Vegan Soul Food in South LA
Remember Felicia from the 1995 cult classic, Friday? Angela Means, the feisty actress who played her, has a new mission now. As owner/creator of Jackfruit Cafe, she’s pedaling vegan soul food.
“I’m in the hood for a reason. I’m African American, and we are a people who have a specific appetite—a specific palate—and we’re married to that. We also suffer more than any group physically, us and the Latinos, because of our high fat diet and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.”
She’s right, of course. Jackfruit offers an alternative to the food deserts and fast food restaurants in South L.A., a better quality of life through nourishment. The cafe’s first and wildly popular incarnation was last year in the back of King’s Donuts on Crenshaw in Jefferson Park. Initially Angela was told “no one wants that food over there,” but within weeks, the place had lines out the door. “The energy. The noise. It was beautiful. We flooded that place with vegans.”
Like the jackfruit itself, a bulbous globe that tastes of pineapple, mango and banana, Angela plays with lots of flavors, including Thai curry, Jamaican jerk and Korean barbecue. All organic with no GMO’s, there’s Jackfruit-Soul-in-a-Bowl, burritos, tacos and an Impossible veggie burger too. Unlike many vegan restaurants, you won’t find “hippie food,” heavy on nut cheese and tempeh. “I want to mimic foods that my people are used to eating, only don’t have any animal products in them. I want to ease the transition off meat. It’s good for the environment, for animal cruelty, and for health. What could be better than that?”
Angela has the grit, talent and determination to continue Jackfruit’s success. In the past she’s modeled for Betsey Johnson and Jean-Paul Gaultier, done stand-up and
even a stint as a personal chef. Oh, and she’s parented Brad Kaaya, a football obsessed son who made it to NFL quarterback. Now Angela is loving the Jackfruit life, in spite of the fact that the work schedule’s insane and there have been the requisite growing pains.
Last year the crowds got too much for the donut shop owners, and Angela was told she had to find another place for the cafe. What she knew for sure was that people loved the accessible delicious food. That’s why she was beyond excited too when a “wonderful” restaurant group walked into that donut shop and said “come on, you’re going with me.” The new Jackfruit location is now open just a mile south of the original location.
“It’s beautiful, open and inviting, with a garden,” Angela says. “And I now have an opportunity to do this right.” They’ll be serving breakfast and lunch to start, plus a food truck will be hitting the streets. And if all goes as expected, a Jackfruit Cafe may be coming soon to your ‘hood as well.