Mexico City is now one of the world’s gourmet destinations. From street food to high end restaurants, locals and tourists alike fawn over the options the megapolis provides.
Those looking for animal product-free options have less choices, but Santa María de la Ribera residents got a new one when Kalpoli Margarita opened in the northern neighborhood in February of 2015.
“Our first goal was to sell vegan pizzas,” Diego Herrera told The News during an interview in his and partner Sara Woodall’s small restaurant last week. The duo got their start doing pop-up events, before finding a multi-level building that is now their home, and houses their business on the ground floor.
After realizing that they needed to expand their offerings, Herrera and Woodall started making veggie burgers and falafel sandwiches. Their signature item is still the pizzas, which feature homemade vegan cheese and are fired in Kalpoli’s bread oven.
Slices are available for 20 pesos, making Kalpoli an accessibly-priced spot for those looking to dodge meat and other animal products in their diet.
Though it is now on the list of “hot” neighborhoods, Santa María de la Ribera still feels like a much more family-oriented neighborhood than many of the once-depressed central areas whose rents have risen astronomically over the past decade in Mexico City. When Kalpoli moved into its current space, it was the only option for vegan eaters (perhaps a sign of the times, there is now a vegan taco stand that moved in a few blocks away on Ribera de San Cosme.)
Visitors to the space will find low key wooden tables with potted succulents, surrounded by white walls on which hang art by local artists. Last week, Emanuel Leyazola’s works were being featured. The illustrator was in the middle of painting a mural, which when The News visited consisted of two legs dangling from the ceiling.
“We often have exhibitions on the wall of the restaurants, different cultural events,” said Herrera. “A big part of our project is to be involved with culture, to offer a space to people.”
It’s a tricky situation, being young restauranteurs in a neighborhood that is being rapidly developed. Herrera and Woodall are coping by strengthening ties to other community projects, like Radio Santa María de la Ribera which has used the pizzeria as a broadcast location several times.
But the restaurant’s impact goes beyond the borders of Santa María de la Ribera. Woodall says that Kalpoli may be the most northern vegan restaurant in Mexico City.
“We get a lot of customers from the northern neighborhoods,” she said. “We’re the most northern point on the vegan map.”