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How Slutty Vegan Puts the Party in Plant-Based Food

Pinky Cole’s Atlanta-based burger chain is valued at a hundred million dollars. Can racy branding take vegan food mainstream?

Pinky Cole says most of her customers are meat-eaters and “we like it that way.”Photographs by Ross Landenberger for The New Yorker

On a recent Saturday evening at the flagship branch of Slutty Vegan, an Atlanta-based burger chain, a hulking former strip-club bouncer was working the door, under a bright sign that read “eat plants ya slut.” A dozen people were queued up outside. Another employee, wearing a T-shirt with the restaurant’s name in the style of Run DMC’s logo, shouted through a microphone as each customer stepped forward, “It’s Slutty Saturday!” If the person was a first-time patron, and admitted it, the employee added, “Virgin slut!”

Inside, a d.j. positioned near a rack of merch was playing Drake and Aaliyah at discothèque decibel levels. Three white guys in their late twenties—virgin sluts, all of them—peered up at the menu placard, which included such burgers as the Fussy Hussy (vegan cheese, caramelized onions; $13), the Super Slut (guacamole, jalapeños; $15), and the Ménage à Trois (vegan bacon, vegan shrimp; $19). All were made with plant-based patties from Impossible Foods and doused with a spicy orange “slut sauce.”

“We love meat,” one of the guys said. “We were debating going to a barbecue, but he”—he gestured at his friend—“really wanted to be called a slut today.”

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