LANSING — Kari Magee went vegan three years ago.
Adapting recipes and getting creative with veggies, fruits and other vegan-friendly ingredients was easy for Magee, an executive chef with Michigan State University.
Eating out as a vegan hasn’t been.
“It was always a mind thing every time you went out to eat, like in pre-planning to go,” Magee said.
“Hey, we can go to this restaurant and we can modify this or this restaurant does have a vegan option so we’re good there,” she would tell whoever she was going with.
In Greater Lansing the vegan options are sparse, Magee said: “I tended to just go to those places that had those options.”
Veg Head, the vegan restaurant she’s teaming up to open in Lansing’s downtown with Shawn Elliott, a partner in Midtown Brewing Company and real estate developer, will offer a full vegan menu.
The menu is still being developed, but Magee aims to reimagine comfort classics, like burgers, nachos and tacos, with vegan ingredients.
What will that look like? Think banana blossom fish and chips, hibiscus tacos and “oyster mushrooms that taste like fried chicken,” Magee said.
Veg Head’s offerings will cater to everyone’s taste buds, even diners who eat meat, in a 3,000-square-foot space inside a 132-year-old building with a notable history.
“Our slogan is, there’s no harm in good food,” Magee said.
Occupying a historic space
The space at 208 S. Washington Ave. has been vacant for a year, said Elliott, who bought the building, built in 1890, two years ago.
Known as the Ranney Building, it was named after its original owner Dr. George E. Ranney, an advocate for public health who left the land that became Ranney Park to the city.
Elliott said he’s paid close attention to the historical details and history of the building during his efforts to renovate it.
When Veg Head opens later this summer, the restaurant’s design will feature exposed brick, high ceilings, earth tones and a “neutral palette,” he said.
Magee’s food will be at the heart of the business.
“Her passion for this food is infectious,” Elliott said. “It’s in her DNA. After two meetings with her, I thought this was the ideal partner for me to do this with and we had the building available.”
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Going vegan opened the creative floodgates for Magee, who was already creating vegan dishes for MSU when she adopted the diet herself.
The trick, she said, has always been to highlight vegetables and fruits in dishes that taste wonderful without utilizing meat.
“Then it’s also creating all you can out of that certain vegetable or fruit,” Magee said. “So kind of manipulating the vegetable to be something that you’re familiar with, maybe as a meat-eater or not, that tastes just as delicious.”
Veg Head offers a chance to bring those kinds of dishes to Lansing foodies, and she promises even those who aren’t vegan will love the menu.
“Having a platform to be able to express how delicious and beautiful fruits, veggies and grains are is a dream come true,” Magee said.
Veg Head will likely offer seating for about 45 people, she said, and an outdoor patio area is possible, too. Elliott and Magee are pursuing a liquor license, she said.
The eatery will likely employ about 25 people.
Elliott hopes to open by early July.
Contact Rachel Greco at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ .