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Vegan culture taking root in San Antonio

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San Antonio’s vegan scene is growing, with more places to dine and find products for a plant-based lifestyle.

A vegan is someone who chooses not to eat or use animal products, including meat, dairy and leather goods.

“Even I can’t keep up with the products that are coming out on the market,” said Kimberly Lewis, co-founder of the San Antonio Vegan Society.

At least eight vegan eateries, including a food trailer and a co-op, are operating in San Antonio, with more likely on the way.

They are Tapatio Vegan Tacos, Earth Burger, La Botanica, Thai Vegan, Munch On And Beyond co-op, Señor Veggie, Sideshow Kitchen and Viva Vegeria.

People pursuing a vegan lifestyle do so for many reasons. They are often motivated by the treatment of animals, a concern for the environment or their own health.

Typically, vegan fare is higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins C and E, and active compounds in plants called phytochemicals, according to Jennifer Strang, a registered dietitian.

“Vegan diets tend to be lower in calories and saturated fat, which help with weight loss. However, if you are thinking of going vegan, be aware that this lifestyle requires proper research, planning and discipline,” Strang said.

Though more studies are needed, some experts say vegan diets may help borderline diabetics, and could also protect against cancer and other diseases.

Strang recommends that people interested in a vegan diet make an appointment with a nutrition specialist. Like any food regimen, there is a possibility of developing nutritional deficiencies.

DINING

Options for finding vegan meals at restaurants are growing slowly but steadily.

Thai Vegan is the most recent eatery to open; it debuted in the Shops at Churchill Estates, 15614 Huebner Road, Suite 113, in December. The menu boasts authentic Thai food, according to the owners, chef Keskarn Tongrian and her husband, Subin Philuk, who have been vegans for years.

The kitchen cooks up Thai favorites and classics using tofu and “fake” chicken and shrimp, while eschewing staples such as fish sauce.

Based on what she’s witnessed at Thai Vegan, sous-chef Yupin Keojorhor believes people’s minds can be changed about a plant diet.

“I think people need to kind of open their minds to it. They need to be more accepting and they need to be more willing to try it because everything is good,” Keojorhor said.

Co-owners Lauren O’Connor and Kia Geronimo of Cake Thieves Bakery, as well as Raza Eats, created Vegan Stop Shop at Brick at Blue Star Arts Complex last fall.

They organized the Stop Shop to honor World Vegan Day, celebrated on Nov. 1.

“It’s really amazing to see. I didn’t know that that community existed here. They, like, came out from the woodwork the past year,” said O’Connor, whose Cake Thieves offers vegan doughnuts.

What was supposed to be a part-time deal turned into a monthly event featuring 30 vendors selling food, vintage clothing and handmade items in the King William Historic District. It’s held 6-9 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month.

Go Vegan SA, Raza Eats, Miss Chickpea’s Bakeshop, Hip Peaz Vegan Eats, Snack Jack, Enlighten Veggie Food To Go and Tres Veg Boyz are just a few of the vendors at the Stop Shop.

If you are “vegan curious,” now is a great time to test the waters, O’Connor said, adding the Stop Shop, at 108 Blue Star St., is a good place to start.

Geronimo and O’Connor have been working together almost two years.

“It’s just nice to have that kind of community and support. It’s been a big surprise. When we started doing this, I didn’t expect that there was that many people here, or curious about it,” Geronimo said.

Cake Thieves Bakery is moving to a brick-and-mortar location at 1602 E. Houston St. with a planned fall opening. The shop’s baked goods can be found at coffee houses around town, including White Elephant Coffee Co., Mila Coffee, Berry to Bean Coffee House and Bee’s Neez Cones & Coffee, and at Larder in Hotel Emma on weekends.

GOING VEGAN

The Vegan Society’s Lewis said those who make the switch should consider being vegan as a lifetime journey.

“They’re going to feel better. It’s a step up. It’s a broadening of your mind,” said Lewis, a 32-year vegan.

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