Bethlehem native Mary Lopresti, 32, was not sure of the risks that would come with opening a new restaurant that was 100 percent free of meat and dairy.
Since she was 8 years old, Lopresti knew that she could not condone the slaughtering of innocent animals for her own selfish benefits.
“When I found out where my food was coming from, I did not want to eat meat anymore,” Lopresti said. “I did not want to contribute inhumane and cruel treatment of animals.”
Lopresti then decided to become vegetarian and eventually transitioned to a vegan lifestyle nine years ago.
As a resident of Bethlehem, she said it was difficult to find vegetarian and vegan options in the area.
“It is easy to go to a fast food restaurant and buy unhealthy options for just a dollar, while healthy foods like salads or even meat replacements are much more expensive,” Lopresti said.
She knew that something had to be done about the lack of options for people such as herself in the community.
“People think being vegan we only eat salads,” Lopresti said. “Veganism has come a long way since I started out. Because of the lack of options in the area, I had to get creative and learn how to veganize my favorite dishes,”
In December 2018, Lopresti advanced with her plans and opened up her own vegan restaurant, VegOut, at 22 W. 4th St. in Bethlehem — the same dining location of Roasted. Because she worked at Roasted for several years, she said she was able to convince the owner to let her borrow the space from 5-9 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays.
Amanda Mead, a vegetarian, heard about the restaurant through an article in The Morning Call, and she and her mother decided to give it a try.
“When I heard about this restaurant, I said ‘It’s about time,’” Mead said. “The food was very good, and I would come again.”
Lopresti does not sell any dish without trying it herself. In fact, she cooks all the dishes on the menu and adds specials based on new recipes she tries during the week.
“That’s how I put my menu together based on my favorite foods,” Lopresti said. “I’m here to prove to people that you don’t have to sacrifice your palette in order to eat a cruelty free meal.”
Megan Carroll, ’20, tried the plate of nachos, which contains a meat substitute. Carroll said she was surprised at how flavorful the dish was, and said she would return to VegOut.
“I was skeptical about trying VegOut… (but) as someone who is not vegan or vegetarian, I thought the food was awesome,” Carroll said.
Lopresti works alongside her employees in order to provide quality customer service.
Her sister, Christina Lopresti, works at VegOut and enjoys the dishes her sister makes, despite not being a vegan or vegetarian.
“I was a vegan for about a year, but being vegan is expensive,” Christina said. “I would consider being vegan again because of the great food options.”
Like Carroll, Christina did not know how she would feel about tasting a vegan cheesesteak. She tried it for the first time just a week ago and said she was surprised with how good it tasted.
VegOut has only officially been opened for three months, but Mary is already amazed at how much progress she has made.
“The restaurant is growing and changing for the better,” Mary said. “I am learning more as it grows.”
Mary is close with Shelli Topping, one of the owners of Roasted. Topping knew it was a dream of Mary’s to open up her own vegan restaurant, and has been supportive, Mary said.
Roasted is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week, before transitioning to VegOut on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“When I asked her to rent of the restaurant during the hours they were closed she was very open and excited to the idea,” Mary said.
Mary has been able to cooperate with other local vegan groups and has even featured some items from the menu of Catasaqua’s The Seitanic Butcher.
She said she hopes that her restaurant will continue to grow and has plans to eventually tackle the world of food trucks.