Seitan Rising Cafe and Bakery, which opened last August at the southern end of Morgan Avenue, is kind of a supergroup collab among the queer women of popular pop-ups Pisces Rising Vegan and Seitan’s Helper. The place is all vegan all the time, it’s 100% worker-owned, and, based on an amazing feast I wolfed down on a Bushwick stoop last weekend, they make two things exceptionally well: breakfast sandwiches, and pastries.
“We believe the restaurant industry’s culture needs a major overhaul,” said Christina, one of Seitan Rising’s four employee-owners along with Amanda, Cheyanne, and Lars. “We’ve all worked in toxic environments before, places where you feel disposable and taken advantage of, with owners who don’t want to pay you and expect you to work yourself above and beyond with nothing in return, not even respect. Being worker-owned means we can be more conscious of our health, both physically and mentally, and we have more flexibility in things like our hours, our menu, and how we operate.”
As you would imagine from the cafe’s name, protein-rich seitan, or wheat gluten, plays a key role in giving the sandwiches here both flavor and heft. It was still fairly early on Saturday morning when I arrived, so I stuck with the breakfast side of things in this department. The Hammy was terrific, a well-stuffed beast of a sandwich starring some smoky seitan housemade “ham,” a soft tofu scramble, thick hollandaise, and spicy ketchup giving it some kick, all on a very good Balthazar roll.
It’s always a risky move to mess around with that beloved NYC classic, the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese, but Seitan Rising’s sandwich-maker Cheyanne delivers with a fully vegan BEC that’s loaded with flavor, thanks, in part, to housemade roasted red pepper jam and maple mayo. There is a lengthy list of lunch-type sandwiches available as well, including the Chickie Caesar Wrap, a vegan version of the classic Italian hero called the Triple Threat (aka, pepperoni, salami, and mortadella), and the Red Devil, which is loaded with veggie versions of turkey and roast beef, and coleslaw, and beets.
Just as satisfying as the sandwiches are Seitan Rising’s pastries, which seem to fall under three categories: savory, breakfast-y, and more traditional desserts. I happened to arrive when there was a slab of Lars’s Cheddar Bay Croissant Bread Pudding in the pastry case, and if you also get lucky like that–it’s apparently a “rare special”–order it immediately. Crazy rich and delicious, it’s pretty much all you’ll need to eat for the rest of the day.
There are Plain Croissants, Chocolate Croissants, Ham and Cheese Croissants, Cinnamon Buns, rotating flavors of Focaccia (when I was there: a good-looking tomato, basil, and jalapeno number), Hot Pockets, cookies, and fruity Oat Bars, among several other possibilities. I loved my slice of Strawberry Rhubarb Cheese Pie and, just when I thought I was done, I noticed someone leaving with a towering piece of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, so I went back in to order some of that, too.
Seitan Rising’s opening last summer was delayed due to the pandemic, mostly because, as Christina said, “It was so, so much harder to get our permits and paperwork approved.” But the menu is pretty much the same as what they all dreamed it would be, “except for our pricing, which we decided to keep low because a lot of our friends and family lost their jobs.” There’s no seating indoors or out, and it’s likely to stay that way (turns out “we like being takeaway,” said Christina, “and think, somewhat unexpectedly, that it’s a much more manageable model for us”), so if you don’t live nearby you’ll have grab a nearby stoop or walk a few blocks over to Maria Hernandez Park for a picnic.
Seitan Rising is located at 2 Morgan Avenue, just north of Flushing Avenue, and is currently open on Thursday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (929-298-0160; seitanrising.com)