The couple behind a popular vegan food truck from Durham has set up shop in Wilmington, expanding their repertoire from bar food to creative, scratch-made vegan fare.
Stairway to Veggin’ owners Angie and Matt Barrell built a following of fans from their tie-dyed food truck during the pandemic. Cooking and sharing vegan food is a passion project for the couple, but the cramped quarters aboard the food truck limited Angie Barrell’s creative impulses to a menu predominated by loaded tater tots and sandwiches.
So, when the couple recently moved their business to Wilmington, they secured a space in a fully loaded commissary kitchen off Castle Hayne Road.
Now operating as a ghost kitchen, Stairway to Veggin’ debuted in Wilmington with a scaled-back menu available for pick up from its kitchen space at 1930 Castle Hayne Road. For the past two weekends, the Barrells tested new recipes in an effort to determine what’s popular in their new coastal community.
“Right now, I’m really having fun in the new kitchen space and experimenting, seeing what’s selling and what’s not as popular,” Angie Barrell said. Eventually, she plans to stick to a seasonal menu inspired by the availability of local produce.
Last weekend, the eatery added curry hand pies to the menu, with a slow-simmered red coconut curry sauce laced with sweet potatoes, bell pepper, kale and chickpeas inside a crispy homemade pie dough. The hand pies were served atop a bright, crunchy bed of pineapple cilantro slaw.
Another option is a banh mi bowl featuring locally sourced tempeh from Saxapahaw, North Carolina. Marinated in a tamari-maple sauce and slow-roasted, the tempeh is topped with pickled vegetables, cucumber, jalapeno, chili garlic aioli and local microgreens and served with crispy rice. The Barrells travel back to the Triangle each week to secure the tempeh, which Angie Barrell described as “amazing.”
“It’s so much better than store-bought tempeh. It’s very flavorful and it sucks up flavor really well,” she said.
Soon, Stairway to Veggin’ will offer charcuterie, with plant-based meats and cheeses hand-crafted by Barrell, including a tofu pepperoni. To produce a slice that delivers the same complex tasting notes presented in a traditional pepperoni, Barrell starts with a blend of about 10 different seasonings including anise, fennel and mustard seed.
“That makes a huge difference. I add different things, like something to give a fattiness like pepperoni would have, [something] to get a saltiness, a smokiness,” Barrell said.
A baked cashew cheese will accompany the tofu pepperoni, which Barrell described as akin to soft-ripened cheeses.
“It’s very similar to brie in texture and flavor. It’s sliceable, but not firm,” she said.
Baked goods, including freshly baked focaccia and vegan cheesecake, will also join the menu soon.
In line with the business’s motto of “eat good, do good,” the Barrells will support a different local nonprofit each month. February’s pick – Blueberry Lane Farm Animal Sanctuary in Castle Hayne – brings the couple full circle to a formative experience that led them to adopt veganism. Already vegetarians at the time, the Barrells visited an animal sanctuary for rescued dairy cows about five years ago. Hearing stories about the lives of the cows spurred both Angie and Matt Barrell to scrap dairy and embrace a vegan lifestyle.
“Meeting them, touching them and petting them and seeing their personalities, it’s a whole different element,” she said.
Stairway to Veggin’ is currently open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for lunch and dinner. For now, orders can be made on their Square page
, although their fare will soon be available on meal delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash.
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