You know a vegan spot is legitimate when people who aren’t vegan rave about the food. Ruse Vegan Kitchen is one of those places.
Ruse opened in April, when chef and owner Roo Abdel-Al began setting up at farmers’ markets and other Downtown venues. Word of her vegan lamb gyro—loaded with marinated onions, tomato, cucumber, spicy harissa and tahini tzatziki—spread quickly.
It wasn’t until a recent show Downtown that I tried Ruse for myself. My friend ordered the gyro ($7) and I tried a tofu satay taco and a beef chimichurri taco ($3.75 apiece). Everything was so good, we went back for a spicy Italian sausage ($6). It didn’t disappoint, either.
“I’ve always loved cooking,” Abdel-Al says. “My background is Arab, and all the clichés with big Arab dinners definitely hold true with my family.” Now 33, Abdel-Al went vegetarian at 18 and learned to cook plant-based food for herself. Eventually, she became so confident in her skills that she preferred her own food to that of most vegan restaurants.
Abdel-Al and her partner, Matt Frantom (a guitarist in local band Dark Black), prep everything—like the wheat and cannellini bean-based proteins—in a commercial kitchen, then load up their cars to sell at farmers’ markets or outside bars, where everything is cooked to order.
A behavioral analyst by day, Abdel-Al hopes to eventually find a co-op-style brick-and-mortar location for Ruse and create a program that would employ people with autism.
“I tried to start up vocational programs for kids on the spectrum, and it was really hard to get businesses involved,” she says. With Ruse, she’s hoping she can finally do it on her own. “I always tell my friends [running a business] is kind of like a dance,” Abdel-Al says. “I finally figured out the choreography of it all.”
Ruse Vegan Kitchen Check rusekitchen.com for upcoming locations.