Detroit Vegan Soul’s niche is offering vegan versions of Southern soul food entrees and sides.
Erika Boyd “grew up cooking with my mother and grandmother,” skills she puts to good use as the executive chef and co-owner of Detroit Vegan Soul (DVS) in the thriving North Rosedale Park neighborhood. Her business partner is former public relations executive Kirsten Ussery, the restaurant’s general manager.
Detroit Vegan Soul’s niche is offering vegan versions of Southern soul food entrees and sides. It’s also the only kosher restaurant in Detroit, newly certified by Kosher Michigan founder Rabbi Jason Miller. DVS is easily reached on Grand River Avenue, a block from the independent Pages Bookshop, between Southfield Freeway and Evergreen Road.
The partners have owned the building that houses their restaurant since 2017. The original DVS was in rented quarters on Agnes Street in Detroit’s West Village neighborhood. Boyd and Ussery operated their vegan restaurant there from 2013 to December 2021.
Boyd became interested in seeking kashrut certification for DVS six years ago and turned to Miller. The Conservative rabbi has operated his business for 14 years, while also officiating at bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies around the country. Boyd took a pass at that time but came to see the potential of a kosher operation once meatless diets became more popular.
“You feel better after eating here — not heavy or bloated,” Boyd said. “You don’t feel like you overate.”
For his part, Miller said that knowing Detroit Vegan Soul is “vegetarian/vegan makes it easier to certify” as kosher. “No meat products are coming into the kitchen, so no cross-contamination is possible.”
“For someone keeping kosher, it helps to have a rabbi to check the kitchen and ingredients,” Boyd said.
The food at DVS “has no preservatives and uses all organic, plant-based ingredients,” she said.
Her repertoire of soul food mainstays includes items like Oyster Mushroom Po Boy, Hoppin’ John and a Soul Platter, featuring “Catfish” tofu, mac ‘n’ cheese, smoked collards, candied yams, black-eyed peas, brown rice and cornbread muffin. The menu includes house-made veggie millet patty burgers, one with vegan cheese and coconut “bacon,” and a flame-broiled seitan “steak” strip.
During a recent lunch with Miller, I was especially excited about my Okra Stew. My bowl held a nourishing, delicious mix of fresh okra, tomato, onion, quinoa and brown rice. It hit the spot. We both wanted the BBQ “ribs” — actually, sturdy square tofu sticks. The texture isn’t the same, but the pieces are tasty and smothered in a yummy barbecue sauce.
I sampled the rabbi’s Kale Salad. It’s a winner with organic kale, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, sesame seeds and house-made sesame dressing. My Curried Potato Salad, dotted with fresh red pepper, had a strong curry taste, but wasn’t spicy hot. Miller said his vinegary coleslaw was “comparable to some of the best I’ve had.”
The DVS beverage menu includes several smoothie choices. We both enjoyed one called Paradise, which was blended mango, strawberry, pineapple and lemon juice. The drink was refreshing and filling. Of course, I also needed to try a slice of German Chocolate Cake, one of the varieties that Ussery’s mother, Irene Ussery, bakes at home in North Carolina and ships to the restaurant. Her whole cakes are available for shipping nationwide.
Short staffing has been an issue to the point that Detroit Vegan Soul is open only three days a week. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday, and orders are taken online only. The weekend’s online pre-ordering menu becomes available each Wednesday at 10. Customers outside the restaurant may use their smart phone to scan the OR code on the front window. When the food comes out — “in 30 minutes or less,” said Boyd — there is an option to eat inside DVS’ cheerful dining room. On one wall are black-and-white photographs of Detroit neighborhood signs, the work of Boyd’s brother, Sammy Boyd.
The DVS Meal Bundle Subscriptions let customers pick up multiple, rotating meals at the restaurant on a regular Tuesday schedule. The 12 Meal Bundle includes four salads and four soups, while the 3 Meal Bundle comes with one salad and one soup. Catering is available as well, including Slider Trays with 24 sandwich options, and Party Pans that offer an assortment of 10-12 DVS Soul Sides.
Detroit Vegan Soul
19614 Grand River
Detroit, MI 48223
$$ ½ out of $$$$$