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Vegan Barbecue? Where Else But New York City!

pure grit spread

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, barbecue joints don’t seem like the place for you. However, a new restaurant in New York City is aiming to change that. Pure Grit BBQ is both vegan and gluten-free, but those things come second to simply delicious barbecue. The brand started during the pandemic with sauces and rubs and recently opened their first brick and mortar shop in May 2022.

Before the opening, we talked with Pure Grit BBQ founder Kerry Fitzmaurice about her barbecue philosophy, what makes Pure Grit appealing for all types of eaters and what she’s excited about once the storefront opens.

impossible ribs

How long have you been vegan?
I stopped eating red meat and pork when I was ten and have been slowly moving towards a more plant-based diet ever since, eliminating poultry ten years ago, fish five years ago and eggs two years ago. I don’t label myself vegan – I say AVAP: as vegan as possible.

What is your cooking background?
I took an online vegan cooking course three years ago with The Happy Pear around the time when I came up with Pure Grit. It taught me all the basics and the importance of flavor. I also learned that cooking vegan doesn’t have to be expensive. I cook with a lot of canned beans and tomatoes. I bought a small smoker during the pandemic and just started smoking and experimenting. For me, it is all about curiosity and fun.

Are you trying to replicate the flavors of regional barbecue with your vegan products?
No replication. We are focused on the smoky-ness, satisfaction and that feeling you get when you’re gathering for BBQ. Our goal has always been to invite as many people as possible to that experience. We are plant-based and gluten-free, but that is not the headline. We lead with delicious food and BBQ for all.

Why did you pick NYC for your first shop?
I live in NYC and I was missing barbecue, so I assumed there had to be others like me. NYC is also down for everything. We have a robust vegan community but we also have food lovers of all genres that are curious and open to new experiences. We celebrate the nostalgia of BBQ with a modern twist that I think appeals to everyone.

What makes non-vegans like your dishes?
We serve up familiar BBQ staples like coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and mac and cheese. Our waffles are beloved, and I haven’t met a carnivore yet who hasn’t loved our smoked Impossible cut.

What was the R&D process like?
We have been working on this menu for three years, and I still feel like there is room for improvement. When we started, we were only working with tofu and tempeh in addition to veggies. Now we are smoking Impossible Meat and Daring Foods. It is a whole new world out there, and we are excited to be a part of it.

What are you most excited about in having a physical location?
Sharing our food with more people and building a community. I want to hear what they have to say. After three years of yearning for this moment, I’m so ready to open our doors and finally invite someone to pull up a chair.

waffle spread

Why did you start with sauces and rubs?
We were planning on opening a restaurant in Greenwich Village when the pandemic hit. Luckily, we hadn’t signed on the dotted line; we pivoted. We started bottling our sauce and bagging our rub. We made all of our recipes consumer facing and got to work building a virtual community.

What makes your sauces and rubs better for vegetables than meat?
While it was created for plants, it is good on everything. Logic tells us the world does not need another BBQ sauce. Walk down the aisle of a grocery store and behold: it’s all been done. From the Alabama White to Kansas City Sweet, there are hundreds of phenomenal sauces out there. If you’re a plant-based eater, however, the big miss in that aisle is a sauce designed, created, crafted and lovingly marketed to you. But people are going there. All around the country barbecue lovers are finding success in plant-based barbecue and plant-based barbecue products.

Our spin: It’s designed almost like a vegetable dressing to be great right out of the bottle or enjoyed hot off the grill. It’s a vinegar-based sauce that’s light on the tongue. It’s full of flavor but it doesn’t overpower vegetables. It’s breezy.

After a few months on the market, we saw an opportunity for customization, which led us to dial down the heat in our restaurant barbecue sauce and develop a mild hot sauce that’s designed to compliment our barbecue so you can turn up the heat as much as you want. We found that vegetables, and our palettes, appreciate a lighter touch. Add more or less and customize based on what veggie you’re tossing, smoking or grilling.


Sarah Strong

Sarah Strong is a New York City based writer who holds a master’s degree in food studies and is obsessed with television. You can follow her on Instagram at @feedsstrong to see where she eats, what she cooks and what sneakers she’s wearing.


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