An organic, vegan grab-and-go spot is opening in Ponce City Market’s Central Food Hall on December 3. LaRayia’s Bodega—a philanthropy-forward, Caribbean-inspired shop—first opened in Los Angeles in 2019. Impressed with the diversity of Atlanta, founder LaRayia Gaston decided to bring her healthy eats to Old Fourth Ward—with a few changes.
Like the California spot, Atlanta’s will serve nutritious, pre-packaged meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as focus on Caribbean flavors inspired by Gaston’s Puerto Rican heritage. Unlike the L.A. bodega, the PCM location, which replaces 18.21 Bitters, will not be subsidized by corporations, and therefore, items will cost more than $5. (The Bodega was originally designed to help combat hunger in homeless populations.) To keep with this spirit, LaRayia’s will provide complimentary vegan fare to the homeless in Woodruff Park on Fridays.
“There’s a different demographic in Ponce City Market than in Westlake. We’ll eventually have a standalone bodega for that elsewhere in Atlanta,” Gaston says. “Our goal here is to show people that nutrient-dense food can taste amazing.”
The menu will change daily but may include overnight oats, parfaits, ceviche, Jamaican jerk jackfruit tacos, Puerto Rican mofongo, chili, cornbread, and collards—all vegan, of course. Beverage will include Black Girl Magic Lemonade made with activated charcoal, Dessert Mermaid with spirulina, and Moon Tea, a vegan spin on Thai tea that is turquoise.
“Atlanta has capitalized on this vegan junk food movement,” Gaston says. “We are not that. We focus on farm to table. Green is great. Organic is better.”
“We don’t use soy products,” she continues. “We’re all-natural, plant-based, and super nut based. It’s about wanting a healthier lifestyle.”
We spoke to Gaston to learn more.
Why did you choose Atlanta for your second LaRayia’s?
I believe in signs. We were going to expand in New Jersey, but I felt like the universe kept telling me Atlanta. In January, my business partner and I were driving in L.A. and I told him I thought divinity was pointing to Atlanta. He grabbed his heart and said it was his dream place to live again. (He lived there 10 years ago.)
How did you pick Ponce City Market?
I’m Puerto Rican and “Ponce” is based off a place in Puerto Rico, pronounced “Ponc-e”. I thought was a sign. I feel like I’m Atlanta’s No. 1 spokesperson and fan. I love the diversity. It’s a best kept secret. I bought a place [to live part-time] here because I’m obsessed with it.
What’s the goal of making the bodega grab-and-go only?
It’s time consuming to prep all those fruits and vegetables. People want the quality of sit-down restaurant food with the time commitment of grab-and-go. We don’t compromise integrity while making it work with the on-the-go lifestyle.
How will you make the space feel like a bodega?
People in the store will be Caribbean, owning their heritage. We’ll have Latin and Black music, hip-hop. You’ll feel like you’re walking in my living room. We’re a spiritual bodega, all about mind-body-spirit wellness. We’ll have bracelets, crystals, and incense for sale.