Fried chic’n drumsticks, mac n’ cheeze, cornbread, yams -— just hearing that list is enough to make your mouth water. Charlotte is no stranger to classic Southern food, but it isn’t your everyday classic Southern food — it’s all 100% vegan.
In addition to making vegan cuisine, VelTree has hosted open mic nights for spoken word artists and performers, and intimate concerts featuring Ayanna Gregory, continually seeking to create a cultural and communal place where everyone feels welcomed. Now, the University City restaurant is holding Charlotte’s first NC Soul-Full Vegan Fest, which sold out, and they’re even looking for a second location.
“Our mission is simply to provide plant-based food that feeds not only the body but also the soul,” chef and co-owner Velvet Kelty-Jacobs shared. Participants who got advance tickets for the festival are sure to get plenty of both Sunday, May 26 at the noon-8 p.m. event at Heist Brewery Barrel Arts, 1030 Woodward Ave.
After co-owning a vegan cafe in Maryland with her family, Kelty-Jacobs and Tree Kelty-Jacobs moved to Charlotte about a year ago. Noticing there were no vegan soul food options in the Queen City, the two combined their names to create and open the city’s first black-women-owned vegan soul food cafe.
Having two vegan restaurants under her belt might make you think the two have been vegan their entire lives, but that’s not the case. “A beautiful 17 years,” Velvet Kelty-Jacobs answered.
“My sister (who was the biggest carnivore) went vegan and “converted” me. When she got pregnant, I had to learn how to care and cook for my nieces and nephews (who have all been vegan since birth; the oldest is 22). Also, as a child I never really liked meat. My mother will tell you the story of finding meat in my pockets because I refused to eat it during dinner,” she said, recounting her reasons for going vegan.
Since opening their doors in October 2018, their signature chic’n drumsticks have been consistently selling out to both vegans and carnivores alike and receiving much praise from celebrities, including Anthony Hamilton, Cam Newton, Erykah Badu, Nick Cannon and more.
Favorites on the menu? Kelty-Jacobs said she’s a little biased, but the ribz, jerk chic’n, potato salad — and of course their famous mac n’ cheeze — are some of her absolute favorites.