Vegan restaurant could open soon at old Adrien's Diner

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PITTSFIELD — What was a longtime greasy spoon could soon make way for an alternative fare.

"The meat of the story is I am opening a vegan diner," said Shari Peltier, smiling from a booth in the old-fashioned diner on Wahconah Street.

Peltier of Lanesborough bought the former Adrien's Diner for $30,000 in April, and has been cleaning and scrubbing and sprucing it up ever since. Thrive Vegan Diner, she'll call it.

More inspections still stand between Peltier and opening day, she said, but she aims to open within the next few weeks. Meantime, she's working to hire a handful of people to work 30-hour weeks.

For Peltier, the sans-fauna menu is in no way an indictment of those who eat animal products — she herself isn't purely vegan — but it's meant to offer those who are vegan and who do have allergies a sense of safe haven. Here, she said, there won't be such thing as the "accidental cheddar" that makes it into a vegan's meal. Because there will be no animal products in the kitchen, she said.

"They don't have to ask for those extra measures," she said. "Because it's already been addressed."

The building was vacant for about three years and had fallen into disrepair, she said. She had to install a new hood and fire suppression system in order to pass inspection.

Peltier said the original diner opened in 1957 as a trailer in Allendale, and was later moved to its current location on Wahconah Street. The full kitchen was added later with an addition.

She unfortunately wasn't able to make the restaurant handicapped-accessible, she said, because stairs leading into the entrance are legally too narrow to convert into a ramp for wheelchairs. She said she was unable to widen the stairs for a ramp because to do so would mean extending them into the sidewalk, which is city property.

She got a variance from the state to open without meeting modern accessibility standards, she said. For those who want to order takeout but aren't able to enter, she said she would run food outside to them.

Despite its challenges, she said, the property drew her in because it was affordable, petite and charming.

In the past, Peltier worked in clothing manufacturing and bookkeeping. Her daughters are grown and she'd been looking for a new project, she said, and her friends had been clamoring for a vegan restaurant.

"I love to cook and nobody eats at my house anymore," she said.

Her daughter, Trenna Marcinczyk, will help run the front of the house.

She said she feels like she's filling a void in the community, noting inquiries from nurses who work at the nearby hospital and are in search of healthy options.

"I'm glad to be able to offer something that nobody else is offering," she said.

Plus, she said, a vegan menu helps to change the dietary culture.

"We're programmed from childhood to think we need meat in our diets," she said, and as a result people eat it in excess.

In this way, modern society continues to reinforce factory farming — which, she said, is bad for the environment.

"Even though I'm not vegan I do believe in a plant-based diet," she said.

Peltier said she also plans to avoid allergens at the restaurant, and so the menu will also be largely gluten-free and nut-free.

She said her daughter grew up vegetarian and had friends with allergies, and so she became accustomed to cooking carefully to avoid the offending ingredients.

Still, she said that if people are craving items with nuts she'll consider working them into the menu.

There will also be some gluten on the menu, she said, citing pretzel bites and buns that will come with the vegan burger. The menu will also feature black bean dip, build-your-own Buddha Bowls — usually a mixture of grains, beans and vegetables — avocado pesto over rice noodles, "mockballs" and marinara and sesame apple tofu.

Peltier said she'll lean on vegan favorites, but will also feature a Facebook pick of the week based on engagement on the restaurant's page. That way, patrons and chefs can work together to venture into new culinary territories.

Peltier said she's also rolling out her own line of housemade sodas and salad dressings.

The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday, she said, and will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

She said she hopes to draw in nonvegans, too.

"I want everybody to come in and try it," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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