On a Wednesday afternoon, hordes of eager Brooklynites lined up along busy Fulton Street in the heart of Fort Greene. The bold cry of “We’ve got a virgin in the building!” could be heard, over and over again, up and down the block.
“I want a One Night Stand,” one woman uttered to her girlfriend, who was there for a Hollywood Hooker. A lady in a hot-pink blazer exited the building, muttering to herself, “I’ve never been called a slut in my life!” An 8-year-old boy turned to his mom, and asked, “What’s a slut?”
Welcome to Slutty Vegan — not a cruelty-free strip club, but rather, a provocative, plant-based fast food concept that just opened its first New York location. Customers — a k a “sluts” — order up sexy, cheekily named veggie takes on burgers, cheese steak, hot dogs and chicken fingers.
The impudent chain was launched in Atlanta in 2018 by founder Pinky Cole, a one-time Harlem restaurateur who began with the goal of reimagining how people view vegan food, wrapping it up in a playful, risqué bow.
Now, the 4-year-old concept has seven locations and counting and is valued at $100 million, with Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments among its supporters. Amidst her success, Cole has given back, creating the Pinky Cole Foundation to assist entrepreneurs of color.
At the Brooklyn outpost, stroller moms, suits and art students are lining up for a taste. Even Mayor Eric Adams, who has followed a mostly plant-based diet since 2016, welcomed Slutty Vegan with a video message, saying: “It was about time you brought your vegan burgers here to the greatest city in the world.”
But the name of the restaurant, not to mention the menu items — banana pudding is served in a paper cup baring the name Happy Ending, while the Ménage à Trois, a burger loaded with vegan bacon, shrimp, cheese and the house’s signature Slut Sauce is a sizzling hot seller — has proved to be a sticking point for local parents. Brooklyn moms and dads are eager to support a black-owned business and have tasty plant-based fare in the neighborhood, but they’re not loving the brazen branding.
“I had to explain ‘what does slutty mean’ in 7-year-old language, and that was difficult, so I’m not really thrilled about that,” said Alice Dietz, 50, waiting in line to buy her vegan son Teddy, 7, a faux-cheeseburger kids meal.
“Whatever makes people think about vegan food and whatever makes people interested [is good],” the Crown Heights resident, who has been a vegan since age 15, said. “But as a mom, I kind of wish it wasn’t called that.”
As she spoke, Teddy pestered her with more questions about the restaurant’s moniker.
“It’s a controversial name that people call a girl,” she said patiently to her son. “It’s very offensive. Mommy doesn’t like it, and you should never say it. It’s a girl who goes on dates with maybe more than one — with lots of different boys or girls.”
Others aren’t bothered by all the innuendo.
Massah Fofana, 52, an artist based in Flatbush and a vegan for 26 years, was eager to bring in her 8-year-old granddaughter, Queen, for an after-school treat after reading about Slutty Vegan. The duo enjoyed a One Night Stand burger (with vegan bacon, cheese and caramelized onions) and a Fussy Hussy (vegan cheese, onions and pickle).
“I never explained [the name] to her,” Fofana told The Post. “I just [asked her], ‘Hey, you want to go to Slutty Vegan?’ I said, ‘It’s the dopest thing right now,’ so that’s all she cares about. I love that it’s more modern; it’s not just salad on your plate, vegetables on your plate. I love the name.”
Meanwhile, two college-aged girls eager for burgers said they felt empowered by the branding, giggling when one of the female workers shouted “Order up, slut!” to a grown man waiting for his dinner.
Pinky Cole is not the first restaurateur to realize that sex sells. Eggslut, a Los Angeles-based breakfast-sandwich concept with long lines, now has outlets in Las Vegas, London and all across Asia, while adult bakery Sugar Wood opened in Manhattan in July, serving up penis-shaped waffles. And hookup culture inspired the now-closed Harlem Mexican restaurant, Sexy Taco Dirty Cash, in 2016, featuring an image of a woman straddling a taco.
Still, some Brooklyn parents are steering clear — even if they might be curious about the food and excited about plant-based options.
“I would feel fine picking up food and bringing it home to them,” confessed one Park Slope mom of two, “but I would not feel comfortable bringing [my kids there], where they would be bombarded with these kinds of messages about women and sex.”