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Las Vegas restaurant says vegan doesn’t always means restriction

“Scary and weird” are terms one local chef is determined to detach from veganism. To chef Mayra Trabulse, the lifestyle choice is “lean, green and sexy” — and that’s the mantra she is spreading through her funky new restaurant.

Pura Vida Bakery & Bystro , 1236 Western Ave., opened as a fully vegan restaurant last weekend. The small hideaway features a seasonal menu for breakfast and lunch meals alongside a full bakery and catering service. Trabulse said she will give 10 percent of sales to various charities, especially those that favor the homeless, animals and local farms.

“It’s about local, sustainable organic food that’s not going to cost an arm and a leg,” said Trabulse, who has been a chef for 12 years and a vegan for seven . “That’s what I’m going for, and it was hard work. There’s no place like this in Vegas.”

Pura Vida does not contain any animal products, unlike many other local diners that are vegan-friendly, Trabulse said, noting that her business is suitable for “diehard” vegans such as herself. While dietary vegans eliminate all animal products from their meals, ethical vegans like Trabulse stay free from animal products for any purpose.

“We have very few options for restaurants in terms of vegan kitchens,” said Veronica Selco, who calls herself a vegetarian with vegan tendencies. “A lot of times we go out to eat, we are often asking for special dishes, but are getting food prepared on grills where they also cook hamburgers or sliced bacon.”

Trying to break free from the notion that vegan means few choices, Trabulse said she focused on creating a diverse menu for various tastes. It features a unique blend of add-on options, gluten-free meals, daily specials and will change seasonally.

“That’s the challenge: creating menus that meets everybody,” she said. “Dishes for hard-core vegans, people trying to eat healthy, people who are curious about veganism, vegetarians and ‘my wife made me come here’ people. I have it all.”

The unique flair doesn’t stop at the menu — the spunky, self-proclaimed diva brings funk to every aspect of her business.

A bright yellow exterior marks the quaint space, but the building is not without her signature color of red that’s splashed in signs above the gated entry. The dishes, specially ordered from New York, come in one-of-a-kind shapes, adding an extra eclectic feel. She hopes local artists will hang their work on the tile walls inside the venue of 12 tables. The patio, which features a mist system and a few tables, is open to dogs. She said she will eventually offer vegan dog treats, too.

“I’m not some hippie vegan like the stereotype,” the northwest resident said. “I’ll be here with the nails, the makeup and my red hair. I can be a diva with cruelty-free products.”

Trabulse’s spicy personality comes through in her cooking, which she says has culinary style with a vegan twist.

Selco, who is a weekly client of Trabulse’s personal chef business, calls her food “exquisite.”

“It’s flavorful and always beautifully decorated,” Selco said. “She makes Caribbean fusion food you can’t get anywhere else.”

Trabulse says her flavor is in her roots.

“I don’t want to be like a ’70s vegan with all that dirt flavor,” the 53-year-old said. “I’m half-Cuban, half-Lebanese and was born in Mexico; I’ve got too much flavor for that.”

Contact Southwest and Spring Valley View reporter Jessica Fryman at jfryman@viewnews.com or 380-4535.

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