The West End ATL mural on White Street. (Provided by Discover Atlanta/Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau)

The West End ATL mural on White Street.

Credit: Provided by Discover Atlanta/Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

While growing in popularity across America, vegan restaurants aren’t new to many Atlanta communities. Although the city has seen an increase in plant-based restaurants over the last decade, veganism has deep roots in the city’s westside neighborhoods, dating back decades. This is especially true in West End, where veganism is fostered through the relationship between restaurants and customers and an intense need to feed the community.

After the Civil War, half of West End’s population was Black, largely due to the surge of free Black migrants to the area and its proximity to Atlanta University. Established in 1865 by the American Missionary Association, the school would become the first in the nation to award degrees to Black people. In 1988, Atlanta University merged with Clark College to become Clark Atlanta University.  

“Atlanta is the cultural and spiritual heartbeat of African-American life,” said Tassili Ma’at, owner of Tassili’s Raw Reality Cafe in West End. “Back in the day, there was no such word as ‘vegan’. It was vegetarian. Veganism came about due to the animal rights movement.”

“In the 1990s up to mid-2000, the West End had very identifiable, vibrant clusters of various religious and spiritual groups involved in the community. Spirituality and culture became the foundation of a way of life,” she explained. “My goal is to use food as medicine deliciously.” 

Tassili’s Raw Reality Café owner Tassili Ma’at. (Photo by Hakim Wilson/Photo Brothers Media)

Tassili’s Raw Reality Café owner Tassili Ma’at.

Credit: Hakim Wilson/Photo Brothers Media

According to Traci Thomas, founder of the Black Vegetarian Society of Georgia, veganism is at the heart of the West End community because longtime residents strengthen interpersonal bonds through education. 

“African Americans have developed our unique, beautiful culture and history that I think the West End draws upon in terms of heritage and culture,” said Sariyah Benoit, Spelman College garden specialist and educator. “Thinking about the Black Panther Party and the Free Breakfast Program, this call to feed our community, to serve our community through accessible food and safe spaces where we can consume the food and feel taken care of, I think that’s a heritage that the West End is cultivating very beautifully.”

The Spelman archives contain photos of students tilling a garden on campus, said Benoit, including one image taken in front of Giles Hall without a gate. The lack of a gate is significant. It meant the college had a closer connection to the community beyond its campus. 

“Whenever there’s an urban garden, an urban farm, and no gate, the community is getting fed. It wasn’t only the students here on this campus, but [the community] is getting fed,” she said. 

The combination of heritage, operating from political rebellion, and consuming good food can be seen when customers stand in line and create pockets of safe spaces in and out of the restaurants in West End. 

Benoit said much of this can be seen in the Black communities living in and around West End, who often share resources, including food. Veganism, grocery cooperatives, and vegan restaurants in these communities, she said, are “people-driven” and “grassroots solutions” for neighborhoods often politically and economically neglected. This neglect often leads to the development of food apartheid within many Black neighborhoods. 

Spicy Kale and pad thai noodles. (Provided by Tassili’s Raw Reality Café)

Spicy Kale and pad thai noodles.

Credit: Provided by Tassili’s Raw Reality Café

Foundational restaurants like Soul Vegetarian and Tassili’s Raw Reality Café in West End are more than just places to eat, they’re operating as centers for food justice and community spaces. Restaurants like these might also sell books and host educational and political events to engage with area residents.

“Information is shared in line while people are waiting and when people are eating in restaurants. They’re all within walking distance of where people are physically organizing,” Benoit said. “You start talking about housing and gentrification. Then you start talking about politics and not necessarily lobbying, but trying to educate the community with political education.”

“This is a rare walkable part of the city,” she added. “That ability to walk around, grab some food, feed yourself, talk over some food, that’s all possible in the West End.”

Below are three West End vegan restaurants to know, along with three new Atlanta restaurants to check out continuing the city’s longstanding vegan food legacy. 


Three West End vegan restaurants to know

Soul Vegetarian #1 
879 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, West End

Soul Vegetarian has been a staple in the West End community for vegan food. Opened in 1979, and operating under the auspices of the Hebrew Israelite Community of Jerusalem, it originally resided on Peachtree Street before relocating to the West End. Here, you’ll find everything from vegan pizza and battered cauliflower to meatless brunch specials and the restaurant’s signature kalebone, an exclusive protein recipe made from wheat gluten and all-natural spices. There’s also a location of Soul Vegetarian in Poncey-Highland. 

