Seasoned Vegan is Harlem’s newest dining experience. Nestled on the corner of St. Nicholas and 113th Street, the full-service vegan restaurant was founded by mother and son Brenda and Aaron Beener, who serve as executive chef and general manager, respectively. The Beeners have been vegan for years (Brenda officially for five years, Aaron officially for about three) and Brenda was inspired by the encouragement of friends and family to start her own business after they raved about her dishes at home.
“It came from me preparing a lot of vegan meals at home and my son’s friends and family always telling me to open my own restaurant,” Brenda explains.
Having sworn off pork and red meat decades ago, Brenda raised her children with healthy eating habits. Now, the Beeners are helping to serve the Harlem community food that is nourishing and promoting a healthy lifestyle for those interested.
“Not only do we serve food, but we also have to do a lot of educating of the people who are not familiar with the variety of proteins that we have,” explains Aaron. “The education factor is probably what’s most different with our establishment. A lot of people question if the food is actually vegan, because we take a lot of time to make sure the food is what people are actually looking for.”
“Talking to neighbors and family and hearing about so many diseases that my family members and my neighbors had, I started doing some research and found out that as a community of people, we have the largest number of cancer and diabetes [rates],” says Brenda. “We felt that we needed to give people another option. We’re not trying to force anyone to be vegan, but I think people need to know there are other options out there. The biggest problem we face as a community is we will not admit our diet can be a part of our [issues.]”
For the mother and son, working with each other has been a joy.
“Being able to help my mom’s dream become a reality is really amazing,” says Aaron. “And being able to do that with food that can help our community, and to be able to provide jobs for our friends and family — it’s just all positive. We’ve been having such a blast! We’re having so much fun. We put in crazy hours and we’re here six days a week from open until closing. But it doesn’t feel like [work], every day is different.”
“I enjoy working with my son and my son has truly been my foundation,” Brenda adds. “To know that I’m providing healthy food for people — that they might not be accustomed to — that has been a wonderful thing for me. I would not change anything [about] this journey, it’s been marvelous.”