By Zamir Courtney
The organic restaurant chain Gangster Vegan Organics has opened a new location on Rhode Island Avenue in Riverdale.
Gangster Vegan is an organic vegan restaurant that, according to its website, aims to make eating healthy, spreading love, and being kind to one another and the planet the true marks of a “gangster.” Everything on the menu is 100% organic and 100% free of soy, gluten and refined sugar. Through providing access to good food, Gangster Vegan says it is trying to combat the glorification of the gangs, violence and drug dealing associated with gangster culture.
The restaurant offers a wide variety of items, from vegan burgers and salads to smoothies, “wellness shots” and desserts. In an effort to rebrand the gangster lifestyle, all of the menu items have names influenced by hip-hop music, a genre often associated with gangster music. A sunflower seed tuna salad called the “Notorius (Tuna)” takes its name from the rapper The Notorious B.I.G. A beet burger, “Swizz Beets,” is a nod to the hip-hop producer and rapper Swizz Beatz. And the restaurant’s popular juice mix “The Blueprint” shares its name with one of Grammy award-winning artist Jay-Z’s albums.
Kayleea Northern, an employee of the new Riverdale location, says the hip-hop references help lower the barrier to entry for some customers
“I think the idea is to say, ‘healthy is the new gangster,’ like, it’s cool to be healthy,” Northern said.
Despite opening during a global pandemic, the new location has been consistently busy.
Taneea Yarborough, the owner of Gangster Vegan’s Riverdale location, said that the pandemic has presented unique challenges regarding staffing, and health and safety measures, and she has been working to understand what the community is ready for. The restaurant is currently planning its grand opening in early July.
“Of course, it will be masked and socially distant, but we still want to give our community an opportunity to meet us and come by,” said Yarborough.
Due to COVID-19, Gangster Vegan is currently operating on a limited schedule. The Riverdale location is open Thursday to Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m. Updates can be found online at gangstervegan.com.
Zamir Courtney is a summer intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times.