Tassili’s Raw Reality Café
1059 Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, West End

Tassili’s Raw Reality Café opened in 2011 and quickly became one of West End’s vegan restaurant institutions. The restaurant specializes in raw vegan dishes, and its core purpose is to help customers achieve optimal health through nourishing food. Owner Tassili Ma’at’s menu contains savory dishes such as kale wraps, kale salads, and other signature raw dishes like Moroccan couscous, vegan pad thai noodles, and curried plantains. If you’re craving something sweet, there’s banana coconut cream pie and mango cream pie for dessert. Fresh juices include carrot ginger, sorrel, and very berry blast. 

Chickpea patties, mac un-cheese made with cashew milk, collard greens, and plantains. (Provided by Healthful Essence)

Chickpea patties, mac un-cheese made with cashew milk, collard greens, and plantains.

Credit: Provided by Healthful Essence

Healthfull Essence
875 York Avenue, West End

Operating since 2008, Princess Dixon and Kwadwo Kephera offer a diverse menu of vegan Caribbean dishes featuring cooked and raw food such as curried un-goat, barbecue tofu, brown stew un-fish, nori rolls, and more. These dishes are colorful and packed with flavor, too, including the curried vegetables and lasagna. Be sure to order a smoothie, fresh sorrel juice, or fruit moss drink to pair with your meal. 


Three new-school Atlanta vegan restaurants to know

Local Green Atlanta
19 Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, Vine City

Local Green Atlanta resides in the westside neighborhood of Vine City, an area of Atlanta considered the cradle of the Civil Rights movement. What started as a food truck in 2018 by Atlanta hip-hop industry veteran Zachary “Big Zak” Wallace, blossomed into a restaurant serving vegan and vegetarian dishes like barbecue jackfruit sliders, vegan pizza, and a quinoa and mixed greens salad named for former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottom. Part of Wallace’s mission with Local Green is to continue reducing health disparities and food deserts in underserved communities by providing healthier food choices. 

Seafood rasta pasta tossed with mango salsa, chimichurri, and “shrimp” made from konjac and Majestea sorrel herbal tea at Life Bistro. (Photo by Isadora Pennington)

Seafood rasta pasta tossed with mango salsa, chimichurri, and “shrimp” made from konjac and Majestea sorrel herbal tea at Life Bistro.

Credit: Isadora Pennington

Life Bistro
2036 Sylvan Road, Sylvan Hills

Chef and owner Issa Prescott opened Life Bistro in 2016. The native Atlantan grew up in Sylvan Hills and wanted to provide his neighbors with an affordable vegan restaurant offering healthier food choices. The menu at Life Bistro features everything from seafood gumbo made with konjac shrimp and a portobello mushroom Philly to grilled oyster mushroom carbonara and sorrel herbal tea made by local Black-owned brand Majestea. Later this year, Prescott will open a vegan restaurant stall at the upcoming Switchman Hall food hall in Peoplestown.

La Semilla
780 Memorial Drive, Reynoldstown

Chef Reid Trapani and Sophia Marchese took their popular vegan pop-up, Happy Seed, permanent in 2023, opening vegan restaurant La Semilla in Reynoldstown. It’s since been lauded as one of Atlanta’s best new restaurants. Serving a menu of vegan Latin American and Cuban dishes, look for vegan chicken tamals, croquetas de jamon made with seitan ham, and entrees like bistec de palomilla using local Lion’s Mane mushrooms. Be sure to also order the sikil pak (spicy pumpkin seed and tomato dip) served with tortilla chips and the chochoyotes (masa dumplings with corn puree). The bar offers classic cocktails, natural and biodynamic wines, local beer, and non-alcoholic drinks. The lively atmosphere and flavor-packed food will keep you coming back again and again. Reservations highly encouraged.

Chochoyotes (masa dumplings with corn puree). (Provided by La Semilla)

Chochoyotes (masa dumplings with corn puree).

Credit: Provided by La Semilla

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Rough Draft Atlanta.