Atlanta Orders In: Scrappy pop-up restaurant offers legit vegan eats

Villy's ATL offers vegan fast food, including a variety of faux chicken sandwiches made from seitan. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Caption
Villy's ATL offers vegan fast food, including a variety of faux chicken sandwiches made from seitan. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Villy’s ATL brings affordable sandwiches, sides to West End

Villy’s ATL makes some pretty convincing plant-based “poultry.”

Fashioned from seitan, the massive “chick’n” fillets have the umami, moistness and texture of real meat. Each fillet is battered and fried to a satisfying crunch and slapped between house-made biscuits or Hawaiian buns. The crispness holds up to a 30-minute drive.

Villy’s ATL debuted in December at East Atlanta bar and music venue 529. Founder Aaron Gossett-Posey had been mulling over the idea of starting a vegan pop-up since 2018. Was there an audience hungry for sandwiches made from meat substitutes, he wondered? Villy’s sold out of its 120 plant-based Philly sandwiches in a couple of hours.

That led to more pop-ups in early 2020 — from taking over the kitchen at Cabbagetown bar 97 Estoria, to selling at area breweries.

Then, came the pandemic. Gossett-Posey pondered getting a job as an Uber Eats driver. “My girlfriend was like, ‘Don’t do that. We’ll deliver our food instead.’”

For two months, the couple prepared Villy’s fare out of their apartment, despite not having a cottage food license, and word spread about Villy’s underground vegan vittles.

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Loaded chili chz hash browns are on the Villy's Sunday brunch menu. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Caption
Loaded chili chz hash browns are on the Villy's Sunday brunch menu. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

“Eventually, we outgrew it, and started looking for a kitchen,” he said. “After jumping through hoops, we were able to go legit.”

Villy’s has been legit since late July, when Gossett-Posey secured shared kitchen space at Cultured South Fermentation Co. on White Street in West End.

Gossett-Posey gets credit for that winning alt-chicken recipe, but he wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand without his new business partners, Max Balbuena and Hayes Gotsick. Balbuena formerly ran a biz selling vintage T-shirts. Gotsick has front-of-house restaurant experience. Gossett-Posey has worked in kitchens in East Atlanta, Cabbagetown and Little Five Points, including the Vortex and HomeGrown.

Their aim is to offer affordably priced casual vegan food. “We don’t want to be one of those vegan places with outrageously insane prices,” Gossey-Posey said. “Vegan fast food: that is our goal.”

Villy’s sandwiches and “chili chz” dogs are priced between $10 and $12. Pint-sized sides, such as slaw and vegan mac and cheese, are $5. It’s a brief menu that a scrappy three-man start-up can execute.

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Villy's ATL is a vegan pop-up run by (from left) Hayes Gotsick, Max Valbuena and founder Aaron Gossett-Posey. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Caption
Villy's ATL is a vegan pop-up run by (from left) Hayes Gotsick, Max Valbuena and founder Aaron Gossett-Posey. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

Credit: Ligaya Figueras

The operation is so dinky that orders are placed either by phone or Instagram. Payment is via Venmo, Cash App or PayPal — in a pandemic, when contact-free money exchange is preferred, these mobile payment apps are the perfect solution. Plus, the pop-up’s owners don’t have to worry about losing pennies on the dollar to credit card processing fees.

Small businesses have nimbleness on their side, if they choose. In the case of Villy’s, besides operating truly contact-free curbside pickup, the business partners are flexible about delivery. They’ll tootle to any address within the Perimeter for orders of $25 or more.

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Just as when Villy’s tested the community’s interest in vegan food last December, the partners now are tempting the Friday late-night crowd, with tacos and fried Oreos. Gossett-Posey’s next goal: find a permanent home with a drive-through.

“There’s nothing like it in the city, especially late at night,” he said.

Who’s up for a midnight run to Villy’s?

VILLY’S ATL

Food menu: 100% plant-based sandwiches and sides

Alcohol: no

What I ordered: hot chick’n biscuit, fried chick’n biscuit, regular chick’n sandwich, Buffalo chick’n sandwich and Korean fried chick’n sandwich; house-made coleslaw, chz grits, loaded chili chz hash browns, house-made biscuit. The faux chicken fillet made from seitan just might fool you. It also makes for a hefty sandwich, which is why I prefer it slapped between soft Hawaiian buns, instead of the rustic, denser (and a tad too salty) house-made biscuits. My favorite: the regular, with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a kicked up Big Mac-style sauce. A side dish or two turns a sandwich into a meal.

Service options: order by phone or send direct message on Instagram (@villysatl); contact-free curbside pickup; delivery to West End and within a 4-mile radius of Little Five Points; delivery anywhere within the Perimeter for orders of $25 or more; payment via Venmo, Cash App and Pay Pal; no cash or credit card; no on-premises dining

Safety protocols: following all COVID-19 restaurant safety guidelines; all staff wear masks; public not permitted inside

Address, phone: 1038 White St. SW, Atlanta; 404-548-2696

Hours: noon-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays and Saturdays-Sundays; 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Fridays

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