Head down University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa and you’ll find all the familiar Southern college town staples. There’s a brewpub, a barbecue joint, and a campus apparel shop selling just about any article of clothing you could want emblazoned with the University of Alabama’s elephant mascot. But as of August 2022, T-town’s also sporting a bit of West Coast flair. Yazmyn Rozier’s Veganish Market is a breath of fresh air for a stretch of downtown populated with dark bars and greasy late-night food joints. Let the window-hung pastel streamers and cheetah print table umbrellas beckon you inside a light and bright space that’s outfitted with palm print wallpaper, surfboard motifs, and rattan furniture.
After only six months in business, the tiny café has already amassed quite the following of both locals and college students looking for a healthier bite in town. Quick growth seems to be the norm for Rozier, who opened just one year and one month after coming up with the concept and grew it in less than a year. The catalyst for The Veganish Market came in March of 2021 when Rozier had a mini stroke at the age of 23. “Surviving that experience led me to ‘carpe diem’ each and every day,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to open my own business. I thought it would be art forward but it morphed into being hospitality forward.”
Case in point: The Veganish Market started out as a dog bandana company called Wild Sage Collective Co. Eventually, Rozier’s partner suggested that she also offer smoothies and smoothie bowls. Noting that there were already similar businesses in town, Rozier decided to shift gears and fill the community’s need for a vegan and vegetarian restaurant. She came up with the idea in July 2021, secured her downtown location in April 2022, and was open by August.
Rozier’s journey to eating a more plant-based diet began in her hometown of Jackson, Alabama when she became a pescatarian during her senior year of high school. When she moved to Tuscaloosa, she appreciated the increased options for dining out and also got started working in the hospitality industry as a catering operations manager, host lead, and social media manager for other restaurants in town.
Just as the name suggest, The Veganish Market is for everyone—from strict vegans to vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, and those who just want to try out eating more plant-based meals. The menu is robust and features everything from soups and salads to sandwiches, tacos, and bowls. The Salmon Bowl pairs white rice and salmon with mango salsa and pickled onions.
Another favorite dish is the Beyond Street Tacos with tangy slaw, spring mix, vegan cheese, black beans, and corn salsa. Appetizers include cauliflower wings roasted with buffalo lemon pepper sauce and street corn dip. Rozier says her favorite menu item is the Wild Pepperoni Pizza that features wild mushrooms, pesto, vegan mozzarella, peppers, and onions on a cauliflower crust. Smoothies, vegan ice cream, and tropical mocktails round out the menu.
Apart from providing delicious food and an inviting atmosphere, Rozier’s other mission with The Veganish Market is to create community in Tuscaloosa. Her in-house Creative Babe Market offers the opportunity for local artists, makers, and entrepreneurs to display and sell their work inside the café. This could be anything from candles and essential oils to ceramics, baked goods, jewelry, soap, or even vintage clothing. Rozier is also planning a series of small pop-up events like the cooking demo she recently did with TikTok food influencer Halle Burns.
“Our guests have turned into friends,” she says. “So many people in different stages of their plant-based journey, pursuing different career paths, artists in different mediums, providing me with encouraging words. Veganish itself has developed its own little community within a community.”