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$20 Dinner

Next Stop Vegan Brings Next-Level Plant-Based Dominican Food To Downtown Brooklyn

There's vegan comfort food galore at this new counter-service charmer.

A cross section of a vegan chimi.

Chimi, $11.99 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

A plant-based lifestyle didn't come naturally to Blenlly Mena, the co-owner, with her boyfriend Javier Saba, of Next Stop Vegan, which just opened its second location in Downtown Brooklyn near Court Street. "I was born and raised in the Bronx, Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge," Mena told Hell Gate. "Veganism was not a thing in my upbringing." 

But when her father passed away right before she graduated college, Mena said she "started to take an interest in healthier eating" and, in 2014, adopted a plant-based diet "as an experiment" and it changed her life. "It reversed my cholesterol," she said. "I lost drastic weight, and experienced an amazing transformation. Next Step Vegan arose from that whole journey."  

Mena's first venture was in the Bronx, though it was more of a "vegan meal-prep business" than a restaurant, and has since closed. Then in the summer of 2021 she and Saba opened a counter-service version of Next Stop Vegan in Washington Heights, "right in the middle of all these pernil places, roasting chickens in the window, and chicharrones," and it's been a hit. So much so that the pair have already expanded with this charming spot on Livingston Street, on the border of Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn.

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

Next Stop Vegan stars an impressively lengthy menu of comfort food classics, and everything is made from plant-based ingredients. There are Chickn' Tenders with fries, for example, and a Pulled 'Pork' sandwich, a bacon cheeseburger-ish creation called the Veganator, and a Philly Cheesesteak.     

Restaurants built around these sorts of "vegan gateway" dishes for the curious have become increasingly common over the past few years, at places like the rowdy Slutty Vegan in Fort Greene, the activism-minded Grilled! in Bushwick, and Amanda "Dirt Candy" Cohen's Lekka Burger in Tribeca. But what distinguishes Next Stop Vegan from those spots is that most of the menu here skews toward vegan versions of Mexican or Dominican favorites. 

For example, there's a terrific take on the Dominican street-food sandwich called the chimi, with the usual beef or pork patty swapped out for a housemade black bean and brown rice concoction that brings plenty of life to the party. It's basically a burger, but on soft Portuguese bread, and topped with crisp cabbage, tomato, and a lively orange chimichurri sauce. (You can also get this messy beast sandwiched between fried tostones instead of bread, but we wouldn't call it "healthy.")

The Twisted Burrito, $15.99 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

There's some good vegan stoner food here as well, including a "twisted burrito" packed with grilled portobellos, creamy mac-n-cheese, seasoned ground fake-beef, chunky pico de gallo, avocado, soy cheese, and several sauces, all accompanied, perhaps unnecessarily, by tortilla chips. It's a belly bomb for sure.

El Plato with portobello mushroom pepper steak, $15.99 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

For a more traditional and equally hearty meal, order El Plato, a classic lunch-counter rice-and-beans platter with sweet, sticky plantains, avocado salad, and hunks of portobello done up pepper steak-style. Those plantains can also be ordered as a side, and they are caramelized to perfection. 

There are tostadas, tacos, nachos, loaded-up vegan mofunguitos—we could go on, and we promise you won't get bored at Next Stop Vegan. And the beverage selection is inspired, with everything from homemade juices (guava, soursop, and passion fruit) to kombucha to Coco Rico and Jarritos.

Sweet plantains, $4.99 (Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)

The space itself is cute and welcoming, with lots of personal touches like plastic flowers hanging from the ceiling, chalk murals, board games, books about crystals and such, and cute dioramas starring happy animals who aren't being slaughtered and eaten. Mena and Saba are opening a vegan grocery area as well.     

"Javier is the visionary," said Mena. "All the little intricate details are his, bringing love and creativity to create a space where we could come together and have a good time. You're saving the planet, you're saving your health, you're saving so many animals."

The new Next Stop Vegan is located at 88 Livingston Street, between Court Street and Boerum Place, and is currently open Monday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 to 9:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:00 to 6:00 (917-966-6066) 

(Scott Lynch / Hell Gate)
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