Even though many restaurants are still struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, Grass VBQ Joint has managed to hang on and thrive. A pop-up turned We Suki Suki food stall, this vegan barbecue spot moved to Orpheus Brewing (1440 Dutch Valley Place Northeast) in February. Since then, its revenue has grown nearly 80 percent, according to owner/chef Terry Sargent. In fact, he’s planning to open a larger location in Stone Mountain this fall.
“It’s been our best year. When other vegan restaurants around town closed down temporarily or for good, we stayed open,” he says. “We’re more of a to-go-type restaurant anyway, with no seating inside.”
Touted as Atlanta’s first plant-based vegan barbecue joint, Grass VBQ serves Nashville hot “chic’n,” smoked “veef brisket,” and “lobstah,” among other items made with vital wheat gluten and pea protein. Sargent, who previously worked at the Lawrence and Flip Burger, makes the majority of items in-house.
He cold-smokes the “meat” for five hours with a blend of Georgia hickory, maple, and cherry wood in an eight-foot smoker outside Orpheus. Sauces include Alabama White, Creole Mustard Gold, and Vidalia onion, in addition to ranch and blue cheese.
Sides include the popular Roasted Allium Mac N’ Cheese, which is nut free and soy free. Sargent purchases the cheese from a local vegan cheesemaker, and the cookies, cakes, and pies from local vegan distributors—the majority of whom are Black-owned.
At the Orpheus location, online ordering is required. There is a table immediately inside the front door for pick-up, or customers can enjoy their takeout meals on the Orpheus patio. Delivery via Uber Eats is also available.
The Stone Mountain location of Grass VBQ is slated to open on November 27. At 1,200 square feet, it will offer counter seating for 10. The lobby will feature artificial grass floors and wooden walls. The menu will be hand-painted as a mural on the wall.
“We started in a 5×5 box,” Sargent says. “Now we’re that hidden gem. I like the homey feel that we created.”