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During chef Krystal Harris’ decade as a personal chef for professional basketball players, she’d often prepare meals at these athletes’ homes in Paradise Valley and Scottsdale. Now, she’s opened her new restaurant, Early Bird Vegan, at 17th Street and Broadway Road (1712 East Broadway Road, #3) near her home in south Phoenix so her community could enjoy the same healthful food as her former clients.
“We looked at different places around the Valley, including ‘Vegan Restaurant Road’ on Seventh Street, and it came down to me really wanting to go back to my roots and be here in south Phoenix,” Harris says. “We’re located in the largest populated food desert. People are getting food from the gas station, the mini-mart down the street, Circle K, and things like that. So, to be able to have an actual restaurant where people can get fresh, hot food – it’s life-changing.”
The restaurant is about 800 square feet. It’s a grab-and-go operation for now, with the potential to expand to allow outside dining. Harris, who also owns the Trash Panda Vegan food truck concept, says the size and the staff give Early Bird Vegan a neighborhood atmosphere.
“I think of us as a place where people can go for healthy vegan food,” Harris says. “Nourishing food that’s going to be great for the body, and great for the mind and soul because when you come in here, you’re going to have a great experience.”
Harris explains how the crew is a dedicated one. Employees often have the same mindset, “As far as living the vegan lifestyle and being compassionate,” as the customers.
The menu includes breakfast sandwiches, cold-pressed juices, superfood smoothies, pastries, and coffee from Phoenix-based Quetzal Co-Op. And customers have already elected a favorite item.
“Our No. 1 seller is our Dr. J breakfast sandwich,” Harris says.
This is a grilled sandwich with seasoned “egg” tofu and vegan sausage, cheese sauce made in-house, spicy ranch, tomato, spinach, and avocado. “People post about it, like, ‘I gotta have that Dr. J.’ We’re happy to provide something that’s comforting as well as good for you. It’s loaded up with veggies.”
In addition to breakfast and brunch menu items, Early Bird Vegan offers more post-lunch dishes like vegan tacos and lasagna, as well as soups on the weekend, which seems to appeal to some pickier eaters.
“Even really young kids definitely enjoy the food,” Harris says. “People come in and tell me they got this adult grilled cheese that has all these veggies on it for their 6-year-old, and I’m like, blown away.”
Harris also must acknowledge the pandemic, during which she’s opened a restaurant. However, she says the food and interaction with customers will hopefully shine through.
“People are dying around us every day with the pandemic, and people are worried about their health,” she says. “They want to know what they can do to better their health. So, we want to be able to be here, to educate them, and to help be a part of their journey.”
Early Bird Vegan is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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