Small Business Spotlight: Trio Plant-Based
By: Cirien Saadeh, PhD., Community Journalist
Trio Plant-Based offers vegan comfort food in a welcoming space with an environmental and social justice edge
When you first walk into Trio Plant-Based (Trio) you might be struck by just how welcoming it feels. The small space is full of tables, leaf designs are imprinted onto the walls, there’s numerous electrical outlets, and the air smells like half-a-dozen plant-based menu items which, if you’re lucky, may include their maple-vanilla cupcakes.
Trio, currently owned by Louis Hunter, opened in Sept. 2018 for dinner and expanded for lunch in Oct. 2018. It’s one of the only Black-owned vegan restaurants in Minnesota and offers vegan comfort food and recently launched a new menu which highlights its soul food platters and bowls, a variety of burgers, and covered fries.
“We are veganizing my family recipes,” said Hunter. “This is not some elegant vegan restaurant. It’s comfort food. It’s a place to go, to be comfortable, to socialize, and to embrace a meal.”
Hunter had opened up Trio alongside his business partners Sarah and Dan Woodcock, but Hunter says they left the business to him in early 2019.
“At first I framed it as reparations, but it was also a racist act because of the crushing debt I was left with,” said Hunter.
Attempts were made to reach Sarah and Dan Woodcock, but they could not be reached.
Hunter also noted that a rough winter, alongside a freezer and heat that both broke, had left the restaurant in a rough place.
“The first couple of months was amazing, but we took a financial fall in February. Trio was in a bad place for that first month after I became sole owner because of the finances and debt that we have. But now every day gets better,” said Hunter.
Trio also just launched a new menu, the brainchild of its new chef, Mykela Jackson. Jackson began working at Trio just over a month ago and has been a chef for the last eighteen months.
“I wanted something that would make people want to come in here and try vegan food. I felt like there’s nothing in Minnesota that’s outrageous and kind of LA-style like the Mac Attack Burger, which is mac and cheese topped on a burger,” said Jackson. “I really wanted to make it vegan junk food, but also provide a few alkaline options as well, because I’m alkaline plant-based. I really just wanted to bring something completely new to Minnesota that hasn’t been done for vegans or non-vegans.”
As for food recommendations, General Manager Madi Rean recommends the Mac Attack Burger with fries and Trio’s ranch dressing and Assistant Manager Talia Newlun recommends that buffalo chicken wrap.
“Everything here is just filled with flavor,” said Newlun.
Both recommend Trio for its welcoming spirit and sense of innovation, though they note that the work has not been without its difficulties. Both came to Trio with extensive retail experience, but no restaurant experience and Rean, for example, started as a busser when Trio first opened.
“It’s not the customers that make it hard. It’s just the things with running a restaurant: ordering inventory, cleaning, and when we first started we did not really have any standards. We did not have an employee handbook until Talia and I made one,” said Rean.
Aside from the food, Hunter has been hosting dinner discussions to discuss black entrepreneurship and ways to support those businesses and sharing a short documentary that Hunter produced about his advocacy.
The restaurant has also launched a GoFundMe aimed at helping Hunter pay off some of Trio’s debt, as well as to help with employee salaries and professional development opportunities for Hunter.
Hunter’s hopes to eventually have a Trio farm and to own the building where Trio is located.
“In less than five years, my dream is to own a building and to build a garden on top. In seven years, I would like to open a small farm. I want to hire teenagers, teenage boys, to work the farm,” said Hunter.
Trio is located at 610 W Lake St. in Minneapolis. It’s closed on Mondays and open 5pm-9pm on Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11am-10pm on Friday and Saturday, and 11am-9pm on Sundays. For more information on Trio, you can visit: https://www.trioplantbased.com/
The Small Business Spotlight is a monthly feature that highlights community-owned businesses. Chosen businesses are highlighted by community members and must be from within the Twin Cities and surrounding region. To nominate a business, email firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name, contact information, the name of the business you are nominating and a few sentences about why you are nominating them.