan meat, loaded with cheese, and dripping with the chain’s signature Slut Sauce.
Find it here

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Kusaki/@_tonybello

2 Kusaki

Los Angeles, CA

Kusaki opened its doors in January 2023, closed them in August 2023, and then reopened them again in December 2023, so it’s safe to say the vegan sushi spot hasn’t had an easy journey in its short life so far. But we hope it stays open for many years to come—the restaurant’s pioneering chef and owner Pearl Steffie has created a stunning, innovative, and delicious plant-based omakase experience.
Find it here

VegNews.aptekafinediningfood.aptekaApteka

3 Apteka

Pittsburgh, PA

Together with her co-owner Tomasz Skowronski, Apteka’s Kate Lasky is a James Beard Award finalist, so we don’t need to tell you just how special the menu is at this Pittsburgh fine dining spot. But we will anyway. It’s a concoction of delicious, plant-based takes on Eastern European classics. There’s Zupa Grochowa, for example, a nourishing yellow split pea soup, Kotlet Selerowy, a meaty celeriac schnitzel, Scarlotka, a decadent apple crumb cake, and so much more.
Find it here

VegNews.peopleeatingatplumbistro.plumbistroPlum Bistro

4 Plum Bistro

Seattle, WA

If you want to sample the food from one of The New York Times’ “top chefs changing America,” you need to head to Plum Bistro. There, Makini Howell serves up delicious, nostalgic comfort food, with a fine dining twist. Standout dishes include Crispy Eggplant Parmesan, Chipotle Plant Beef & Refried Bean Tostadas, and the Oyster Mushroom Po Boy.
Find it here

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5 Seasoned Vegan Real Quick

New York City, NY

Brenda Beneer, together with her son, Aaron Beneer, is the driving force behind one of New York’s favorite vegan comfort food destinations, Seasoned Vegan Real Quick (which was formerly located in Harlem, and known just as Seasoned Vegan). Beneer works her magic on ingredients like burdock root and soy protein to create dishes so meaty and delicious you’ll want to keep coming back for more.
Find it here

VegNews.veganburgersandwichesfries.senoreataSeñoreata

6 Señoreata

Los Angeles, CA

Got a craving for a big, juicy, meaty Cuban sandwich? Evanice Holz has got you. The young restaurateur (who, fun fact, was the first vegan to win Discovery+’s The Great Food Truck Race) takes jackfruit and turns it into the sandwich filling of dreams through Señoreata, her Cuban food concept.
Find it here

VegNews.veganburger.souleyveganSouley Vegan

7 Souley Vegan

Berkeley, CA

Tamearra Dyson is currently getting ready to open the next iteration of Souley Vegan, which will be coming to Berkeley, CA in mid-March. Fans of the restaurant—which was once named one of the best soul food spots in the country by USA Today—will be flocking back to try Dyson’s delicious Louisiana-inspired dishes, like vegan fried chicken and waffles, po’ boys, cornbread, and so much more.
Find it here

VegNews.ThePlantButchersSandwichThe Plant Butchers

8 The Plant Butchers

Los Angeles, CA

From the women behind Sugar Taco, comes The Plant Butchers—aka the place to go in Los Angeles if you’re craving meat. The vegan butcher shop can satisfy almost any preference. In the mood for ribs? Order the Barbeque Combo. How about bacon? You need the BLT on sourdough bread. Feeling fishy? Check out the tuna melt with dairy-free provolone cheese.
Find it here

VegNews.baconranchpita.detroitvegansoulDetroit Vegan Soul

9 Detroit Vegan Soul

Detroit, MI

Run by entrepreneur Kirsten Ussery and executive chef Erika Boyd, this is the go-to destination in Detroit, MI for deliciously meaty vegan soul food that tastes good and benefits your body, too. A great example of the kind of mouthwatering goodness on offer is the Catfish Sandwich, which features deep-fried organic tofu, battered in cornmeal, and served with housemade tartar sauce, or the Bacon Ranch Pita with crispy fried seitan.
Find it here

VegNews.veganjapanesefood.chayaCha-Ya

10 Cha-Ya

San Francisco, CA

Family business Cha-Ya is helmed by Mie Katsumata, who took over the business from her chef father, Atsushi Katsumata, in 2021. Under Mie, the restaurant has upheld its reputation for offering some of the finest, most flavorful, vegan Japanese food in San Francisco. Dishes like Kinoko Miso Soup, Takusui Boiled Pot Sticker Stew, and the Sushi Party Platter will keep you coming back for more.
Find it here

VegNews.VeganBBQ.PureGritBBQPure Grit BBQ

11 Pure Grit BBQ

New York City, NY

Never go without barbecue again. Pure Grit BBQ—which was founded by Kerry Fitzmaurice who was personally fed up with a lack of plant-based barbecue options—has everything your stomach could possibly desire when it comes to smoky, tender, meaty, vegan mains. Go for the Impossible Cut, Grilled BBQ Tofu, BBQ Daring Chicken, or Pulled Jackfruit, and pile on your choice of sides, like coleslaw, baked beans, fries, and broccoli salad.
Find it here

VegNews.macielsvegansandwich.macielsMaciel’s Plant-Based Butcher & Deli

12 Maciel’s Plant-Based Butcher & Deli

Los Angeles, CA

Co-owned by Maciel Bañales Luna, a vegan Latinx chef and nutritionist, Maciel’s Plant-Based Butcher & Deli is a haven of tasty, flavorful, and most importantly, nourishing dishes. All of the meats you see on the menu—including salami, Mexican ribs, chorizo, pastrami, and more—are cleverly concocted with delicious and nutrient-rich whole food ingredients, like chickpeas and beans.
Find it here

VegNews.veganchicken.barveganBar Vegan

13 Bar Vegan

Atlanta, GA

Vegan bar snacks can often leave a lot to be desired. Sometimes, you want a beer and a good vegan taco, or a quesadilla, or maybe boneless vegan wings, or a meatball marinara sub. Sound like you’re dreaming? You’re not, and it’s all thanks to Cole once again. The Slutty Vegan founder also has a bar in Atlanta, so you can tuck into your vegan feast and wash it all down with a signature cocktail.
Find it here

VegNews.puravitafood.puravita@roxyrockstv

14 Pura Vita

West Hollywood, CA

Led by Italian American chef Tara Punzone, Pura Vita is one of the only vegan Italian restaurants and wine bars in the country. Expect to sit back and sip on organic bianco wine (or rosso, depending on your preference) while you feast on delicious Southern Italy-inspired delights, like marinara pizza, linguine di mare with king oyster mushroom scallops, eggplant parmigiana, and so much more.
Find it here

VegNews.veganmacandcheese.modernloveModern Love

15 Modern Love

Brooklyn, NY

If you’re a fan of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s best-selling cookbooks, you need to head to Modern Love in Brooklyn to try her outstanding plant-based recipes in the flesh. The menu is packed with mouthwatering comfort classics like Fried Mozzarella, Mushroom Fried Chick’n, and Classic Mac & Shews.
Find it here

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16Hey, Sunshine Kitchen

Culver City, CA

Founded by popular vegan chefs (and sisters) Heather Golden Ray and Jenny Engel, this fast-casual restaurant is a must-visit if you’re in Culver City. The colorful, vibrant menu features warm bowls, salads, tacos, and, if you’re in the mood for a big juicy bite, hot sandwiches. Eye-catching options include the Mediterranean Chickpea with a housemade chickpea patty and the Classic Cheeseburger, complete with grilled plant-based beef.
Find it here

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