Playing in plants makes Milwaukee’s vegan scene grow “Inhabitat – Green Design, Innovation, Architecture, Green Building
When people think of Wisconsin, cheese comes to mind before vegan delicacies. The Playing in the Plants restaurant collective brings exciting new herbal outlets to Milwaukee.
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On The Bus in the popular Milwaukee Public Market offers sandwiches, vegan burgers, smoothies, and perhaps the best vegan ice cream in Milwaukee. Sugar Cube Donuts is a pop-up that serves giant square-shaped vegan donuts from Milwaukeeans. And the collective is planning a few more outlets in downtown Milwaukee soon: Treat, a candy store, and Make Waves, which will feature personalized acai bowls. Inhabitat spoke to Emily Ware, owner and founder of Playing in the Plants, to learn more about Milwaukee’s vegan scene.
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Inhabitat: What does it mean to be a catering collective, and how was your collective born?
Ware: The idea of ââa catering collective developed in a very organic way. As On The Bus began to expand its offerings to specific days, such as âDonut Dayâ or âMilkshake Day,â the notion of pushing these concepts even further into a whole new brand evolved. Our problem is not the lack of ideas, but rather reducing them to the best ones to pursue.
Small businesses and local restaurants in particular face many challenges. Our collective allows us to support our restaurants from top to bottom. We have many resources at our fingertips, from a central kitchen space, employee talents, marketing power and retail space. In essence, each restaurant supports each other.
Inhabitat: Who are the founders / movers / agitators of Playing in the Plants?
Ware: I am the owner and founder of Playing in the Plants. I have been vegetarian since I was 12, vegan for 16. I have three children who are all vegans by birth. By the time the opportunity to open On The Bus presented itself, Milwaukee was empty of vegan restaurants. I took the opportunity to offer Milwaukee a place to experience classic vegan fare.
Paige Hammond is the Director of Marketing and Events. Most of the extravagant ideas you see come straight from her. She has a passion for small business success and veganism.
Inhabitat: Tell us about the opportunities you have so far and those that will open up.
Ware: On The Bus is located in the Milwaukee Public Market in Milwaukee’s Third Historic District. It opened in August 2017, serving sandwiches, burgers, acai bowls, smoothies and our famous homemade vegan oat milk milkshakes and ice cream scoops. The iconic speedometer is made from a 1971 VW bus which was my first car.
Sugar Cube Donuts is Milwaukee’s favorite donut pop-up. It was founded in the fall of 2020 and offers yeast square shaped donuts in over-the-top flavors and decorations.
Make Waves will open in 2022 in 3rd Street Market Hall, offering bespoke layered acai bowls, fresh juices, smoothies, boba teas, breakfast items and healthy lunch options. to take away.
Treat also opens in 2022 in the 3rd Street Market Hall. It will include homemade oat milk shakes, donuts, freshly baked cookies and various other sweet treats.
Inhabitat: Please recommend a few favorite foods or treats for everyone.
Ware: At On The Bus, try our homemade oat milk ice cream. Seasonal flavors change throughout the year. Our homemade seitan, a vegan protein made from vital wheat gluten, is excellent in many of our sandwiches.
At Sugar Cube Donuts, our signature square donut flavors change weekly, but you can always grab a frozen one. You can pre-order a Sugar Box, which includes four flavors, including an exclusive flavor only available for pre-order.
Inhabitat: What plays in the dreams of plants for the future?
Ware: Our dreams are big. You will absolutely continue to see new pop-up concepts emerge and holiday-centric events. We are looking to establish ourselves in a retail line of some of our most popular items, so keep your eyes peeled for that. What about additional retail locations? I would say that we are open to the idea of ââcontinuing to develop in the right place at the right time. We are looking to be there for the long haul.
Inhabitat: What is Milwaukee like for vegans?
Ware: Over the past five years, vegan options in Milwaukee have grown significantly. Outside of Milwaukee’s vegan restaurants, the general consensus of restaurants here has increased their offerings. It’s easy enough for vegans to walk into just about any restaurant and not be limited to a simple salad on the menu.
There is a very active vegan community here. They support restaurants and often the other way towards vegan food. There are a lot of reasons people turn to veganism, some for health, others for the environment or animal welfare. It’s great to have a community to lean on for resources.
Inhabitat: special challenges for vegans in Milwaukee?
Item: Cheese. It’s rooted in the DNA of most Wisconsinians. Vegan cheese has made progress, but still has a way to go. We are working on cheese concepts in our test kitchen which we hope will be convincing enough for the most demanding.
Inhabitat: What are your favorite places to go as a Milwaukee vegan, outside of your own collective?
Ware: Milwaukee has a great mix of small ethnic restaurants. These are often the places you’ll find usâ¦ exploring new cuisines and often opening up a whole new range of vegan options.
Images via Playing in Plants