Photo: Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet

A couple weekends ago, as the sun was setting, cars began to pull up to the corner of Fulton Street and South Portland Avenue in Fort Greene. Passengers — a few in Halloween costumes, many dressed in puffer coats or beanies — exited the vehicles and made their way down the block, ready to stand on line outside Slutty Vegan, the meat-free fast-food stand that opened in mid-September to immediate crowds. “It’s a hot spot,” said a woman named Rachel who was making her first trip. She then pointed to Habana Outpost across the street. “It’s a poppin’ spot that’s been there for years,” she added. “I feel like this is a perfect location — it’s nice to, like, see something Black-owned.”

Friends snapped pictures of one another or ran into people they weren’t expecting to see (“Hey, cousin!”). One customer reported he had already been waiting for 40 minutes and this was the shortest he had ever seen the line. Amid the crowd was a couple who’d come in from Long Island and another from Maryland. They were staying nearby and hoping to grab dinner before a Nets game. Over the restaurant’s PA system, a manager came on with an important announcement: “We have a queen from D.C. in the building!”

Inside, speakers blasted Top 40, trap, rap, and R&B, the music blending with the traffic noise, employees banging pans, and the cashiers greeting customers with an exuberant “Heeeeey, sluts.” Every element of the atmosphere had been carefully considered by owner Aisha “Pinky” Cole since she launched the business in Atlanta in 2018 before expanding across Georgia and into Brooklyn and, later this month, to a location in Harlem. “It feels like a party. When you walk through the door, we’re going to yell at you; you’re going to have a good time,” Cole said. “Slutty Vegan is the person who went to an HBCU, and she’s a lawyer, the breadwinner of the family. But on the weekend, she likes to go to the strip club sometimes.”

Customers film their entrances, pose for photos in front of the store’s sign, and come out giggling about owner Pinky Cole’s specific brand of hospitality. The staff is enthusiastic in kind.

In what can only be described as a unique brand of egalitarianism, all customers are greeted the same way: “Next two sluts.” To a man waiting outside: “Slut?” And to a customer ambling over to the takeout window for his order: “I knew it was you, slut.”

Like many other burger chains these days, Slutty Vegan uses Impossible and Beyond Meat products, as well as mock shrimp and chicken. What’s different is how Cole — who once worked in casting — has infused the place with a strong sense of personality.

Customers shared varied reasons for trying the restaurant, including a desire to eat less meat, and to support Black-owned businesses. “I’ve lived here my entire life, and the neighborhoods have changed drastically, so it’s kind of nice to, like, see something Black-owned,” says one.

Photographs by Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet

Order a Hollywood Hooker — a vegan fusion of a cheesesteak and a chopped cheese — and you may be told, with cheeky disbelief, “We just met.” Other items on the menu include the Chick’n Head (faux chicken tossed in Buffalo sauce) and the Sloppy Toppy (“loaded with jalapeños, vegan cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and our Slut Sauce on a vegan Hawaiian bun”). One customer from Connecticut was making her second trip on the strength of the fries covered in Slut Dust: “Whatever seasoning they put on there? I’m like, This is good.”

Enthusiasm around Slutty Vegan’s opening has grown quickly — though not everyone waiting that night had heard about it ahead of time. “I was in Target, and I was looking for something to eat because I’m vegan. This just popped up,” said Nazareth Terrazas, who recently moved to New York from Los Angeles. “It’s definitely a different vibe,” she said. “I was surprised about the line.”