Rolling Out

Nikki Searles offering Buffalo’s east side healthy food options

The idea spurred from the start of the pandemic
Nikki Searles offering Buffalo's east side healthy food options
Sunshine Vegan Eats owner Nikki Searles. (Photo credit: Rashad Milligan for rolling out)

Nikki Searles grew tired of the limited vegan restaurant selections in her neighborhood. Living on the east side of Buffalo, New York, she became frustrated by the lack of vegan dining options within a short distance to eat a simple meal.

Her solution to the issue? She created her own restaurant with Sunshine Vegan Eats on Jefferson Avenue. In May, rolling out spoke to Searles about the establishment and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

You opened this restaurant two years ago, the first year of the pandemic. Why?

I literally opened March 7, 2020. It’s been two years, I started right at the pandemic and opened the vegan restaurant because there was nowhere here to go to get vegan and [‘m] vegan myself. We don’t have the options here. So I created the lane of the options for us to have.

Is it annoying that you to have make your own vegan food to have that option in your neighborhood?

Sometimes it is because you do want to go to other places to eat, but it’s getting to the point where I think in the next year, [it’ll] be a lot more people. You know, people come from all over, I get people from Rochester, you guys are from Atlanta. … So we’re on the map, we just need a little bit more of us. That’s all.

What’s the next thing?

My next thing, I will be adding a second location. Because like I said, everybody, whether you’re vegan or no — there’s this vegan magic that happens behind these doors behind you. You guys have some food today, so you know.

And it was good. There are a lot of soul-food-based items on the menu. In the Black community, how important is it to promote vegan and vegetarianism?

So I came to Jefferson Avenue, because number one, you can go anywhere and get pizza, wings, soul food, things of that sort, right? But to actually pull up on Jefferson and [have a choice of] healthy [options is great]. You can get ginger shots, you [can] get fresh juice, fresh beans and greens. I have something different for everybody.

Our signature here is tied to Impossible Niyahs.

I get a lot of people that come in, they still eat meat, or they might not eat beef anymore and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, it’s good. It’s like the real deal.” I’ve been vegan now for a little over five years, so I just believe that bringing health and awareness into the community is important.

How long did it take to learn how to make some of these dishes?

I’m a visual learner. I could come, I could see you make something or I can go to a restaurant, I can eat something and make it. So my mind is constantly always working and figuring out, “Hmm, let me try that out.”

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