At a time when restaurants across the state are facing the most challenging times – with many unfortunately closing – one local restaurateur is actually expanding his business.
Dan McKelvey opened his second Daily Veg location today on Newark’s Main Street, a hopeful contrast to the site of workers removing signage from the façade of the now-closed Panera Bread doors away.
McKelvey’s second store follows three years building the Daily Veg brand in Pike Creek. The vegan restaurant will now bring their signature plant-based food options like smoothies, açaí bowls and vegan burgers to Newark, a market known for health-conscious foodies.
Daily Veg opens in Newark with açaí bowls, veggie burgers and sandwiches
And it won’t be hard to find the new Daily Veg for veggie-seeking eaters, as it sits directly across from its competitor, “Playa Bowls.”
“It’s pretty crazy that folks sitting at the counter inside my restaurant will be looking directly at Playa Bowls across the street. But this space was just ideal for us. And there’s definitely room for the two of us on Main Street,” said Daily Veg founder Dan McKelvey.
McKelvey says growth of any retail business in the era of Covid is already challenging. But the fact that his ingredients are often hard to come presents an additional complexity. McKelvey foregoes larger food distributors for smaller food suppliers, like Sunbelt Natural foods in Hagerstown, Maryland, who specialize in vegan and organic offerings.
“I know the restaurant industry is tough enough, and to layer on a vegan concept on top of it? It’s insanely difficult. This is tougher than opening up any other bar or restaurant you can name because sourcing the ingredients for a place like this is really challenging and we want to deliver on the high expectations of our customers,” said McKelvey.
The former site of Jimmy Johns restaurant at 133 E. Main Street presented several advantages to McKelvey, including its size – 1600 square feet with seating for 26 inside – and the red-gray-white color scheme which matches the existing colors at his Pike Creek location. McKelvey only had to install a new stovetop vent and extend a floating wall inside, which he has done using rich paneled wood, to bring the entire place together.
New menu offerings include three new açaí bowls
Daily Veg isn’t offering dine-in for now because of Covid-19. Customers can order by phone, through the website or walk in to place their orders. There are two small tables with seating for 4 outside.
To gear up for his second store, McKelvey has added some new menu items that you can find at both locations including the
• Pretzel Crunch Burger, a Beyond Burger topped with pepper jack cheese, Dijon mustard and purple cabbage slaw
• Passion Bowl, with a base of Passion fruit mixed with mango, banana, agave and almond milk, topped with blueberries, strawberries, coconut, Agave and granola
• Açaí Blue Chia Bowl, with an açaí, banana, and apple juice base, then a layer of ‘blue pudding’ (Chia seeds, Blue Majik, Agave and coconut milk), and topped with strawberries, blueberries, banana, coconut, chia seeds and granola
• Green Matcha Smoothie Bowl, made with a base of matcha green tea (a 100% organic superfood) mixed with mango, banana and almond milk.
“I started by selling cold-pressed juices out of my own kitchen”
The regular açaí bowl at the Daily Veg is 24 ounces – making it four ounces larger than other competitors, according to Mckelvey. Most bowls are $10 – those with premium ingredients are $11.
The large, 32-ounce smoothie bowls are $14 – $15.
McKelvey grew up on a small dairy and produce farm in central New York, and says he’s always been passionate about proper nutrition and healthy eating. When he moved out to Las Vegas in 2006 to work in an unrelated industry, he regularly made and sold cold-pressed juices out of his kitchen to friends and coworkers.
He discovered the açaí bowl trend on a trip to California and then became hooked on the concept of opening his own healthy food eatery.
McKelvey opened two successful juice bars in Baltimore, MD, under the name Pure Raw Juice, but sold those to move to Delaware and be closer to family. (That franchise has now expanded to five locations in Baltimore.)
McKelvey has adapted by adding ‘beefier’ menu options and going 100% vegan
When McKelvey opened Raw Essentials in Pike Creek in 2017, his focus was a mix of cold-pressed juices, smoothies and açaí bowls.
“But I quickly learned based on customer preferences that this was not really a juice bar anymore. This was pretty much an açaí bowl place because that’s where all the sales were coming in,” he said. Açaí bowls represented 50 percent of Raw Essentials‘ total volume.
A year into his business, McKelvey changed the name and brand to Daily Veg to he could grow his menu options and focus on the complete vegan concept.
Daily Veg adds no cane sugar, stabilizers or water to its frozen açaí berries base.
Instead, Daily Veg mixes other fruits and liquids like Agave or almond milk to help cut the bitterness and give it a rich, creamy texture. And each bowl is blended to order. “At other restaurants, the açaí base is a scoopable sorbet product. Ours takes more time, but you can really taste the difference,” said McKelvey.
Eventually, he decided to give up the labor-intensive cold-pressed juice drinks.
“I got out of the juice business – it’s a very tough business with razor-thin margins. I was in it for five years and it hit its peak with the big boys like all these grocery stores making their own fresh-pressed organic juice at $4 and $5 a bottle. You can’t compete with being a juice bar anymore,” he said.
He has since ramped up a 100% plant-based food business with ‘Beyond,’ ‘Impossible’ and black bean burgers and a vegan-take on the chicken sandwich, which is made out of non-gmo soy and is breaded in-house with flour and special seasonings.
Daily Veg also offers a Walnut ‘Beef’ Taco with house-seasoned ground walnut ‘meat,’ purple cabbage, carrot, avocado, garlic herb aioli served in a corn tortilla.
“We’re here to make people think differently and make vegan foods approachable to people because 80 to 90% of our customers are not vegan. The vast majority of our customers are just meat connoisseurs that just love a great tasting sandwich or burger,” said McKelvey.
When students return to Newark this fall, the Daily Veg will open at 7 am to offer new vegan breakfast options such as Impossible Sausage, ‘Just Eggs,’ breakfast sandwiches, French toast and a tofu scramble. Until then, here are the hours:
Daily Veg – Newark and Pike Creek
Monday through Friday: 10 am – 8 pm
Saturday: 9 am – 8 pm
Sunday: 9 am-6 pm