Since opening earlier this fall, Angelhearts Diner has tried to make a name for itself as one of Ithaca’s several vegan eateries. Angelhearts owner, Kim Engelheart, considered the idea of starting the diner for years, though she moved away from Ithaca for several years, forcing her to put her dream on hold.
However, after moving back in 2017, she began working to ensure the restaurant would be a smashing success. The transition from revitalizing the location of Angelhearts, which housed Napoli Pizza for many years, was one of the more challenging aspects of getting the business prepared for customers. However, since Engelheart has never run a business like this before, she is learning plenty on the job, like sourcing supplies and getting the correct inventory, all while trying to garner a consistent customer base.
“I just wanted to have a place where people could come and enjoy vegan food,” Engelheart said. “But food that everyone would feel welcome to enjoy.”
Engelheart chose the former Napoli Pizza location because she wanted Angelhearts to be centrally located in downtown Ithaca, making it easier for people to walk or ride their bikes. Engelheart has found there are some crowd favorites for every meal. During breakfast, people seem to like The Western sandwich, made of seasoned tofu patty, grilled peppers and onions, “cheddah cheese,” and a vegan sausage patty. The lunchtime favorite has been the beet burger, a beet/quinoa blend and with coconut bacon made in-house, and the Philly.
The Philly is comprised of house-made seitan, high-protein vegetarian food made of cooked wheat gluten, steak mix with peppers/onions and a cashew cheese sauce on a sub roll, which is the seitan cheesesteak. Recently, Angelhearts introduced “chicken” and waffles to their menu which has also found success.
The terms “comfort food” and “vegan food” might not seem to match for some, particularly with the opposite associations for each. “Comfort food” brings to mind something fatty, sinful and warm, whereas “vegan food” has a far healthier reputation. Engelheart decided to serve comfort food matches the welcoming and comfortable atmosphere she is trying to create, an atmosphere reflected in the diner’s name.
“Our last name is Engelheart, so it’s the family name,” Engelheart said. “And to me, the Angelhearts meaning is that we’re a family business and a number of family members are working there. But also you have the heart of an angel because you’re putting animals first by choosing plant-based foods.”