Vegan Empire: Matthew Kenney’s Plant City Food Hall in Providence
BOSTON – If Forbes, the Economist, and the aggressively neurotic guy at the end of the bar say it, it must be true. 2019 is the “Year of the Vegan.” And despite polls indicating less than 5 percent of Americans adhere to a vegan diet, sales of plant-based meat alternatives increased 42 percent between 2016 and 2019 to a total of $888 million; indicating that while many Americans might not identify as vegan, they’re looking for healthy alternatives without sacrificing their love of… er, White Castle.
Locally however, 2019 has been heralded as the “Year of the Food Hall,” with no less than six different options to choose from within the greater Boston metro area scheduled to be operating by the end of this year. It only makes sense that eventually, someone would be enterprising enough to combine the two in what could best be dubbed the retail equivalent of dipping cacao nibs in almond butter.
So after two months of steady operations and filling a severely neglected niche, why haven’t you heard of Plant City before?
Well for one, a vegan food hall might not exactly compel the sort of fawning accolades only the marketing department of a “editorially curated” gourmand caterer might command. For another, it’s in Providence—a city which frequently gets overlooked in spite of possessing a well established and comparatively vibrant food culture.
“The demand for vegan cuisine in Providence, which is a small city compared to most, is surprisingly high,” Plant City owner and restarauteur Matthew Kenney told Forbes earlier this year. “You just wouldn’t know it because there aren’t enough businesses here that support or fuel that demand.”
“It can be a high-end, trendy and gourmet experience that captures the excitement and energy that flows through an upscale restaurant atmosphere.”
Kenney, a Best New Chef award winner from Food & Wine and two time Rising Star nominee from the James Beard Foundation, isn’t kidding about his vision of a plant-based empire being a high-end experience. What initially began in 2016 as a series of culinary academies with locations in New York, Barcelona, Sydney, Paris and London blossomed into a venture which Kenney projected would grow to $100 million by 2021, earning him a namesake restaurant at Neiman Marcus’ flagship store in Beverly Hills and investors from the likes of the Blackstone Group and allegedly, members of the Saudi Royal Family—despite a series curious scandals attaching themselves to some of his business ventures.
So, no… you’re not likely to find an Impossible Whopper at Plant City. The closest you might find is New Burger, Kenney’s plant-based reinterpretation of a burger joint. Keeping in line with the casual theme is Make Out, which offers the standard breakfast and lunch wraps and bowls with a specifically vegan twist. The Mexican inspired Bar Verde reinvents Latin American cuisine through Kenney’s herbivoric lens, while his Double Zero pizzeria has already earned a nod in the 2019 Michelin Guide as being both “sexy”, “urbane” and a “food nirvana” for its East Village location.
“Plant-based cuisine is so new in terms of relevancy,” Kenney told Eater earlier this week, “That I believe providing a concept which allows guests to visit and simply have a coffee, or commit to a sit-down dinner, will help expand the global awareness of how incredible plant-based foods can be if well prepared and at the same time, offer nutritious, conscientious food options.”
Plant City is located at 334 S. Water St in Providence, RI and is open Monday - Wednesday from 7:00 am - 11:00 pm, Thursday - Saturday from 7:00 am - 1:00 am and Sundays from 7:00 am - 12:00 am. For more information, visit www.matthewkenneycuisine.com/plant-city-pvd