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Abundance Child, founder of DropSquad Kitchen, puts her meatless Awesome Burger up against brands now getting national exposure./Jim Coarse, Moonloop Photography

Abundance Child never set out to be a trendsetter. She was just being herself—her own, unapologetically vegan self. Full of cosmic energy and opinions and a laser-sharp sense of social justice, Child, founder of the Christina Riverfront cult favorite DropSquad Kitchen (928 Justison St., Wilmington, 984-2773) says her burger is better than the Impossible Burger.

She calls it the Awesome Burger. The name came to her almost telepathically; she interpreted it through a verse from the Holy Odu, a sacred text ascribed to followers of the Ifá religion. “Awesome,” the verse goes, is the first product of Olódùmarè, or god.

She might be right about the burger. She uses all-natural, non-GMO ingredients like beets, beans, wheat or rice, and spices. Her all-vegan menu—which includes favorites like her vegan cheesesteak and Soul Food Saturday specials—has gained a devoted following since Child (originally named Tamiko) opened in 2012. Her customers travel from as far away as Philly and New York to visit the tiny, family-run DropSquad.

Eight years ago, she was one of very few in the region offering an exclusively plant-based dining experience. That picture is quickly changing.

Eight million adults in the U.S. do not eat meat, poultry or fish, according to a 2016 poll published by the Vegetarian Resource Group. About half of vegetarians are also vegans, or about 3.7 million U.S. adults. Nearly a quarter of 25-to-34-year-old Americans say they are vegans or vegetarians, according to another study. The Economist called 2019 the Year of the Vegan.


RELATED: A Guide to Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurants in Delaware


For people like Angela Wagner, the benefits are obvious. The co-owner of Green Box Kitchen (400 N. Market St., Wilmington, 274-2195) who made the switch two years ago, says the results were tangible. “You feel better, your skin is clearer, your hair is strong, you have more energy. And I never would’ve guessed it.”

Greenbox Kitchen is 100 percent plant-based. “People love the taste of animal products,” Wagner says. “So when you have to be creative and add flavor in other ways, it’s a challenge.” She and partners Jason Aviles and John Naughton meet the challenge with hearty salads stuffed with ingredients like massaged kale and roasted oyster mushrooms, a perfect stand-in, Wagner says, for shredded chicken.

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In downtown Wilmington, places like Green Box Kitchen and Eat Clean (225 N. Market St., Wilmington, 476-8928) are working toward a healthier city. Owner Kamil Bass-Walker started cold-pressing juices—like his famous Drink Greens concoction of kale, apple, celery, lemon and pear, and the immune-boosting ginger, lemon and cayenne shots—before branching out into smoothie bowls and other healthy, organic options like vegan quinoa wraps with dairy-free cheese.

A vegetarian and former pescatarian, Bass-Walker says increased awareness is leading to more people finding the plant-based lifestyle, and healthier choices. Activists and journalists have noted an uptick in vegan diets, especially among people of color. Black women are the cradle of all civilization, Child reminds. “We’ve always been the ones to nourish our people and our communities.”

Says Bass-Walker: “I remember 20 years ago when Russell Simmons went vegan, and people turned their noses up,” he says. “We didn’t know where to shop! There’s stuff everywhere now. There’s this notion that you need to sacrifice flavor to have a healthy menu. We beg to challenge that.”

Nearby, the business district’s health-conscious diners head to Harvest House (1204 Washington St., Wilmington, 427-8378) for just the right amount of Whole Foods–chic to go along with excellent smoothies, salads, and creative plates like sesame-tofu lettuce wraps.

On a busy stretch of Limestone Road, Daily Veg (5335b Limestone Road, Pike Creek, 635-7047) presents a plant-based oasis, with owner Dan Mckelvey’s frozen acai bowls spiked with organic hemp/flaxseed granola. The 2VeganGirls (facebook.com/2VeganGirls) food truck has become a highly sought-after commodity at local festivals and happenings, thanks to tasty vegan interpretations of picnic staples. Roots Natural Kitchen (129 E. Main St., Newark, 273-2620) became a Main Street hit with rice- and veggie-based bowls like the tamari with kale and brown rice, pickled carrots and jalapeños, and a miso-ginger dressing. Indigo (44 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 212-5220) offers white-tablecloth Indian food that’s bursting with clean flavors, from lightly-doused channa masala to soulful aloo gobhi and navartan korma, a royal entrée of fresh-chopped veggies and nuts in a spicy cream sauce.

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