Old Cuss: ‘Vegan Food for Non-Vegan People’ 

Wander into Old Cuss Cafe, and you’ll feel as though you stepped into a mix of your favorite quirky uncle’s log cabin and a vintage consignment shop run by his eclectic wife. It is warm, welcoming, and the scent of roasted coffee permeates everything— it’s the perfect place to cozy up on a cold morning. The owners, Brent’lee Williams, AKA the “Old Cuss” and Christain Fyffe, who goes by Fyffe, set about to create an entirely plant-based restaurant and coffee shop. Their motto, “vegan food for non-vegan people,” is inspiring for those of us making a transition to more plant-based eating in 2023. 

“Most people think, ‘hey, vegetables are a side dish,’” Fyffe says “But [vegetables are] something to be celebrated. The majority of the world has been finding ways to make them the star of the show.”

“Plants are so unbelievably diverse,” adds Brent’lee. “What you can do with tomato is much more than an out-of-season tomato slice on a sandwich. There are so many ways to cook a tomato. We think tomato sauce. We think pizza sauce. We think a BLT. But you can take a tomato, peel it, then take that tomato peel and dehydrate it for flavor. Rehydrate it. Sun-dry it. Turn it into a powder. Turn it into a whipped cream. The things that you can do with these vegetables are unbelievable.”

Get curious about plants

One thing Brent’lee and Fyffe agree on is to approach plant-based eating with a side of curiosity. “We’re both very curious people with our food,” says Brent’lee. “There are vegetables I’ve never even picked up. I don’t know the texture when I feel it, let alone the texture when I eat it.” This is where a healthy dose of curiosity comes in. “If I stew this, what happens? If I bake this, what happens?”

Where to start your own plant-based eating? Fyffe chims in with some advice, “Let’s say ‘plant-based curious’ since we’ve been using the term curiosity. Somebody that’s looking to make a change or, you know, convert to another way of eating, Honestly, that spark of curiosity goes far.”

Old Cuss Cafe’s “Mom’s Jam n’ Biscuit” with seasonal, house-made jam. See page 82 for more. photo adam finkle

Eat dishes that are a part of your roots

Most food cultures have elements that are vibrantly plant-centric. Brent’lee and Fyffe recommend exploring them when you are considering a transition to plant-based eating. Lean into your cultural roots, and find something familiar that you love to make the transition that much easier. 

Fyffe’s mom is East Indian, and he explains that “meat isn’t a huge part of my backstory. It’s just a part of my upbringing. And so if I wanted to go back to my backstory it makes sense for me to be more on a plant-based diet because of where I come from.”  Brent’lee laughs and adds, “Fyffe has very deep roots. I’m a blonde, blue-eyed dude from Missouri. But even in Missouri, corn-fed is what we talk about. A corn-fed, Missouri boy.” 

Start with plants that are a part of your culinary traditions and foodways. Then branch out from there to other traditions. 

‘Let your taste buds travel’

“You hear from all these different chefs who started travel shows, that travel will make you a better human,” says Brent’lee. “Let your taste buds travel. We’re so fortunate. Salt Lake is a refugee city, and every day, the food culture here becomes more and more diverse.” 

Here’s your chance to get curious again. Try new foods, new preparations and get inspired by other food cultures.

Be a rebel. Eat plants.

To younger readers, Brent’lee advises “you want to be a rebel? Eat some plants.If there’s a 60-year-old reading this, it’s not too late to rebel against your dad. Eat plants. Rebelling is how progress happens. Progress comes from rebellion. I think the most Mr. Rogers human on this planet can find one punk rock song to connect to. And if that punk rock song happens to be on a [plant-based] menu at a restaurant, lean into it, be curious.” 

Visit Old Cuss Cafe 

At Old Cuss, you’ll find plant-based milks. House-made syrups. A rotating cast of seasonal drinks. And comfort food that sticks to the (plant-based) ribs. Do yourself a favor and get the Breakfast Dagwood with Brent’lee’s famous house-made biscuit, “cheese” sauce, tofu egg and parsnip bacon. Don’t forget to add some hot sauce. Or go classic with a “Big Ass” Burrito—packed with smoked jackfruit, baked potato fries, tofu eggs, all smothered in house-made enchilada sauce. If you just want a little something to go with your latte, pick up Mom’s Jam n’ Biscuit. And yes, it is served with jam that is literally made by Brent’lee’s mom. 

Photo by Adam Finkel

Hungry for more?

Check out some of our local plant-based favorites. 

  • Hello! Bulk Markets  Perfect for picking up bulk grains, beans, nuts and produce. Bring your own bags and jars—this market is consumer packaging-free.
  • Mahider Ethiopian Restaurant  An authentic Ethiopian restaurant in Salt Lake City, they serve traditional dishes using recipes passed down generations. Grab a friend, get the vegetarian combo plate, and be prepared to eat with your hands off a communal plate. Yum!
  • Zest Kitchen & Bar Global fusion vegan fare with fresh ingredients and solid gluten-free options. And great cocktails. 21+ only.
  • Vertical Diner   One of the OG vegan spots in Salt Lake City. You’ll find vegan diner food with breakfast served all day. Get the tender tigers (AKA vegan wings), one of many burgers, or “The Mountain”—a big pile of hash browns, tofu scramble, grilled peppers and onions, cheese sauce and guacamole.
  • Big O Doughnuts Vegan donuts? Yes, please. No need to say more.
  • City Cakes   Vegan cakes, pastries, and treats, oh my! Get a cinnamon roll and prepare to enter sugarcoma bliss.
  • Rawtopia   Not just vegan, but raw. Get their miso soup or the raw taco salad.

See more stories like this and all of our food and drink coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah. 

Lydia Martinez
Lydia Martinezhttp://www.saltlakemgazine.com
Lydia Martinez is a freelance food, travel, and culture writer. She has written for Salt Lake Magazine, Suitcase Foodist, and Utah Stories. She is a reluctantly stationary nomad who mostly travels to eat great food. She is a sucker for anything made with lots of butter and has been known to stay in bed until someone brings her coffee. Do you have food news? Send tips to lydia@saltlakemagazine.com

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