The 27-year-old Oakland market behind East Bay restaurants’ vegan meat

A dish manufactured with Layonna’s gluten-free fried hen, a single of the Oakland company’s ideal sellers. Credit rating: Layonna

Layonna Vegetarian Health and fitness Food Current market
443 8th St. (around Broadway), Oakland
Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., delivery is by using DoorDash

Ever question the place the Flying Falafel gets its savory fake hen? Or the place The Butcher’s Son receives its succulent mock shrimp? What about Aburaya’s vegan drumsticks? The secret’s out: They all arrive from Oakland’s Layonna Vegetarian Health and fitness Food stuff Market place, which has been delivering meatless possibilities for dining establishments and household cooks because extended before phrases like “beyond” and “impossible” were synonymous with plant-based dining, and again when “food tech” referred to newfangled income registers, not venture cash-backed protein attempts.

Layona Lee, then an East Bay resident, started the business in 1995, partnering with a number of Taiwanese brands to make Layonna-branded foodstuff. The corporation was meant to be eponymous, states Samual Wong, who’s owned the shop considering that 2015.

“When she submitted a company license, she by accident place in two Ns,” Wong reported, so Layona the human being owned Layonna the market, working with a variety of vendors to make Layonna-branded meals. During the 20 years she owned the business, she hardly ever bothered to improve the title. 

Peter Fikaris, who owns Berkeley vegan bakery and deli The Butcher’s Son with his sister, Christina Stobing, explained his loved ones has applied Layonna’s goods throughout two generations. 

“We owned a vegan cafe again in the ’90s in Berkeley our father opened it and we worked there as young people,” Fikaris mentioned. “It was named Michael’s American Vegetarian Diner. We didn’t make a whole lot of our meat substitutes in-dwelling like we do now, so we employed a good deal of Layonna’s meat substitutes on our menu,” he explained. 

Layonna’s most recent product or service is a vegan Spam substitute. Credit score: Layonna/Facebook

Back again then, Layonna was “pretty considerably a a person end shop for every little thing and something in the world of vegan meats.”

When vegetarian and vegan places to eat had been presently well known in Berkeley in the 1990s, back then, restaurants that made available meat-like dishes for non-meat eaters have been much less ubiquitous than they are now. Layonna stuffed that void.

“I turned to meat substitutes because I skipped taking in their animal-based mostly counterparts,” Fikaris mentioned. “I favored taking in meat.”

On the other hand, “I did not like the plan of feeding on animals,” Fikaris reported. “It bothered me fairly a lot.”

A long time later, Layonna provides a slew of East Bay eating places like the aforementioned Butcher’s Son and Flying Falafel, as properly as Jack London Square Thai spot Farmhouse Kitchen area and SF’s Shizen Vegan Sushi Bar & Izakaya and its Berkeley counterpart, Tane Vegan Izakaya. You will also uncover Layonna’s meat substitutes at a quantity of spot food items vans, Asian temples and at SF’s Rainbow Grocery and Berkeley Bowl.

When you pay a visit to, you can see why: The array of meals obtainable through Layonna is seriously intellect-blowing, which includes all the things from vegan pepper steak to vegan sea cucumber (irrespective of sharing its title with a plant, the sea cucumbers you’d find in the ocean are essentially animals). There are frozen fake meats, dried treats and jerky, bulk soy proteins and a panoply of gluten-totally free nuggets and cuts.

Layonna’s most preferred products are its gluten-absolutely free vegan fried hen, and its gluten-totally free vegan hen legs, Wong explained. The most latest addition to their listing of choices is a vegan model of that Hawiian-cooking standby, Spam. “It is really excellent,” Wong reported. “Close to 99% true Spam.”

Layonna’s vegan abalone is built with konjac powder, tapioca starch, sugar and sea salt. Credit: Layonna

Wong, who’s originally from Hong Kong, defined his entry into the earth of vegan meat solutions as an unpredicted transform in his life. 

“I’m just an regular Asian male, graduated from university, received a higher education diploma, and then acquired an place of work work,” Wong claimed. “In 2015, by a coincidence, I achieved Layona.” Sooner or later, he expressed interest in acquiring the enterprise, doing the job under her for a spell right before taking the procedure about. 

“Layona was making an attempt to retire and I worked with her for three months,” Wong explained, then the business enterprise was his. But Layonna has not viewed the last of Layona, even now, Wong mentioned. 

However Lee herself moved to Taiwan publish-retirement, she’s still involved, given that most of Layonna’s items are still built there. “Layona has turn out to be our good quality regulate,” Wong said. “She has a quite near marriage with our company and can make guaranteed anything is analyzed.”

That consideration to element is escalating a lot more and additional crucial as effectively-funded opponents enter Layonna’s mock meat ring. But according to folks like The Butcher’s Son’s Fikaris, desire is rising way too.

Individuals are turning to meat substitutes “for their health and fitness, for the planet, for the animals,” Fikaris reported. But also, “it is simply because they nonetheless enjoy those foods, and are looking for an selection more suited to their latest desire.”