By: Celia Kwan
Dedicated vegan restaurants and bakeries are more often associated with fancy salads and subpar substitutes to classic baked goods than junk food favourites.
The Hearty Hooligan, however, is a vegan restaurant and bakery aiming to change that perception by explicitly specializing in hearty vegan comfort food on the corner of Main Street West and Locke Street South.
The first of its kind in Hamilton, the Hearty Hooligan is owned by Staicha Kidd and David Haradyn, who have collectively lived a vegan lifestyle for over 16 years.
Kidd and Haradyn did not always plan to be in the restaurant business. The two first oriented their careers towards academia, studying library and informational sciences and biomedical engineering respectively.
“Between the two of us we have five degrees. After a while we didn’t think that was really working out for us… so one day we decided to throw it away and do something we are really passionate about: vegan junk food,” said Kidd.
The Hearty Hooligan’s menu mainly features soups, salads and desserts. One notable item is their pizza buns, a vegan take on pizza pockets. Two varieties Kidd and Haradyn have whipped up are stuffed with poutine and mac and cheese. The restaurant is committed to being completely meat, egg and dairy free, while also offering a number of soy-free, gluten-free and raw options.
Their desserts include a vegan take on Reese’s peanut butter cups, cookies and cookie sandwiches. The Hearty Hooligan also serves a variety of special order cakes, ranging from strawberry shortcake to chocolate salted caramel and pumpkin cheesecake.
“What we are really about is making junky comfort food… [we want] to show people how indulgent you can still be while eating vegan food,” explained Kidd.
“Our policy is we want everybody to be able to eat… We want to make sure everybody who comes in can leave with something.”
Kidd and Haradyn havecommitted to use fresh local ingredients from the Hamilton Farmer’s Market or from Our Father’s Farm, a local farm that lets buyers pick their own vegetables.
The restaurant is also planning to host artists’ work, adorning the walls with a rotation of local creations.
“We got a great response from the community – many artists are willing to hang their art in the shop,” Kidd said. “We also want to have a shelf of hand-made arts, [where] local artists and crafters can display their [works].”
Kidd acknowledged that the city has many vegan options, but she hopes that the Hearty Hooligan can add another location that is completely committed to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
“I’m actually really impressed by how much is offered… what I like about [the city] is everywhere you go you can find something [vegan-friendly]. It’s fantastic… but I don’t see a ton of fully vegan places, which is interesting for a city with such a big vegan community.”
The Hearty Hooligan was initially set for an early December open, but has since pushed their opening date for sometime early this year.
Currently, Kidd and Haradyn are taking special orders through social media and selling their foods at a variety of local events.
In the meantime, hungry vegans and curious non-vegans alike can anticipate an additional hub for the local food, vegan, and arts community to enjoy.