For most of the week, Matti Merrell and her husband Rodney Perry cook out of the little, cabbage-green food truck that's parked on Wheeler near Dowling. Their truck, Green Seed Vegan, is one of the few vegan eateries in town and certainly the only vegan food truck.
That changes on Saturday afternoons, when Green Seed Vegan cooks up an all-you-can-eat vegan brunch at The Eat Gallery (4420 Almeda), just down the street. Merrell is there every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., dishing up homemade vegan delicacies that you can eat in a sit-down restaurant with gracious service and good tunes: a quinoa scramble with her homemade chickpea tempeh, or chicken-fried cauliflower that even the pickiest person would devour. My favorite dishes at her brunch so far are both squash-based: pumpkin French toast with agave nectar and a butternut squash casserole with pumpkin, cranberries and crunchy pepitas on top.
Part of the draw of this weekly vegan brunch is, of course, the amazing food that Merrell prepares: vegan food that appeals to carnivores, with tongue-in-cheek touches like kombucha mimosas and coconut milk lattes served on the side. But the other part of the draw is The Eat Gallery itself.
Altamese Osborne wrote about the gallery-cum-cafe upon its opening this past August:
There is no one person responsible for the birth of the Eat Gallery; it is the collective brainchild of the Awakenings Movement, a Third Ward nondenominational worship gathering of aspiring artists, musicians and entrepreneurs.
Merrell and Perry are members of the Awakenings Movement, as is Marlon Hall, the ebullient "chief curator" of the space. Hall is there every Saturday for vegan brunch, but he has plenty of other work at the gallery to keep him busy the rest of the time.
That's because throughout the week, The Eat Gallery "curates" food much in the same way that an art gallery curates art. Wait, wait. I know that sounds a bit too precious, but bear with me.
On any given day, The Eat Gallery has its "permanent collection" on display in the bright, bare-bones space -- which really does resemble a gallery, right down to the [non food-related] art for sale on the walls -- and that permanent collection is a small selection of foods and drinks: Green Seed Vegan makes soups and sandwiches for the cafe each week, and there are coffee drinks, smoothies, fresh juices, paninis, salads and more on offer.
In the evenings and on weekends, The Eat Gallery curates "shows" that are special, one-off dinners: a Trinidadian feast one night or a Caribb-Asian brunch from Bocage Catering or a tasting of Edubalicious's baked goods along with a DJ set. Most of the food featured has African or Caribbean roots, and all of it is made or baked locally -- including the Kickin' Kombucha that's brewed at Kitchen Incubator downtown.
But what I like best about The Eat Gallery is the instant feeling of kinship and warmth that greets you every Saturday morning like a familiar embrace.
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Soon, you'll find yourself recognizing faces from the week before, knowing everyone's names and meeting their kids. You'll want to make your coconut milk latte last as long as possible -- or at least until the LP on the record player is finished. You'll be dispensing hugs of your own as you walk in and peeling yourself reluctantly off a bench two hours later, full of food that is still comfort food for being vegan and looking forward to next Saturday -- with maybe a few pit stops at Green Seed Vegan's truck to tide you over until then.