Fargo's Green House Café is the first vegan restaurant in North Dakota, leaving just 3 states in the US without their own vegan restaurant

The USA has just gone from having 4 states without a single vegan restaurant to just 3 out of 50. Fargo, in North Dakota, saw the opening of its very first vegan restaurant, Green House Café, leaving just South Dakota, Wyoming and Arkansas to be awaiting one.

The reason for opening the restaurant is perhaps fairly obvious given that the United States Census Bureau estimated that North Dakota had a population of 756,927 people as of July 2015, yet 0 vegan restaurants. Joey Haynes, owner of the Green House Café, explains, “the Fargo population is growing very quickly, and that just means the vegan community is growing quickly too.” 

The Green House Café based in Fargo is the first vegan restaurant in North Dakota.

The Green House Café based in Fargo is the first vegan restaurant in North Dakota.

Furthermore it isn’t as if their food hasn’t earned itself a permanent spot after its popularity at the Red River Farmers Market at Joey and Abby’s temporary food stand, where it became a local favourite. The new address is 68 Broadway in downtown Fargo, open 7am-9pm Tuesday to Friday, 7am-3pm Monday and 9am-9pm Saturday.

Launching the Green House Café

It comes after the creation of a Kickstarter campaign by Joey & Abby Haynes. The project launched on July 15th 2016 and by 4th August they had beaten their $10,000 target with a total of $10,050 from 118 backers, with an anonymous backer announcing they would match any donations up to $2,500 3 days before the end of the campaign. There were rewards for donations such as having your name on the opening menu for pledging $10, a tree planted if you reach $25, as well as a t-shirt at $50, a soft opening invite at $100, plus a private dinner for 2 prepared by the head chef at $250. You could get all of the above, as well as your name listed on a permanent plaque in the restaurant for $1,000. There were 35 backers from Fargo but the support spread much, much wider with supporters from several other states in America as well as other countries, including Canada, Ecuador, Japan, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and the United Republic of Tanzania. This just goes to show the supportive nature of the vegan community.

Green House Café experienced plenty of fanfare when it opened, being featured in a lot of press including Fox News.

Green House Café experienced plenty of fanfare when it opened, being featured in a lot of press including Fox News.

Eating at the Green House Café

The café will offer breakfast, Saturday brunch, lunch and dinner deriving as many ingredients from local sources as possible. Haynes explained that about half of the café’s produce is taken from the farmers market and that they hope to soon be getting deliveries from local farmers too, though they can’t use local produce alone due to the fact that some grains and fruits cannot be grown in the area.

They also hope to get involved in the local community in other ways. Joey Haynes says “we’re a really community-based company so we’re going to be a part of the community with all we can do. From having local artists, local musicians, work with places like the Great Plains Food Bank and WIC for women, infants and children to bring in underprivileged families for inexpensive meals”. In the future they hope Monday nights will be a time to host open mic and work with the food bank.

What's on the menu?

What about the food? Specialities includes wholefood grain bowls which are either Asian inspired with onions, carrots, cabbage, orange-ginger sauce, scallions and chowmein or BBQ flavoured with pepper, black beans, onions, grilled corn, barbecue sauce and fried onions.

You can also find roasted vegetables, veggie burgers, biscuits and gravy, mac 'n' cheese, scones and peanut butter and jelly bread amongst other baked goods and desserts supplied by Lucid Bakery’s Emily Swedberg.

Whether it's a full meal, or just a hot drink and a cookie, Green House Café has got you covered.

Whether it's a full meal, or just a hot drink and a cookie, Green House Café has got you covered.

Brunch options include the likes of pancakes, French toast or tofu scramble to name a few, with lunch including a daily soup among other quick and healthy choices for those in a rush, whilst dinner offers simple meals as well as casual to fine dining options.

Drinkswise there’s plenty, including refreshing mango lemonade or locally crafted beer. To top it off, lots of other dietary needs are met, with soya free items available and about 70% of the menu being gluten free. If you follow the Green House Cafe on Facebook you can see for yourself, with regular pictures of the tasty treats.

It seems that the café has gathered a bit of Fargo fame and popularity too having been aired on Fox News and getting selected as a ‘project we love’ by the staff at Kickstarter. A little over a week before opening up they also hosted a private dinner for Demetrius J Bagley and some friends, who is the producer of Vegucated. Not bad for the first 2 months of set up and business!

Bringing vegan food to North Dakota

North Dakota, situated within the Great Plains, in the northwest region of the Midwest, is one of the last states to gain a vegan restaurant perhaps in part due to its heavy involvement in animal agriculture. According to the Dickinson Press, in 2014 it became the ninth largest state for beef cows in the USA. The Green House Café’s Kickstarter states “North Dakota’s farming industry is huge. A lot of the crops grown in North Dakota are used to feed livestock, when they could be used to feed people. By having a plant-based menu, we will allow guests to enjoy a delicious meal and great experience while reducing animal suffering, limiting environmental damage & increasing their health.”  

Confidently, Joey Haynes says, “All you gotta do is come in and let us show you that our burgers are going to be as good as any other burgers you can find”. Whilst the addition to Fargo is excellent news, hopefully there will be a few more arrivals yet given that it takes approximately 5 hours to drive across North Dakota, which is perhaps a little too far even for the most delicious of Saturday brunches.

The vegan scene in North America

Nonetheless, despite being a first for the state, Green House Café is in no way a vegan restaurant debut for America. According to the Happy Cow directory for New York City there are 40 vegan restaurants, excluding those that are veggie. They also suggest that there are 7009 vegan-friendly restaurants across the USA, with 15,800 if you include those that are veggie-friendly. Major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Philadelphia have plenty of vegan businesses but it is in America’s heartland that numbers decline.

Hopefully this is just the beginning of many new developments, though, especially given that the Dickinson Press saw a national rapid decline of beef sales during 2014. Indeed according to Fortune, red meat consumption has actually been falling for the last 40 or so years since the 1970s. Given the recent publication from the World Health Organization that described processed meats as carcinogenic, this could further exacerbate the decline. Let’s hope Green House Café with delicious food, a good imagination and a chef with 8 years kitchen experience under his belt can push that drop even further. See you in North Dakota!