Guilt-Free Soul Food in San Antonio – San Antonio Magazine
Tia Rodriguez was working as an HR recruiter back in 2017 when she had the idea to start her own plant-based business. She’d been following a vegan diet for a full year at that point and was grateful for the health benefits that she and her family had already seen.
“I have experienced deep losses in my family due to poor diet and lifestyle. My grandma passed from diabetes, my aunt from cancer, my mother, as well,” she says. “In addition, my son has sickle cell disease, so this journey is definitely personal. I changed my entire life and I wanted to create comfort food options that would help people transition into a healthier lifestyle.”
She began testing plant-based recipes inspired by the classic American and African American comfort food dishes that her family has long loved with the goal of creating items that would satisfy everyone. Her test: She’d offer an entrée to a skeptical non-vegan without saying a word about the ingredients. She’d wait until they dug in and told her how good the food was. “Then I’d say, ‘You know you just ate vegan, right?’” she says.
Urban Soul Market officially opened in 2019, offering a 100 percent vegan menu. Dishes include the Urban Soulfood Platter that can feature crab cake, fried “chkn” or fried mushrooms plus two traditional sides, from collard greens or yams to creamy mac ’n cheese or cream spinach, all made without dairy or meat products. Other popular items include barbecue jackfruit nachos, chopped “cheese” empanadas, fried “chikn” and peach cobbler.
Rodriguez says the baked mac ’n cheese is a crowd favorite since it fills that craving for cheese, which is often what people miss most as they transition to a vegan lifestyle.
She recently partnered with Alamo City Cakes to expand the dessert menu to include options like red velvet mini-cakes and banana pudding cake.
There’s no physical dining room to sit in and enjoy the menu just yet, but Rodriguez hopes to expand to that in the future. For now, her comfort food is available for curbside pickup, delivery or through catering services.
And while the pandemic has certainly posed challenges for the business, Rodriguez says Urban Soul also saw a surge of new support in 2020 when more locals began consciously frequenting Black-owned businesses.
“Challenges are something that I am used to being a woman of color. We adapt and overcome. It’s definitely not easy but I have a great support system. I do feel supported by our community and I appreciate the love,” she says. “I love that I come from a family of cooking women. Cooking for me is therapeutic and it connects me to the memories of my family members who have passed on and those who live far away. It’s my happy place.”
Published at Wed, 31 Mar 2021 22:24:17 +0000