Seva Is Vegetarian, but It’s Also Just Good
by Naabia Romain
After spending a year living in New York City, I’ve come home with a lot of new priorities, passions, and interests. I’ve been enlightened to the idea of practical sustainable living, and have since been fascinated by the potential to influence food and fashion. This platform has been such a unique opportunity for me to tap into a growing community of creators, entrepreneurs, and organizers in the city of Detroit. Food is a major cultural staple in any city, no matter the cultural perspective. That is no different here, especially during this time of evolution and growth.
The first time I went to Seva was by invitation. I tend to be a creature of habit when it comes to food, but I can usually be convinced to venture beyond my superficial nature. That doesn’t mean I went in without doubts though. Seva is a 100% vegetarian establishment with a focus on providing a wide array of Vegan, Gluten-Free options. This all sounded great in the larger scheme of things, but I am not a vegetarian, Vegan, nor do I maintain a gluten-free diet. It would have been an understatement to say I was… nervous. I know what you are thinking, “A sustainability advocate skeptical of vegetarianism?” To that, I say, not necessarily. I have actually been working to significantly reduce the amount of meat I consume for a slew of reasons. I’d say I have managed about a 40-50% decrease even though I haven’t been able to make the full commitment yet. My skepticism stems from how badly I have been burned previously by vegetarian/vegan menus. From artificial meat substitutes to cashew cheese, I just can’t do it.
My best friend, however, is a vegetarian and has been for a couple years. She swore up and down on her life that this was some kind of life-altering experience that I couldn’t miss. She obviously won this exchange.
Seva first opened in 1973 in Ann Arbor, Michigan about thirty minutes from Detroit, which is home to the University of Michigan. Likely the only city in the Metro Detroit area that could have supported meatless dining for the last 45 years until now. Head Chef, Matt Osantoski was able to speak to what a unique experience Seva in Detroit (est. 2011) was from their more suburban location. He expressed that, “The clientele is a lot more diverse and they give us a lot more freedom in the kitchen. As a chef, I appreciate that.” This embodies what has essentially drawn so many to the city during this time of rebirth, space and freedom to create, make mistakes, and evolve.
Seva is nestled spot, sharing a repurposed warehouse type facility with a music lounge and a contemporary art nonprofit. A quaint patio decorated with a few iron tables, matching chairs and umbrellas greets you but the industrial contemporary design is what surrounds you immediately upon entering. From the entrance to the dining room, you are looking at the exposed brick, wooden booths and local art lining the walls. As a design fanatic, I was captivated before I was even handed a menu.
It was refreshing to walk into a 4-star restaurant (on TripAdvisor) and be greeted by tattoos, piercings, and colorful hair, all my favorite things. The laid-back atmosphere is a fitting backdrop to some of the most strikingly delicious and innovative food in the city. Their eggs Veracruz, a fresh play on a traditional Mexican cuisine, was nothing but. Let me paint a picture for you all. Corn chips topped with pinto beans and chihuahua cheese, almost like nachos. This is only the first layer though. Atop that, there is a fried egg also lightly topped with cheese, served beside a mixture of chopped tomatoes and green onions. The sour cream, guacamole, and salsa verde perfectly round out this flavor profile. I was skeptical about enjoying the particular combination at first glance. However, reliving the moment now I can tell you wholeheartedly that each guac-dunked bite was better than the first. Next time, I hope I get a chance to try the controversial Beyond BurgerⓇ produced by Beyond Meat™. They have created a plant-based soy-free, GMO-free, gluten-free burger that is intended to looks, cooks, and tastes like a beef patty. My best friend, a vegetarian of more than two years, expresses a level of discomfort with food meant to truly mimic meat to that extent. Head chef, Matt Osantoski, even noted that the menu addition attracts more omnivores than herbivores and outperformed his expectations considering how it contrasts other best-selling dishes.
I’m not a vegetarian yet, but I go into everything with an open mind. I assert that Seva is one of the best restaurants in southeast Michigan, vegetarian or otherwise. I think they offer two uniquely important experiences to vegetarian and meat-eaters that are important. They allow my friend to peruse the menu with a freedom unlike anywhere else. For meat-eaters I think they buck stereotypes in an important way, showcasing the inventive ways you can eat plants. Seva reminds me that I chose to eat meat, I don’t have to eat meat. That is a conscious decision that I should and do grapple with every time I sit down for a meal.
Seva is located in Midtown at 66 E Forest Ave. in Detroit
For more information on Seva, please click here
Photography by Naabia Romain