Karma: it’s a belief that a person’s intentions and actions determine his or her future destiny and fate. In other words, good deeds bring future happiness, and Gail Doherty, co-owner of Good Karma Vegan Café, Red Bank, believes being good to animals, as well as the land, employees, customers, and the community, has created the karma that has returned good fortune and success to the restaurant and its owners. This concept has been central to the mission since Gail first opened the doors with business partner Tiffany Betts six years ago. “We started on the premise of making quality food with love, not just selling it to make money,” she says. “The response has been incredible since Day 1 and we have grown ever since.”
It was a philosophy both women learned while students at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health & Culinary Arts in New York, a professional chefs’ training program that focuses on preparing seasonal, locally sourced, whole, organic, fresh foods for physical, mental and spiritual well-being. “It’s about using natural foods to nourish and heal our bodies,”
This similar mindset brought the partners together to fill the void for a vegan restaurant in the area. The two work well together, sharing cooking responsibilities and collaborating on menu development. As working mothers, they are supportive of each other when children’s needs take priority and one must step up to cover for the other. The restaurant also proved to be a supportive environment when Gail was displaced from her home for over two years after Superstorm Sandy. “I used work as a way to pick myself up again and focus on positive things,” she recalls.
One of those positive things, according to Gail, is that “today, more and more people are hip to the
idea of eating this way, or at least eating less meat. Previous generations ate very simply and according to what was in season locally. Part of our philosophy is to get back to eating more whole, fresh, organic foods. There’s more life force in those foods.”
There’s a flavor force, too. The extensive menu features flavor-packed breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert options, with vegan remakes of traditional dishes like Southern-Style Biscuits and Gravy with vegan sausage, and “Live Lasagna” with zucchini “noodles,” sharing space with new-wave combinations such as the Coconut Bacon Crunch Wrap (a flour tortilla with tofu scramble, home fries, coconut bacon, chipotle sour cream, Daiya cheese, blue corn chips and hot sauce), and the Indian Plate (curried tofu, brown rice, chana masala, veggies and homemade chutney and papadum).
But it’s their rotating daily specials where the chefs’ creativity really shines. Besides breakfast, lunch and dinner specials featuring seasonal, locally sourced produce (often from the Red Bank Farmers Market), this year Good Karma introduced themed specials for each
stromboli stuffed with tempeh sausage, tofu ricotta, roasted peppers and onions; and
seitan “wheat balls” sandwiches smothered in marinara, roasted red peppers, portabella
mushrooms, caramelized onions, and shredded Daiya mozzarella.
You would never notice—or miss—the fact that all dishes are made without any animal derived
ingredients. “We build layers of flavor with condiments, vegetables and other interesting toppings to make food special, flavorful and really fun,” says Gail. Good Karma also offers juices, smoothies,
soups, and “live-food” dishes made from raw fruits and vegetables, sprouted grains, nuts and seeds. The restaurant recently expanded its dessert specials with gluten-free cakes and cookies daily. Food is available for dining-in at one of the restaurant’s 10 tables, or for take-out. Full-service catering, from small dinner parties to large wedding or corporate events, as well as custom cakes and desserts, are also available.
Somehow, the chefs manage to pull off these incredible food feats in the postage stamp-
sized, store-front restaurant—just 900 sq. ft. in total, including the open kitchen and dining areas. “We are tiny, but mighty,” jokes Gail. “Our space is small, but our customers are great and don’t seem to mind. Running a small business is difficult, but we feel blessed. We feel like we are in a
bubble of light. We are all part of a bigger picture and believe if we give good karma
toward animals, people and the land, and we’ll get good karma in return.”