Exposed Vegan opens in West Charlotte with take-out vegan food


Exposed Vegan opened in West Charlotte on January 1.

On New Years Day, Charlotte’s healthy food scene gained another member with Exposed Vegan, a black-owned restaurant offering plant-based cuisine in the heart of West Charlotte.

Despite a pandemic that has given many people an extra 10 or 15 pounds due to a more sedentary lifestyle, Zsa-Zsa Porter said she and her business partner Nikkis Campbell wanted to contribute to a healthier landscape by promoting healthy food options.

“When the pandemic hit, we thought we could help our community by providing healthy options. We’re not nurses or doctors, so we started to think about roles we could play in the African American community, ”Porter said.

Ultimately, these desires to nurture the local community and debunk restrictive myths about what veganism looks like led to the conception of Exposed Vegan.

She and Campbell hosted a ribbon cut via Facebook Live on their Facebook Vegan Exposed page on November 1, 2020, and over 100 people showed up in person even though it was raining outside that day.

The two met via Facebook several years ago, but began the restaurant adventure last March. They bonded around their love of endurance sports – swimming, cycling and running – and their mutual love for healthy eating.

Both are accomplished triathletes, having completed the Iron Man challenge – a grueling combination of endurance events that includes a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and a 26 mile run. Porter is also the local ambassador of Black girls run, a group whose mission is “to encourage African-American women to make fitness and a healthy lifestyle a priority.”

Exposed vegan co-owners Nikkis Campbell, left, and Zsa-Zsa Porter are endurance athletes who share a commitment to healthy eating. Courtesy of Zsa-Zsa Porter

While creating the menu, Porter hosted a focus group in her backyard that included several friends she asked to help her plan her meals. The most popular items were the inspiration for the current menu.

“My oldest son, who is 15, wanted to join the trip and came up with the recipe for our vegan chocolate chip cookies,” Porter said of the popular menu item known as Jason’s Homemade Vegan. Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Zsa-Zsa Porter’s teenage son came up with Jason’s homemade vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe. Courtesy of Zsa-Zsa Porter

Porter, a vegan for a year but a vegetarian for several years, uses the Facebook page to connect with the community and even host a 21-day vegan challenge via a private group, where people can share photos, recipes, and motivational messages throughout their health journey.

“When you try something new, you need a support system,” said the restaurateur.

In that vein, the concept of Exposed Vegan centers around breaking down myths about being vegan, one of which is that you have to eat salad all day.

“I love to eat,” Porter said. “And as a triathlete, I have to make sure I have the right nutrition. Our goal is simply to eliminate all the myths.

Another of those myths about what a vegan looks like. “We want to eliminate the myth that there is only one culture that is vegan – that African Americans are not vegans,” Porter said.

“We don’t see a lot of healthy food in some areas. We could have set up the store anywhere, but we put it right in the middle of West Blvd because we really give back to the community, ”Porter said.

And so far, the West Charlotte community has warmly welcomed the take out restaurant.

“They say the food tastes extremely fresh. We make sure everything is fresh, without preservatives. Soups are made every morning, ”said Porter, who uses her 86-year-old grandmother’s recipe for split pea soup.

Exposed Vegan soups are freshly made every day. Courtesy of Zsa-Zsa Porter

The three salads on the menu are named after well-known black women whom both restaurateurs admire.

There’s the “Let’s Move Bowl,” named after Michelle Obama’s Healthy Eating campaign, and the “Kamala Bowl” named after our country’s first black / Asian-American woman vice president. .

Vegan Kamala bowl on display. includes spinach, hummus, avocado, red peppers, cucumber and olives. Courtesy of Zsa-Zsa Porter

Harriet Tubman is the inspiration behind the “Harriet Promise Bowl” – an idea that came to Porter as she was completing the Iron Man Challenge in Maryland and swimming in the same body of water that the Freedom Fighter was using. in the past. “It’s filled with kale, spinach, quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, red onion, broccoli and tomato.”

“The concept of Tubman feeding people while she saved them really touched us,” Porter said of the decision to create the menu item.

When it comes to Porter’s favorite dishes, Porter’s favorite is Love Line, a juice that gives him energy after the bike or after his morning runs. Her favorite salad is Harriet’s Promise Bowl because of the quinoa and roasted potatoes.

The Exposed Vegan menu includes fresh fruit juices. Courtesy of Zsa-Zsa Porter

And of course, Jason’s Cookies, which are “very tempting out of the oven,” she said.

All of the ingredients are organic, with the lion’s share sourced from the local farmer’s market and the rest from a fresh produce vendor. But the aim is to mobilize more local farmers for organic products in the future.

Of this business, Porter said, “I want people to know that we are genuine and genuinely here to help the African American community thrive in 20201, and to create healthy options that strengthen the immune system.”

Named in honor of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s health initiative, the Exposed Vegan Let’s Move Bowl features mixed greens, pears, crispy honey apples, carrots and red peppers topped with of nuts. Courtesy of Zsa-Zsa Porter

Equally exciting are the future plans for the restaurant. “We don’t want to stop just at the restaurant. We are also investing in food trucks, one in spring and another in summer. Porter said the additions will bear the same name as the restaurant.

There are also plans to sell merchandise such as shirts and triathlete equipment. Customers will be able to purchase the range from Exposed Vegan or on the website.

Vegan exposed

1540, boul. West, office 102

Instagram: @expvegan

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This story was originally published January 12, 2021 11:07 am.

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Kadee Blakely is originally from Charlottean and has worked as a freelance writer for local publications since 2007. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading real detective novels and trying new recipes at home. Follow her on Instagram @kadeethescribe.

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Tanya S. Norvell