A new, pink marquee reading “Chicana” illuminates downtown Fullerton from above by nightfall.
Below, a brick-and-mortar restaurant is flanked by comic book images of a purple pig-tailed luchadora. Both announce a new culinary superheroine in town — Chicana Vegana — and she’s ready to serve up Mexican meals with a vegan twist.
“More people than we know are looking for what we have,” says Jasmine Hernandez, the 27-year-old owner of Chicana Vegana. “It’s pretty revolutionary food. If you can bring a friend and they won’t ever know that the food is vegan unless you tell them, that’s pretty revolutionary in many ways.”
With a soft opening slated for later this month, more patrons will be able satiate their appetite for change.
It’s been enough of a whirlwind for Hernandez to think about her business in such a way. She started Chicana Vegana just three years ago as a pop-up food tent right after turning vegan. It didn’t take long for her meatless California burritos and asada fries to become staples among a loyal and growing fan base at weekend parking lot food fests and counterculture events.
Soon Hernandez traded the pop-up tent for a food truck before letting the ink dry on a contract in January allowing her to turn Chicana Vegana into a brick-and-mortar restaurant with a prime location in downtown Fullerton.
The quick ascent is seemingly all the more unlikely given Hernandez’s own background.
A second-generation Chicana, she spent her Fullerton childhood growing up in the company of both her grandparents and great-grandparents. The kitchen routinely beckoned with the aroma of huevos con chorizo in the morning and carne con chile later in the day. But aside from occasionally making arroz or a pot of beans, Hernandez didn’t take to cooking much.
And then, she turned away from meat altogether as a teen in favor animal rights and veganism, something seen as a natural extension of her growing curiosity in social justice. Hernandez began as an off-and-on vegetarian before making a fuller and more lasting commitment to ditch all animal products, too, in her early 20s.
That’s when she developed a hunger for Mexican food that stayed faithful to the plant-based diet she adopted.
A revelation came at a vegan food festival on Fourth Street in Long Beach one year; a spot served up what Hernandez, and many others, craved.
“I remember being super excited because they had carne asada tacos,” she says. “I waited for hours because the tent was bombarded with people.”
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