If you need a guide for vegan eats in Boston, Chicago, Nashville or Toronto — then Erica Korff is your Insta foodie guru. The @Vegan_Kween has been eating a plant-based diet since 2016 and helps others find delicious vegan eats in Boston and around the world through her blog and Instagram. If you’re thinking of doing more Meatless Mondays, have a vegan bestie visiting, or just looking for some tasty new spots to work into the rotation — Korff is your kween! She took some time out of her busy noshing to chat about where to get the best spicy chick’n sandwich, her favorite brunch spot, her go-to pizza joint and which chefs she follows for inspiration.
Tell us a little about yourself. How’d you end up in Boston, and what inspired you to create your Instagram account?
I was born and raised in Massachusetts, so I have always been local to the area! Prior to starting my blog, I admired foodie accounts on Instagram; they’re so fun to browse and see what was drool-worthy out there. When I went vegan, I was seeking options, both for restaurants in the area but also products to buy online and food to buy at the grocery store. I then ended up following a bunch of vegan foodie accounts on Instagram to help me with my journey, which gradually inspired me to shift my personal Instagram account into a foodie one, with a focus on Boston restaurants and the occasional travel. I saw a need for this type of engaging & fun resource in the area and decided to run with it!
The name @Vegan_Kween came to be when I was with my family and we were brainstorming on a new Instagram handle for me. I needed something that clearly let people know I was vegan and wanted a name that was very “me.” One of my favorite shows is Broad City, and the two main characters call each other “kweens” frequently. Vegan Kween was a great pick, as it combined two of my favorite things in life. The name has become so fitting, and has been used with me beyond Instagram!
Name the top five dishes on your Boston food bucket list.
- Spicy Chick’n Sandwich from Koshari Mama — This is the best sub in the area. Packed with flavor and is essentially a vegan version of chick’n salad! So filling and my latest top craving.
- Pad See Ew Noodles with Veggie Chick’n from My Thai Vegan Cafe — This spot in Chinatown is known for their mock meats being some of the best out there! You can’t beat the prices and the noodles are so delicious every time.
- Sundried Tomato & Arugula Omelette made with the vegan Just Egg from Lulu Green — This charming cafe in South Boston serves some of the best breakfast in the area. The omelette is an absolute must (also, so cheesy!) and will surely fill all breakfast cravings, whether you’re vegan or not.
- The Impossible Cheeseburger Pizza from Stoked Wood Fired Pizza —Want a burger? Or maybe you want a pizza? Well with Stoked, you don’t have to just pick one. Their vegan cheeseburger pizza is the best you can get; the mix of vegan meat, pickles, garlicky tomatoes, cheese, and housemade chipotle aioli is pure perfection.
- Fried Oyster Mushroom Chick’n from Rhythm ‘N Wraps — I view this dish as a cross between vegan fried chick’n and a vegan replacement for fried clams! The crunchiness and seasoning of this dish would make you question if a mushroom is really under there! So delicious, especially paired with their secret sauce.
What do you think is on the horizon for restaurants?
A lot! From a vegan perspective, I have seen so many restaurants already roll out vegan options that weren’t there maybe a year or two ago. It’s so great to see this, because as more people try a vegan or plant-based diet, it’s important that restaurants, especially around the city, adapt to this shift and add on to their offerings. I predict more and more restaurants will continue with this, because truthfully, not having at least one vegan option on the menu is so not with it!
I also have seen a big change, as I’m sure most people have, when it comes to consumers’ preferred style of eating these days. A lot of places are accommodating to a seamless take-out/delivery style due to the pandemic. On the other hand, I actually have witnessed a business, Littleburg, go from doing primarily pop-ups, to then a delivery-only service, to now a brick & mortar in Somerville. (You order outside at their garage and it’s very casual & safe!) So, it’s been really interesting to see the differences for some business models and restaurants, but overall, they have all been shifting to safe practices and what has been working best for their customers. I hope they all have continued success!
Which chefs are your favorite to follow on Instagram and why?
- Lauren Boehme Hartmann of @rabbitandwolves is incredible! I have made a few of Lauren’s recipes (the Everything but the Bagel Pasta was the best!). Accounts like these show that vegan food is not just a salad or a plate of veggies. It is gorgeous, filling, and absolutely delicious meals that are truly a work of art, and easy to make at home too!
