“Hot dogs, get your hot dogs here!” can be heard echoing in and around ballparks everywhere, with vendors peddling their traditional game-day fare.
This spring, baseball fans traveling to Fenway Park are going to have plenty of options — including a plant-based take on the time-honored “Fenway Frank” and other conventional eats typically served at sporting events.
The owners of PlantPub, which opened in Cambridge last fall, have partnered with international celebrity vegan chef/entrepreneur Matthew Kenney to open a much larger PlantPub directly across the street from Fenway Park in the space formerly occupied by Boston BeerWorks, which closed last summer after nearly 30 years.
PlantPub cofounders Pat McAuley and Mary Dumont (who opened the restaurant with investor/entrepreneur Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni) said their menu was created to make plant-based food approachable and accessible to everybody – not just vegans.
In addition to expanding on its existing pub-style food menu, the new PlantPub will serve a wide variety of New England-based craft beers and cocktails — with and without alcohol — and creative aperitifs, all of which will be free of any animal products that might otherwise be used in the manufacturing process or in the beverages. Award-winning head chef Dumont, whose past restaurants include Harvest and Cultivar, said she is excited about the new, larger space (the Cambridge PlantPub is about 1,500 square feet and has 20 seats inside; the new location is roughly 8,000 square feet and seats almost 300) and bigger kitchen that will allow her to experiment and create new menu items — including veggie hot dogs “with all the toppings.”
”We are mimicking all of the flavors that people know and love in a complete plant-based form,” said Dumont. “We have an opportunity to expose so many people to a new way of eating that is becoming more and more mainstream.”
McAuley, who, like Dumont, eats a plant-based diet, called it a “dream” to partner with Kenney. “He is the leader in the plant-based culinary world. . . . He has blazed a path for everybody else.”
Kenney explained in a recent phone interview from his home near Venice Beach, Calif., that he had signed a lease on the former Boston BeerWorks building, but once he learned about PlantPub and how McAuley and Dumont were looking to expand and had also considered the Fenway neighborhood property, he decided to partner with them “rather than create a new concept” for the space. Kenney is now a partner in the Cambridge PlantPub, too, and said they plan to expand to other cities in the future.
”I loved what they were doing — the product, the brand … it just seemed like a perfect fit,” said Kenney, who owns, co-owns, and/or operates 60 restaurants around the world under the Matthew Kenney Cuisine umbrella, has authored 12 cookbooks and one memoir, and helms the Food Future Institute plant-based culinary program as part of MKC’s educational platform.
”We always develop locations based on where we think there’s an unfulfilled need and where we think guests will really appreciate [our restaurants],” Kenney said. “Fenway is ground zero in Boston and we couldn’t think of a better location to showcase the fact that plant-based cuisine can be really crave-able and fulfilling and satisfying. We feel confident that we’ll be able to fulfill the expectations of Boston sports fans, guests, university students, and of course the local community.”
Evelyn Kimber, president of the Boston Vegetarian Society, said she is “delighted beyond words” about the new PlantPub and the collaboration between its founders and Kenney.
“Even during these extra-challenging pandemic times, numerous entirely plant-based restaurants have opened [and are bringing] their delicious, innovative menus to an eager clientele of vegans, vegetarians, and non-vegetarians alike,” Kimber said. “The fact that entrepreneurs Matthew Kenney and the owners of PlantPub are joining forces to bring their luscious, crowd-pleasing food to [the Fenway] is amazing and demonstrates that collaboration rather than competition between the greats leads to offering the best of the best in restaurant food, service, and atmosphere that I am sure we will find at PlantPub Fenway.”
Dumont said that partnering with Kenney will allow them to “do everything we wanted to do faster and on a larger scale.”
All of the crowd pleasers from PlantPub in Kendall Square — from the Buffalo cauliflower bites and chili queso fries to the fried chicken sandwich (made with tofu) and pepperoni pizza — will be on the new menu, Dumont said, adding that she plans on expanding the dessert offerings beyond the popular soft-serve ice cream PlantPub currently offers to include sundaes, frappes, and ice cream sandwiches.
”I think we’re going to open people’s eyes to what’s possible,” McAuley said. “They’ll see that you don’t have to sacrifice anything to make better choices for yourself and for the world — and [they] can still enjoy a few beers.”