Gay4U, a sister project to the forever closed Hella Vegan Eats that once lived at Oakland's Classic Cars West, opened for business last month inside Oakland’s Garden House, giving Bay Area gastronomes a new assortment of plant-based eats to sink their teeth into.
When the beloved Hella Vegan Eats served its last dish in February — the organic outcome some cutting of ties, both personally and professionally for the restaurant's co-owner, Sofi Espice (who previously identified as Silvi Peligras) — the Bay Area vegan community was left without a left-of-center, quirky, plant-based eatery that both locals and tourists flocked to. Thankfully, Espice was gung ho to carry the torch on elsewhere, prolifically popping up across East Bay at restaurants like Eli’s and Analog.
After a bit of trial and error, Gay4U officially opened in October, serving-up familiar crowd favorites like “chicken” tortilla soups and pepito salads by the paper plate-load in downtown Oakland. With the help of a fruitful GoFundMe campaign and the steadfast support of their community, Espice’s Gay4U is currently at Garden House’s Oakland address – which also hosts the Japanese fried fowl and izakaya establishment Aburaya-Go during weekday lunch hours – open and ready to make its chromatic stamp on East Bay's epicurean landscape.
Gay4U’s various menus are an homage to the treats once slung from Hella Vegan Eat’s kitchen. (Think damn good mac-’n’-cheese, meatless burgers, and dairy-free brunch fare.) And while Hella Vegan Eats was by no means synonymized with light calorie counts, Gay4U does, however, aim to be somewhat healthier, adding gut-friendly morsels and nutrient-dense bowled meals to their lunch, brunch, and dinner menus.
“There's an amazing salad, a whole quinoa rice bowl that's got braised kale,” Espice said to Ruth Gebreysus of KQED, though they still seem adamant on keeping the “fun, salty” delights that attracted ravenous foodies to their past project. “I'm incorporating a lot of lacto-fermented foods into everything so it's good for [digestion] and takes care of you while you're getting joy from it.”
Gay4U is more than just an eating destination: It’s also safe space for members of the LGBTQ+ community to meet, mingle, and feast. Espice – who, themself, is a first-generation brown trans individual – will offer free meals to any trans-POC (Person Of Color) at Gay4U.
"I identify as a trans person, I'm a person of color, [and I] want to be there for people who are like me,” Espice tells KQED. “I've had plenty of help along the way but it's not an easy endeavor to be me and to be who I want to be and do art and make food and be there for my community.”
Need any more reason to adore them? Espice will be giving away any leftover food from their business to the residents living in encampments in downtown and West Oakland.
Their previously mentioned GoFundMe campaign is still active until it reaches its goal of $5,000 in donations, and Espice assures donors that every cent will support their venture and helping to ensure “people in [local] encampments and also people in the [trans-POC] community [are fed].”
Gay4U is open at 380 15th Street Monday, Thursday and Friday from 6pm-10pm (9pm on Monday), Saturday from 11am to 2:30pm, 5pm to 10pm, and Sunday from 11am-2:30pm.
Image: Instagram via @gay4u.biz