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NJ – Vegan eatery opens in Millville
Written by JOEL LANDAU
MILLVILLE — When Eric Nyman first met Melissa Maly two years ago, he told her of his love for vegan food and his desire to one day open a vegan-only café.
Nyman wasn’t just angling for a date. He was serious — about the girl and the food.
That initial encounter at the first-ever Arts, Music & Antiques Festival in September 2008 spawned a new business in the Glasstown Arts District — and possibly the only vegan restaurant in South Jersey.
Nyman and Maly opened Wildflower — a café at the Village on High last month. The restaurant offers an assortment of sandwiches, soups, wraps, sushi and desserts that are not made with any ingredients that come from an animal — including meat, eggs or milk.
Maly, a Millville native, became a vegan as a teenager and worked for various vegan food and catering companies in California before returning to her hometown more than a year ago. Maly operated a vegan lunch truck in Cherry Hill last summer and did some small catering to prepare for her first restaurant.
“It’s been a dream of mine for the past decade,” she said.
Freya Dinshah, editor of the American Vegan Society’s magazine based in Malaga, said she believes Wildflower is the only vegan-only restaurant in South Jersey. The only other vegan place she remembered in the area was The Frog Pond in Rosenhayn, which closed more than 20 years ago.
“Restaurants tend to come and go,” she said, but added she thinks Wildflower has potential staying power. “The public conception of the vegan idea is growing and people want to try it. If it’s available, they will select it over other things.”
Wildflower uses nondairy substitutes for ingredients, such as cream or butter and tofu instead of meat. The menu changes weekly, but sandwich options include a tofu BLT or ribs with a tofu substitute for the meat. There also are a variety of salads and soups.
The café offers a full, baked good selection, including cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes, muffins, parfaits, energy bars, scones and cookies.
“I try to take normal, tried-and-true recipes and ‘vegan-ize’ them,” Maly said.
The food has a healthy benefit, Nyman said. The items are free of cholesterol, hydrogenated oils and saturated fats, he said. It’s also high in fiber because it’s made with whole grains, he said.
The café will cater to health nuts and “taste nuts” who won’t be able to tell the difference, he added.
“There are plenty of vegan-minded people in the area. They have been coming out of the woodwork since we opened,” he said. “Not many places around here are veggie friendly. It’s nice to have a place where you can go and order anything on the menu. This area needs this food here.”
The couple — who are engaged and have a 9-month-old son, Osiris — both started as vegetarians and then eventually decided to become vegans.
“It didn’t make sense to not eat meat but wear the leather and drink the milk,” Maly said. “But it was hard. There wasn’t much around here. Before I went to college, I didn’t know any other vegans.”
The owners admit the concept of their business is new to the area, but they are hoping to win people over.
“A lot of people just kind of come by and give a weird look,” Nyman said. “One guy walked up to me and said, ‘What are you guys?’ I told him and he said, ‘Oh, you’re food. I thought you were pottery or something.’”
Wildflower, located at the Village on High at 501 N. High St. in Millville, is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The café will take special orders and also does catering for parties.
For more information visit www.wildflowervegan.com or call (856) 265-7955.
American Vegan Society’s website is www .americanvegan.org.