This Downtown Brooklyn restaurant is bringing Dominican flair to vegan cuisine. Located at 88 Livingston Street between Court and Boerum Place, Next Stop Vegan brings vegan creativity to traditional Latin dishes as well to American favorites. The skill, heart, and ingenuity that goes into their food is not to be missed. We had a chance to speak with the co-owner of Next Stop Vegan, Blenlly Mena, to learn about the inspiration and mission that prompted the quick growth of the business.
DBP: Tell us a little about yourself and the story behind your business. How did it all get started?
Blenlly Mena (BM): I’m Dominican, born and raised in the Bronx. I’ve been vegan for about 8 years now, and the story of Next Stop Vegan began back in 2017. After living in South Korea for several years and cooking vegan food for myself and others, I came back to the Bronx, where I started my vegan food business. I brainstormed about how to make specifically Latin dishes, and my mother and my sister became huge influences in ‘vegan-izing’ popular Dominican dishes. In 2018 we created several well-loved dishes and became a popular vegan Dominican kitchen. After that we grew very fast. We started getting requests from my sister’s corporate world, my friends, neighbors, relatives, and people who were interested in vegan meals and curious about the health benefits of veganism. We grew so fast that we ended up getting a commercial space. At that point, we were delivering food all over the city and to New Jersey.
We continued to grow and became the face of veganism with a Dominican twist. It was a full collaboration with my mom, sister, nephews, and nieces. Everyone was chipping in, helping to deliver food, peeling potatoes – everyone was always doing something. It was a family environment; always very fun and welcoming.
DBP: Why did you choose Downtown Brooklyn as the new location for the expansion of Next Stop Vegan?
BM: We realized that in uptown Manhattan and the Bronx, we didn’t have a lot of vegan options (except our store). We came out to eat to Brooklyn often and it hit us that we had an opportunity to bring a new concept and flavors to Brooklyn. We originally looked at Greenpoint and Bushwick, but the universe led us here: in Downtown Brooklyn, and we couldn’t be happier.
DBP: What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?
BM: You need a support team that is genuine and has the best intentions for you – whether that is a family member, a friend, an investor, or someone who believes in you, to start any business. If you have something unique and different, there will always be a demand for it.
DBP: What is the most popular menu item?
BM: Here in Brooklyn, the most popular item is one that Javier created called the Twisted Burrito. The dish happened during a lunch break. He told one of the chefs to throw in this and that, then grill it. We put it on the menu and people loved it. The Cesar’s Philly Cheesesteak made with mushrooms is also pretty popular.
DBP: What is Next Stop Vegan’s mission and how is it communicated to your customers?
BM: The mission is to cook 100% with love and creativity without compromising our Latin flavors so that our clients are able to celebrate and enjoy the wonders of vegan food.
DBP: Give us some insight on what’s in store for Next Stop Vegan — we’re curious!
BM: We are working to utilize the space as a vegan market with our product lines. We make a lot of amazing sauces, snacks, empanadas, drinks, and juices. We want to create an in-house line and hopefully expand into retail. We also want to continue to expand slowly but surely. I feel like every borough can use a go-to vegan hub.
Whether you’re vegan or not, Next Stop Vegan is a must-try that is putting a whole new spin on vegan dining and marketplace options. Be sure to stop by when you’re in Downtown Brooklyn, and post a photo of your visit to social media using #DowntownBrooklyn to be featured by us.