New vegan restaurant coming to Garnett

Apr. 19—HENDERSON — Although there's no sign just yet, Garnett Street is about to get another food option in the form of Vegan Mami.

Maria LeMay-Bey signed the lease for the space at 125 South Garnett Street in March and hopes to open in late May.

As the name implies, LeMay-Bey plans to serve vegan options like Puerto Rican, American and Southern soul food, pizza, ice cream, meat and beauty products.

Vegan... meat? In a sense — it'll be imitation meat made of fried wheat gluten, seasoned to taste.

Meats tend not to have much flavor. "Everything you like about [them]? The seasoning," she said.

Imitation meat can help people transitioning to veganism kick their old meat-eating habits, said LeMay-Bey, which is doubly important given the context.

There are few vegan offerings in Henderson, meaning, among vegans in town, there are likely to be more than a few people just setting out on their journey to an animal product-free diet, so to speak.

LeMay Bey discovered veganism in her 20s, when she had diabetes, she said — now, she swears by it. Her children came up with the name for the restaurant — they're more devout than their mother, LeMay-Bey joked.

Born in Henderson, she moved up to New York City as a kid and only recently moved back. Her mother served in the military as a chef, so LeMay-Bey grew up a chef. She joked that she was ServSafe certified at seven years old. When she sought a certification some years ago, she felt as though she was retracing her steps.

The spot on Garnett isn't her first foray into the world of vegan establishments. LeMay-Bey operated a place out in Detroit for a spell before moving back to her hometown. Living in NYC for so long, she said she felt a bit rude nowadays.

Passersby in the Big Apple tend not to strike up random conversations with each other, or even acknowledge one another, in the same way people in smaller towns do. For many in NYC and other large cities, it's friendlier to leave strangers alone.

Looking around Garnett Street that balmy April day, LeMay-Bey said she had never belonged anywhere else.