by HALLE KATZ
Beyond America’s meat and dairy dystopia emerges a vegan-ized fast food vision: this is by CHLOE. Chloe knows that you enjoy the taste of crumbled beef, cheesy sauce and sour cream. She also knows you live curiously— deciphering where your food is coming from and who it is impacting, all the while recognizing how people assert agency through conscious eating. Recognizing these concerns matches food studies scholar, Warren Belasco’s “Culinary Triangle” rhetorical model that frames the ways in which identity, responsibility and convenience all operate interdependently when it comes to human relationships with food. For customers of by CHLOE, all three points of the triangle are recognized—acknowledging that responsibility towards environmental, agricultural and moral value systems can exist in harmony with one’s need for convenience—in the form of swinging hammock seats, online ordering and access to plant-based dishes that would otherwise require a lengthy shopping spree at your local Whole Foods. As a result, by CHLOE serves not to redefine the visual presentation or nomenclature surrounding American cuisine, but rather, to reimagine the underpinnings and repercussions of eating as a conscious action.
Embracing by CHLOE is predicated on one factor: a willingness to have one’s identity challenged in order to embrace a reimagining of American fast food. In the United States, food serves as an extension of ethnic, religious and racial identities. Subsequently, American cuisine has a way of being shaped and molded through time with each wave of immigration and each generation of thinkers; this fluidity means that individuals hold multiple identities—including one’s that might deviate from their upbringing and require coming face to face with one’s previous food culture identity. Food, thus, can drive individuals to disengage from past traditions and forgo age-old family recipes.
~ THE EXPERIENCE ~
The glass storefront sets the stage for customers who are about to engage in a transparent food experience; one in which ingredients are palatable in their original form just as much as on your plate. Upon entering, customers are greeted by a trail of contrasts that parallel the marriage of convenient and responsible eating. A green, leafy floor plant peeks through a heavy glass door. Ceiling-hung hammock chairs sway adjacent to sturdy metal seating –reminiscent of outdoor patio furniture. Benches are covered in a rainbow-striped fabric perhaps sparking images of your sister’s Pinterest boards. This revamped Americana aesthetic is eye catching; it’s sexy. Best yet, the menu has new twists on the childhood dishes you once craved long before being introduced to PETA ads… or quinoa. The menu itself is organized as follows: burgers & sandwiches, salads, and fries & sides— not too mention Chill by CHLOE, which provides an array of plant-based, non-dairy ice creams.
Up first is the Quinoa Taco salad: the meal that harnesses your Chipotle craving while avoiding the bloated aftermath. Drenched in a dairy-free, tofu crema and agave-lime vinaigrette, the salad is a mix of avocado, black beans, sweet corn, tomato, and spicy seitan chorizo—a sprinkled, tangy, ground plant-based meat. And let’s not forget the crunchy tortilla strips on top. While the salad is satisfying, it begs for a hand-held side dish. My go to: fries. Only caveat—they are void of salt and there in no ketchup in sight. That is, with the exception of by CHLOE’s homemade beet ketchup. Maroon in color, the dipping sauce is a reminder of their plant-based vision yet one that leaves you recalling that Heinz, too, is vegan. Then again, upon my most recent visit I overheard a woman squeal, “They’re thin! Just like McDonald’s. Finally!” Seems like someone’s nostalgic fast food needs have been met.
Next up, is by CHLOE’s Guac Burger— not just a burger topped with guacamole; the ‘Guac’ is covered in toppings similar to the quinoa taco salad’s ingredients, yet this dish satisfies the hand held familiarity of a burger. The black bean-quinoa-sweet potato patty is slabbed in between two whole grain buns and covered with, onion, corn salsa, tortilla strips, chipotle aioli, and of course– the guacamole. This take on the fast food burger is certainly a risky move for fans of the standard lettuce/tomato/onion combination. Then again, this version does not require ketchup or mustard to add flavor—the patty itself has enough character that can be best described as a grease-free version of a hand-held classic.
Last but not least is by CHLOE’s Mac N’ Cheese. An unexpected zing arrives as you dive into the cashew-cheese-sauce-covered sweet potato pasta– covered in crispy shiitake (mushroom) ‘bacon’ bits and almond parm. In a bowl packed to the brim, the cashew cheese sauce is the same sticky texture and familiar shade of orange as the dairy version. However, the sweet potato base makes for more filling pasta than the classic macaroni noodle. The zing that arrives is what truly set this new version apart from a Kraft box of Mac. Look closely and you will see a red dust that appears to be paprika—this is what adds the spicy flare and keeps your taste buds engaged with every bite. Surely, indulging in this new take on a children’s classic is startling at first, yet entertains one’s curiosity. Ultimately, the main difference between the vegan and dairy versions is that by CHLOE’s creation has a spicier flavor and ability to fill your stomach.
According to University of California Los Angeles School of Law Professor Taimie L. Bryant, vegan businesses are expected to accomplish more than your traditional American joints. Bryant suggests that the success of by CHLOE hinders on whether it is “Attractive to enough consumers who value it for its flavor and not for its connection to the moral choice it represents.” Indeed, by CHLOE is recognizing the steps necessary for this balancing act; the absence of animal products is not apparent at first glance. Likewise, comfort is achieved as customers are greeted by the names of familiar dishes—as well as an inviting space that welcome inquiry rather than demanding it.
Slightly less concerned than Professor Byrant’s notion of taste over moral compass, original founder Chloe Coscarelli set out with the intention that her recipes be “fun” all the while inviting consumers to unfold the layers that come along with making compassion-driven choices. Again, this goal is apparent in the business’ branding; there are neither graphic images of slaughterhouses nor palatable portrayals of happy, free-range animals. Instead, animals are void from the presentation all together. Instead, sketches of burgers and fries serve as the main graphics employed in their advertising.
As of now, by CHLOE is the first vegan business situated along Brown University’s campus. The restaurant offers more than a product but, rather, a progressive culinary experience that is articulating American cuisine’s ability to be driven by the times. Supporting by CHLOE means supporting the future of the vegan food industry–by introducing newcomers to a vision of transparent and slightly greasy eating. Supporting a cruelty-free vision can exist harmoniously with one’s identity—and perhaps, even reframe it all together. Bring along a new attitude, but do not forget your old taste buds.
Image Credit: Halle Katz
By CHLOE is located at:
223 Thayer Street
Providence, RI 02906
Open Monday-Friday 11am-10pm
Saturday & Sundays 10am-10pm
 Warren Belasco, Food: The Key Concepts, New York: BERG, 2008, 7.
 Taimie L. Bryant, “Value of Vegan Business Representation.” Social Psychology and The Value of Vegan Business Representation for Animal Law Reform. Michigan State Law Review: 2015, 1535.