There are many reasons to become vegan, including health and environmental concerns. For father and son Akindele and Akindeji Bankole—two of the five owners of Veg on the Edge, those are both important, but the most important reason, as they see it, is to encourage compassion. For vegans in Santa Cruz, the new Abbott Square spot brings more than just meat-free dishes—the food is eclectic and totally unique. Many of the dishes are inspired by West African recipes (Akindele is from Nigeria). We talked to Akindeji to learn a bit more about why vegans and non-vegans alike should swing by Veg on the Edge.
Are you guys 100 percent vegan?
AKINDEJI BANKOLE: Yes. We’re 100 percent vegan, 100 percent gluten-free and kosher. I became vegan, personally, about a month and a half ago. And my dad, he’s been vegetarian for 15-plus years. He became a vegan more strictly a couple years ago. For us, it’s just about the compassion element of it: compassion for animals, compassion for people. Having compassion in all aspects. We want to give people an option, some really good-tasting food that you know is safe.
Would you call your dishes strictly West African, or fusion?
It’s West African-influenced, not all dishes are West African. The thing is we want to toe the line of the American taste buds. My dad’s Nigerian. There are things that they eat over there in Nigeria that are not really going to go over well for most Americans, like okra with pounded yams. Some of the things we’re doing are staples for West African dishes. Like our Jollof rice is a thing that people eat all the time. Plantain Logs. We’re doing them a little differently. We’re making them almost into French fries. In Nigeria, they’d cut them into fourths and fry them. So we’re putting our own spin on all these dishes. Something that a lot of people like is our Moin Moin. It’s sort of like a tamale, but made with black eyed peas. We create a mushroom sauce we put over it. It’s really good, the combination. That’s a dish that’s usually wrapped in a banana leaf in Nigeria. It’s one of our top sellers.
What are potato balls?
That’s not a West African dish at all. Those are eaten in a lot of other places. In Europe. In South America, they have their own versions of potato balls. That’s just something that Americans don’t have. What we do is we sautée red onions, mustard seed, and we mix that together with red potatoes and a little bit of chickpea flour, roll them into balls and deep-fry those. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but those things are really good. People love those. They come back for them. That’s just something that’s fun that is easy to eat. It’s potatoes. That’s something that a lot of people enjoy.
725 Front St., Santa Cruz. 331-7867.