Chef Matthew Kenney Opens First All-Vegan Drive-Thru in Rhode Island
The thought of a drive-thru typically brings to mind a cheeseburger and milkshake, but Chef Mathew Kenney of Plant City X is rethinking fast-casual fare. For Kenney, fast and casual doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality, nutrition, or sticking to a whole-foods, plant-based diet.
Plant City X is located in Middletown, RI, and business is already booming. The joint can serve up to 65 cars in an hour, according to entrepreneur and financial backer Kim Anderson. The menu features vegan takes on some classic American fare, including several kinds of bean-based burgers, “chicken” sandwiches and nuggets made from crispy fried tofu, and a variety of hearty and healthy salad bowls.
The options for sides are equally appetizing: Both regular and sweet potato french fries (with toppings), as well as a home-cooked favorite, gluten-free mac and cheese. Moving beyond lunch and dinner staples, Kenney and his team set out to run the gamut of plant-based offerings, developing delicious and meatless breakfast sandwiches, frozen coconut yogurt parfaits, and vegan cookies and brownies for dessert.
The new restaurant is a natural progression from Kenney and Anderson’s earlier venture, the highly-successful, all-vegan Plant City in Providence, RI. The Middletown location was intended to appease fans of the Providence restaurant by offering a new location with sizable seating as well as the convenience of a classic drive-thru model. Kenney worked closely with Luis Jaramillo, Plant City’s executive chef, to develop a new list of offerings for the Plant City X location that would highlight a combination of Plant City’s best-sellers and some newly developed items.
According to Anderson, the key was striking a balance between high-quality plant-based food and the convenient speed of the American drive-thru model. While the location does not aim to be a lavish restaurant, embracing success and expansion doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or conscience for the enterprising due. Anderson emphasized the importance of showing their appreciation for their “amazing” staff and community by using only local vendors for all of their ingredients and ensuring fair pay and pool tipping for front- and back-of-house employees alike.
Kenney attributes the popularity of his restaurants and his own substantial success to one key choice: Going plant-based. Kenney––who has been plant-based for over 18 years––stated that he has always seen large-scale plant-based eating as “the future,” and draws a connection between the growth of veganism in recent years and the appeal of his cookbooks, wellness work, and dozens of restaurants worldwide. “To me, food is plant-based,” Kenney said, “that’s what it’s meant to be, and I’m excited to see how quickly things have accelerated recently.
Drive-thru joints are at the heart of American food culture, but they are not always the best option for our heart health. Plant City X’s new vegan drive-thru proves that you can still have the ease of fast food dining with the benefits of plant-based eating.