With plant-based diets taking hold among the health-conscious set, vegan offerings are beginning to pop up on more and more menus across the city. And for those who want to choose from an entirely vegan menu created by a chef with serious chops, you are in luck. V-Grits & False Idol, Louisville’s newest all-vegan eatery, recently opened in partnership with False Idol Independent Brewers, so you can enjoy a local craft brew while you’re noshing on those vegan vittles!

The restaurant side of this vegan brewpub is helmed by chef Kristina Addington and her husband, Jeff Hennis, with the brewery under the direction of Shawn Steele and his wife, Becky. And the couples practice what they preach, as they are all vegan with a shared mission to promote quality food, craft beer, overall health and wellness, animal welfare and sustainability.

Kristina became vegan about 13 years ago while working in animal welfare for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Prior to becoming vegan, she always loved to cook and took culinary classes at Sullivan University. She eventually branched out and began learning the specifics of vegan cooking, eventually teaching others how to cook the same way. She helped open and was head chef at Harvest Coffee and Café in Shelbyville, which served vegan, gluten-free and allergen-free food. Soon, she was baking her own vegan desserts and selling them to local restaurants.

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A flight of beer from False Idol is paired with a flight of V-Grits mac ‘n’ cheese — the BBQ Jack Mac, Pizza Mac and Cheeseburger Mac.

In 2014, Kristina’s culinary talents landed her a spot on the Food Network cooking competition show “Cutthroat Kitchen,” where she came out the winner. She then used her winnings to open V-Grits, her vegan food truck, which became a beloved and highly sought-after roaming kitchen. She sold her food at festivals and farmers markets all over town, and the vegan fare proved to be quite popular — so popular, in fact, it became difficult to keep up with the demand for her specialties.

Meanwhile, brewer Shawn Steele’s experience in the beer industry began several years ago after he moved from Western Kentucky to Louisville. “I was never a party kid in high school, and I didn’t have my first drink until I was in my mid-20s,” he says. He attended pint nights at different breweries and was drawn in by the experience of tasting different beers. He began taking notes, then turned those notes into beer reviews, which were featured on GetOutLouisville.com and LouisvilleBeer.com. He also gained knowledge while working at Akasha Brewing Company. “The owners at Akasha were great mentors,” Shawn says. “They taught you how to brew and create recipes. We all took ownership of the product.”

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The Crab Mac offers a large serving of macaroni and cheese made with V-Grits’ own cashew cheese, topped with a crab cake made from jackfruit, served with remoulade, red chili threads and a lemon wedge.

Kristina and Shawn’s paths crossed over the years as they each volunteered for animal welfare groups and regularly attended food and beer events. A couple of years ago, the two decided to meet up to discuss combining their knowledge and talents, as Shawn was interested in opening a brewery and Kristina was actively seeking a brick-and-mortar home for V-Grits.

Fast-forward to October 12, 2018, when V-Grits & False Idol Independent Brewers opened the doors to their vegan brewpub in the space formerly known as the Monkey Wrench Bar in the Paradise District. The cavernous, light-filled space has a warm-industrial aesthetic; it’s sleek and clean yet inviting and laid-back. The brewpub caters to a wide cross-section of patrons — families, teens, older folks, vegan folks, of course, as well as those who are curious to taste Kristina’s popular vegan fare and those just looking for a place to have a quality cold brew.

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Chicken & waffles at V-Grits combines marinated and fried oyster mushrooms served with sweet cornmeal waffles and rich maple syrup.

Kristina loves sitting with her customers to talk about their food choices and share how she creates her dishes to taste like non-vegan options.

V-Grits is famous for its Southern-style, comfort-food flavor profiles. “We have mac and cheese, grits, and we have ‘The Betty,’ which is a diner-style platter,” says Kristina, who named the dish after her mom. “It’s ‘fried chicken,’ which consists of an oyster mushroom that’s been marinated, battered and fried, and it comes out like a piece of dark meat from KFC. We also have biscuits and mashed potatoes and gravy. There’s a lot of really hearty stuff that people assume they wouldn’t be able to eat here.”

Macaroni and cheese also tops the list as a favorite comfort food at V-Grits. There’s the BBQ Jack Mac, which consists of barbecued jackfruit in barbecue sauce, topped with coconut bacon and chives. And there’s the Supreme Mac — vegan sausage, marinara, mushrooms, peppers, onions, mozzarella and basil. Super sandwiches like the Cuban are also tops — panini-pressed with vegan ham and turkey and layered with Gouda cheese made with coconut milk. And the gyro with vegan meat, peppers, onions, greens and tomatoes on za’atar grilled flatbread is to die for.

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The Betty — oyster mushroom “fried chicken,” mashed potatoes and gravy, stir-fried vegetables and a biscuit with sweet butter — pairs nicely with the St. Hyena Kettle Sour Pale Ale from False Idol.

Pair any of these creative vegan dishes with one of the six hand-crafted beers created by Shawn (or a cider, glass of wine or kombucha), and you have a true down-home — vegan — experience.

“We get so many regulars coming back multiple times, week after week,” Kristina says. “It’s all very rewarding.”

V-Grits & False Idol is located at 1025 Barret Ave, Louisville, KY 40204. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and closed on Monday. To learn more, call (502) 742-1714 or visit vgrits.com.

Thank you to Kristina Addington for these lovely, mouthwatering images!

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