‘Slutty Vegan’ More Than a One-Night Stand

Photo by Brenika Banks.

By Brenika Banks | October 6, 2022

Brooklyn has officially been “Sluttified.” The term was coined by restaurateur Aisha “Pinky” Cole, the founder of Slutty Vegan, the Black-owned vegan burger chain. The provocatively named restaurant had its grand opening in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, on September 18. 

“My wildest dreams have come true,” Cole said, holding back tears as the crowd cheered her on. Cole, 34, was born in Maryland from Jamaican parents and was first inspired to create Slutty Vegan based on her own vegan junk food cravings.

Photo by Brenika Banks.

Her plant-based burger business started from food trucks before she was able to open her first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Atlanta in January 2019.  This new Brooklyn location is Cole’s seventh restaurant, with five in Georgia and one in Birmingham, Alabama, which opened in early September 2022.

Slutty Vegan adds to a small number of Black-owned businesses in New York City. The Black community makes up 22 percent of the city’s population, yet only 3.5 percent of businesses are owned by Black entrepreneurs, according to a report by the Center for an Urban Future

Long Island native Nyola Marsh, 26, said she appreciates Slutty Vegan and Cole as a symbol for Black women. “We need more representation of the Black woman and not even just entrepreneurship or restaurant business, but just out here in business regardless,” Marsh said. 

Photos by Brenika Banks.

Despite being a meat-eater, Marsh said she is willing to try the vegan restaurant to expand her taste palate with healthier food choices. The arrival of Slutty Vegan in Fort Greene adds a healthier option to the historically Black neighborhood. Many African American communities in New York City lack access to fruits and vegetables, which can contribute to health issues.  

The American Heart Association reported that about 55 percent of Black Americans have high blood pressure and disproportionately experience more severe forms of hypertension. Verywell Health  reported that 44.8 percent of Black men and 42.1 percent of Black women have high or borderline high cholesterol levels. And the Center for Disease Control reported non-Hispanic Black adults have the highest rate of obesity at 49.9 percent.   

Cole’s latest business venture is not her first endeavor in New York City. She opened Pinky’s Jamaican and American restaurant in Harlem in 2014. Cole said the business was successful, but the restaurant closed after a fire in 2015.

“I lost everything,” Cole said. “Although it hurt to get stung by the bee, that was time for me, for the universe to provide me with a barrel of prosperity.”

“When I cut this ribbon, we’ll open the doors to the world-famous Brooklyn location!” Cole said.   

Councilwoman Farah Louis was present at the Fort Greene opening on behalf of the mayor’s office to proclaim Sept. 18 as, “Slutty Vegan Brooklyn Day in the city of New York.” 

Photo by Brenika Banks.

“I’m about to get Sluttified,” food photographer Andrew Scrivani said before experiencing his first taste of a Slutty Vegan burger. “It’s delicious, it’s fresh and light,” he said about the “One Night Stand” burger. 

“I’ve been around food my entire career, and this is one of the more exciting things I’ve done in terms of covering an opening/community event,” Scrivani said. 

Photos by Brenika Banks.

The opening attracted some celebrities as well, including actress and singer Naturi Naughton and rapper Doug E. Fresh, who performed for the crowd and customers who waited in line for up to five hours to get their hands on one of the popular burgers. According to the restaurant’s Instagram page, they sold out their food around 7 pm.

Most of Cole’s team wore, “Spread love, it’s the SLUTTY way!,” shirts to pay homage to legendary Brooklyn rapper the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way” mantra.

A second New York City Slutty Vegan location will open in Harlem sometime this fall, according to one of the Slutty Vegan staff members.