Story, photo and video by Wellesley Michael, NewsNetNebraska
Although more Lincoln restaurants are working to serve the dietary needs of vegan and vegetarian customers with specific menu items, catering exclusively to these diets has opened a niche market in the food industry.
According to the 2016 Harris Poll, 3.3 percent of Americans follow a vegetarian, no meat, or vegan, no animal products, diet.
The Vegetarian Research Group (VPR) estimated over 7.5 million US adults follow at least a vegetarian diet. Although vegans/vegetarians are still in the minority, the VRG also found that 55 percent of people were interested in ordering vegetarian meals when eating out. This proves there is room for a vegan/vegetarian market within the restaurant industry.
Small Lincoln businesses are beginning to reach out to this growing clientele by opening restaurants specific to the dietary needs of vegetarians and vegans.
Maggie’s Vegetarian Cafe
Maggie Pleskac opened Maggie’s Vegetarian Cafe with the idea of giving Lincoln a local, non-GMO food option. As a vegetarian, Pleskac sees the benefits to this lifestyle and wants to share it with others.
Becca Ross has worked at Maggie’s for five years. Although she isn’t currently a vegetarian, Ross said she doesn’t see many other non-vegetarians come in.
“Vegetarian food has a reputation that it’s not good, so we don’t get a lot of Nebraska meat eaters,” Ross said.
Maggie’s works with local farms. Ross said, their goal is to find food that doesn’t have to be transported a long way to get to the cafe.
Because Maggie’s works with local farms, the menu changes seasonally. This ensures that customers are getting fresh food that is in season. Currently, Maggie’s visitors can order roasted veggies like turnips, radishes and Swiss chard.
High Vibe Cafe
Anne Sweet and her three daughters, Chloe, Cecily and Mary Clare, created the idea for High Vibe Cafe after seeing a need for healthy, plant-based food options in Nebraska.
High Vibe Cafe is best known for its’ smoothie bowls. The bowls come in two varieties: acai and pitaya, which can be topped with different fruits, nuts and spreads. The cafe also offers cold pressed juice, coffee, kale chips and granola all homemade with fresh, organic ingredients.
While High Vibe Cafe prides itself on being a vegan juice bar, it still attracts non-vegan customers.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln sophomore Isabel Cheesman is not a vegan, but continues to go to High Vibe Cafe because “it’s important to support small businesses in their beginning phases.”
Katie Sorensen, High Vibe Cafe manager, understands that while Nebraska might not have a large vegan/vegetarian population, are still looking for healthy foods.