Lonely Planet Writer

A vegan food hall has opened in Providence, Rhode Island

The food hall trend is still going gangbusters worldwide, but while most restaurant collectives have a dish or two to appease plant-based eaters, vegan options don’t tend to be the focus of the whole shebang. 

Plant City exterior
Matthew Kenney's Plant City opened in June. Image by Go Providence

That looks set to change with Plant City, a food hall in Providence, Rhode Island, with five eateries, including full-service and quick-serve options, a burger joint, a coffee shop, and a juice bar – all of which are vegan. The most recent project from innovative plant-based chef Matthew Kenney opened in June, and so far, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. “We served over 13,000 people in our first three days, and over 22,000 the first week,” says Kenney, the CEO and founder of Matthew Kenney Cuisine. “My expectations were far exceeded when we saw the outpouring of support.” 

Plant City tables with sign
Plant City covers three floors, with a cellar-level communal space, coffee shops and a marketplace on the ground floor, and a pizza joint and a Latin-inspired spot on the second floor. Image by Go Providence

The project took about eight months to get off the ground, from conception to renovations to launch on 14 June. It features two unique concepts – New Burger, which serves plant-based American comfort food like burgers and shakes, and a retail marketplace, which carries offerings from small local businesses – alongside three established franchises. Pizza restaurant Double Zero has locations in New York and Venice Beach as well as on the second floor of Plant City, with three more outposts on the way this year. The Mexican-inspired Bar Verde, on the second floor as well, is an offshoot of the flagship in New York, and juice bar and café Make Out can also be found in Bogota, Colombia, and Los Angeles. 

Plant City marketplace
Everything at the marketplace is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Image by Go Providence

As for the marketplace, that’s where you’ll find everything from small-batch nut cheeses and packaged goods to fresh-baked vegan goods like bread, pop tarts, croissants, and macarons. “There’s actually a lot happening within the plant-based scene when it comes to small artisanal goods and products in the area. Most of these businesses are small and their distribution is limited, but our marketplace has the ability to offer these things since it operates on a pretty small scale,” says Kenney. “We’re glad that we have the opportunity to showcase what local artisans are making, especially since most aren’t available in grocery store chains.”

Plant City baked goods
Baked goods like sticky buns and pop tarts get the plant-based treatment. Image by Go Providence

Given health, environmental, and ethical concerns, plant-based diets as a whole are growing ever more appealing, with one prediction estimating that the global market value for vegan food will reach around US$24.3 billion by 2026. Kenney’s operation is getting in on the ground floor, touting a healthy, sustainable philosophy while supporting local businesses and gathering a diverse selection of plant-based dining options under one roof. “The concepts of food halls have also always inspired me,” Kenney says. “You’ve got all these different cuisines and influences and energies mingling in one place, and it creates a sense of excitement and curiosity and stimulation. To showcase our plant-based cuisine in this type of curated, multifaceted environment has really allowed us to be really creative and innovative throughout the process.”