Can Vegan Food Truly Be ‘Decadent’? This NJ Eatery Guarantees It

Brick City Vegan's founder and chef make plant-based food that’s eye-rollingly luscious.

Brick City Vegan head chef Emeka Onugha and founder Adenah Bayoh

From left: Brick City Vegan head chef Emeka Onugha and founder Adenah Bayoh Photo: Courtesy of Brick City Vegan

Do vegans take joy in food?

At the fast-casual Brick City Vegan in Newark and Montclair, they certainly do: relishing plant-based food that’s eye-rollingly luscious.

“People have this idea that vegan food is bland and boring,” says founder Adenah Bayoh. “But our diners tell us our food is amazing. And the majority of our customers aren’t even vegan—they just love what we make.”

Bayoh’s confidence is buoyed by her harrowing journey from Africa to Newark as well as her entrepreneurial track record. Schooled in business management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, she’s passionate about bringing high-quality dining and warm hospitality to urban communities. Her personal mission, she says, is “to help Black girls believe in themselves, follow their dreams and never let anyone say, ‘You can’t do this.’” Bayoh owns four Cornbread Farm to Soul restaurants (in Newark, Maplewood, Montclair and Brooklyn), a quartet of New Jersey IHOP franchises and several real-estate projects.

Brick City Vegan's biscuit burger

The vegan biscuit burger Photo: Courtesy of Brick City Vegan

In 2021, Bayoh opened Brick City Vegan in Newark, then called Urban Vegan. “The right food mid-pandemic was comforting, scratch-cooked to-go meals,” she says. Brick City Vegan’s Montclair location opened in December 2023, with both dine-in and takeout. “We’re very gratified by how welcoming Montclair has been,” Bayoh says.

Brick City Vegan’s chef, Emeka Onugha, is not surprised by the enthusiastic reception. The menu, he says, “is a delicious, decadent experience that happens to be plant-based.” Decadent, really? “Truly,” he affirms. “Our food bursts with richness and taste. Everything is house-made, piled with flavor upon flavor.”

[RELATED: The Best Vegan Restaurants in New Jersey]

Vegan patties (meatless burgers) are crafted from sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas or chickpeas. The vegan cheesesteak is brawny yet contains neither cheese nor steak. Power bowls are laden with fixings you choose, like BBQ pulled oats, fresh avocado and delectable sauces. Further temptation is provided by Southern biscuits, sweet potato fries, house fruit shakes and chocolate chip cookies. Says NJM’s dining editor, Jacqueline Mroz, “The sweet potato fries are just the right amount of crispy, and the California burger, made with Beyond Meat, has a great combination of flavors.”

Brick City Vegan's power bowl

The vegan power bowl Photo: Courtesy of Brick City Vegan

Like founder Bayoh, chef Onugha is a serial entrepreneur (he’s currently working on his own brunch concept) with an impressive degree (Rutgers Law) and African roots. His Nigerian family “climbed the ladder,” he says. “While my parents were going to school and building careers, we lived in Paterson, Newark, East Orange, South Orange, Maplewood,” he recalls. “My older sister, Tobe, and I used to play a game at home. We called it Restaurant. She’d tell me the menu. I’d order, say, filet mignon and soufflé. She’d serve me, oh, PB&J and yogurt with chocolate syrup. It was, honestly, a thrilling fantasy.” All the Onugha kids learned to cook. “Home was our restaurant, real or not,” Onugha says. “That’s what restaurants can do. There’s magic in every kind of well-made food. We deliver that magic at Brick City Vegan. It’s what keeps us going and our customers coming back.”

This time of year, as Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, Onugha is especially proud of Black cooks, who “have so often been in the kitchen and contributed so much to American cuisine,” he says. “Barbecue, Creole, soul food. Any food. And now vegan.”

[RELATED: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights Career Began at a Modest NJ Café]

Brick City Vegan, 2 South Willow Street, Montclair, 973-783-8342; 915 Broad Street, Newark, 973-733-0011. Follow the eatery on Instagram here.

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