Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: VEDGEco, The Other Side DinerRestaurant Insider
June 13, 2021
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with VEDGEco founder and CEO TREVOR HITCH and The Other Side Diner owner MARTY SIMJIAN
The Other Side Diner is known for vegan-friendly options. With the amount of plant-based products owner Marty Simjian orders from VEDGEco, it made perfect sense to talk story and try these popular plant-based dishes. We tried, side by side, vegan and protein options of local favorites like a loco moco. It was so delicious; I couldn’t tell the difference.
AL: What is VEDGEco?
TH: VEDGEco is a plant-based wholesale distribution company. We opened in Kailua in 2019. I have been plant-based/vegan since I was 19. Having a background in food service, I saw independent plant-based brands struggling to get distribution.
I wanted people to have accessibility to the best, most delicious products regardless if you are a restaurant, individual, food truck or caterer. VEDGEco is the first nationwide 100% plant-based online to offline wholesaler. Hawaii is our first location and main hub, but we (are also in) Georgia and California.
AL: Why did you choose The Other Side Diner to showcase your products? TH:They have always stayed true to their roots. For every animal-based protein, they offer a plant-based protein. That is exciting to us, as our mission is to offer these options and not to take anything away from anyone. Sixty-five percent of the menu is plant-based. It’s freedom of food choice; options for every body. This is our goal for not just every restaurant in Hawaii, but also the country.
AL: Tell us more about The Other Side Diner.
MS: This was previously Downbeat Diner. As a patron, I enjoyed the food. The menu is not separated, everyone can get the same items by switching the protein. In September 2020, I took ownership, changed the name and decor, but kept the food and team intact. During the pandemic, we saw about a 70% increase in takeout for plant-based dishes. When it was mandated for us to stay home, many people gained weight. We have customers trying out plant-based dishes and are going toward a better diet. The ordering system that VEDGEco has makes it easy. That is what made us move our entire plant-based ordering through VEDGEco.
AL: Do you have an executive chef?
MS: Douglas McKenna. He helped open Downbeat Diner and was the connector in making the transition so smooth to The Other Side. He is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef.
AL: What are the most popular dishes?
MS: Loco Moco ($12), meat or vegan. Meat is a Big Island beef patty on rice with an island egg, smothered in housemade vegan gravy or chili. You can make it vegan with a housemade TOS vegan patty on rice, with JUST Eggs, smothered in housemade vegan gravy or vegan chili. For $2 more, you can have it with an Impossible Burger patty; and make it deluxe with caramelized onions and mushrooms for $3 more.
Squealers Delight ($12): housemade slow-cooked pulled Barvecue pork sandwich with vegan coleslaw, with a locally made vegan bun. Or, the meat version ($12): slow-cooked pulled pork, with coleslaw, Swiss cheese and barbecue sauce on a toasted potato bun.
NoDoh Vegan Mozzarella Sticks ($8) — no one else has them — with marinara sauce; or regular Mozzarella Sticks ($8).
Vegan Wings ($12) — tossed in buffalo or house-made barbecue sauce, served with TOS vegan ranch. Or, regular Chicken Wings (call for price), which is a half-pound, deep fried to golden crispness, served with buffalo, barbecue or ranch/ TOS vegan ranch.
We are known for our signature cocktails. Beverage director Jarel Brown created Chem Trails ($11) with Aviation Gin, Amaro Nonino, Aperol and lemon juice. And, our neighbor Wing Ice Cream Parlor makes the vegan ice cream we use in our shakes.
AL: Do you have happy hour or brunch?
MS: Happy hour is 3-6 p.m. daily, featuring $1 off beer and wine and $2 off house cocktails. We also have our Happy Hour Bites menu that offers appetizers like chicken wings ($6) and pulled pork sliders ($8). Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays.
AL: Anything else you want to share?
TH: I feel that the future is plant-based. With the pandemic, we learned that relationships are everything, and independent restaurants needed to know that they were supported. We did this by offering an incentive of $150 in free products — they can try new items that could help their sales. This incentive is for any independent restaurant, including food trucks, caterers and regular customers. Order online at vedgeco.com. We now have a business-to-business subscription. We ship Mondays-Thursdays with deliveries arriving the next day.
If every restaurant kept an open mind and carried more plant-based options, it wouldn’t take away their uniqueness, but would create new revenue streams, as well as new customers.
201 Kapaa Quarry Place Bldg. 50 No. 4, Kailua
The Other Side Diner
42 N. Hotel St., Honolulu
11 a.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Sundays; 11 p.m. kitchen closes