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New vegan restaurant sprouts success near the Bradley community

Upon entry to Radish Kitchen, customers are greeted with vibrant walls and a neon sign reading “Eat More Plants”. Photo by Ellie Hawkins.

Nestled amongst the businesses of Campustown, Radish Kitchen offers vegan treats, meals and groceries to all — not just those sticking to a plant-based diet.

The new restaurant opened on March 1 and offers a small made-to-order meal menu, a variety of freshly made vegan desserts, numerous grab-and-go options and a pre-order meal menu that changes weekly. The space also acts as a convenience store with a variety of products for purchase in bulk. Additionally, the menu changes as different produce items are available from local farmers.

Since the business is still new, owner Jam Rohr is constantly adapting to new ideas and requests from patrons. This has resulted in different cold-press juices and gluten-free options.

Upon entry, customers are greeted with vibrant colored walls and a few small tables to gather at if they choose to eat their food in the store. At the ordering counter, a small pastry case has vegan donuts and other sweet treats, along with a menu up on the wall describing the unique options to eat.

On one wall, there is a display with Riley’s Vegan Sweets, a local bakery that supplies products weekly to Radish Kitchen. Next to this, you can find other vegan items to take home and use in your own recipes. On another wall, you can find a cooler of other cold options to take away from the store.

Rohr, an East Peoria native, received her Master’s of Fine Arts in sculpture and started Black Dog Metal Arts with her husband Danny in 2018. Although Radish Kitchen was never in her plans, it slowly became a necessity in her life.

“I went vegan recently for health reasons; I have endometriosis, and I just kept reading that a whole food plant-based diet will help that,” Rohr said. “I don’t have health insurance, and I thought it couldn’t hurt.”

After making the change to her diet, she began sharing recipes online before a friend asked her to make meals for her every week during quarantine.

“I started doing that for her, and then a few other people wanted it, and then a few others, and suddenly it was too many people for me to cook out of my tiny kitchen,” Rohr said. “So then it kind of blossomed into a business from there.”

Once she outgrew her kitchen space at home, Rohr started working out of the commercial kitchen at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. People contacted her when they wanted to place orders, and she would bring the food out to the parking lot for them one day a week.

This went on for about a year and a half due to the church not meeting in person due to the quarantine mandates, but it became apparent that she would need her own space as restrictions loosened and her business grew.

Regarding the knowledge she had prior to starting the business, Rohr cited her experience at a variety of jobs during her undergraduate career, namely being a delivery driver for D.P. Dough and a cook at a vegan restaurant. She credited the latter position with preparing her to run a kitchen.

Johnna Armstrong Watson, a junior psychology major, first heard of the restaurant from a coworker that praised the vegan crunchwrap.

“I used to love to eat crunchwraps, but since I stopped eating meat, I hadn’t found anything close to it,” Armstrong Watson said. “It was perfect.”

Radish Kitchen, now almost open for a month, has four staff members other than Rohr and her husband.

“Even if I’d been open for 20 years, there’s things I need to continue to adapt to and to grow through,” Rohr said. “Everyone needs to eat.”

Although there are constantly new things to learn about the growing business, Rohr said her favorite part about the job is the way she’s able to connect with more people.

“It’s been nice connecting with the community in this way,” Rohr said. “I just really appreciate people coming in.”

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