- I really love following Chef Guy Vaknin (@chefguyvaknin), founder of the NYC chain Beyond Sushi and the new Willow New York. Guy’s ability to create a vegan crab sushi roll made with jackfruit, for example, is both incredible to look at and also insanely delicious. The Beyond Sushi menus are always changing and adding new items, so following his work is a lot of fun and I always visit his restaurants when I visit New York!
- Matthew Kenney (@matthewkenneycuisine), in my opinion, is a leading chef in the vegan community and I have loved every single one of his restaurants I have tried (check out Double Zero on Boston’s Newbury street for plant-based pizza & pasta!) He has restaurants ranging in all different types of cuisines, and they’re all 100% plant-based! I like following Matthew on Instagram to get a glimpse of different types of dishes he has rolling out across his restaurants, as well as some frozen meals you can now find at grocery stores too under his business!
Beyond chefs, what are your top three favorite food Instagram accounts to follow?
I am a big fan of AJ, the creator behind @VeganFoodPlug. AJ does a mix of sharing vegan finds around CT and LA, but also shares his own creations that he makes at home or brings into the vegan restaurant he works at in CA! This account is truly the definition of vegan comfort food and in his words, it’s “putting respect on the name of vegan food.”
@madison_vegan.eats is incredible! The creations and recipes she puts together are so fun and unique. I get a lot of inspiration from this page for fun meals to make at home and putting together dishes I never thought of before. I just watched her video on vegan Bic Mac Tacos – ultimate comfort food!
I’m so glad I discovered Watson not too long ago, the creator behind @thee_burger_dude. Not only are Watson’s posts and videos absolutely drool-worthy, but the ingredients, products, and processes he uses are very doable for anyone at home. The recipes aren’t too long or hard to follow, and his overall vibe & energy towards the food is so exciting. That’s one of the goals in the vegan community – to make the journey inviting, fun, and easy. Watson really does accomplish that with every single post!
Describe Boston’s food scene in three words.
Expanding. Tasty. Convenient.
Which restaurants haven’t you been to but you’re eager to try?
Pulse Cafe is an all vegan restaurant out in Hadley, MA and has been on my list for so long! One day I will venture out that way. In the city, I’ve had SRV on my list, which is an Italian wine bar that can accommodate vegans!
What’s your food photography philosophy, and can you share your top tips for taking awesome food photos?
Lighting and the right editing app is everything! If you can take the majority of your photos outside, or even by a window for natural light, that’s ideal for the best shot. Find a good spot that has natural light but is also a bit shady, as too much sun can cast shadows you don’t want in your photos. I personally use Lightroom and it’s the best app – completely free and allows you to edit your photos however you’d like. I always add a little bit of vibrance to my shots, as I think the more colorful your photos are, the more recognition they get and stand out!
Don’t worry about getting a fancy camera – some people have them and of course they are wonderful, no doubt about it, but an iPhone also works great too. I’ve always used my phone for my page and with the right lighting, editing, and angles, it can be just as great as a progressional camera. Portrait mode really comes in handy too for quality and focus, especially if a background is too busy (people around, table isn’t fully clean or clear, etc.)
Favorite brunch spot: Donut Villa Diner – they have a whole vegan menu and an awesome outdoor patio set up at their Cambridge location.
Favorite place for outdoor dining: Barcelona Wine Bar – always plenty of seats, and you can’t go wrong with some veggie tapas and a glass of wine. The whole experience is a vibe you definitely want in the city at their South End location.
Favorite Pizza joint: Veggie Crust – an all vegetarian/vegan spot serving up extremely unique pizzas with the best flavors! The Gobi Manchurian pizza has been a favorite for years.
Favorite neighborhood for food: Cambridge
Favorite new restaurant: PlantPub – an all vegan pub & mini food hall in Cambridge! The menu ranges from burgers, to sandwiches, to pizzas, to ramen, and so much more.
Favorite pandemic takeout: Veggie Grill
Favorite new restaurant innovation: QR codes for looking at menus.
Meet The Tastemakers is a monthly column that shares the stories of those contributing to the conversation on Boston’s food scene.