Shortly after the opening of Pine Box Rock Shop’s sister bar, Precious Metal in 2016, Heather Rush, owner and bartender, had a son. Maternity leave took her away from Precious Metal, but her return is breathing new life to her all-vegan bar, and now, deli.
“We were thinking of doing it ourselves,” Rush shares while sitting on a bar stool, referring to the kitchen space behind her in the corner by the entrance, a glowing light revealing a small and bustling all-women staff. Above the kitchen window reads, “vegan NYC deli sandwiches” and in red cursive underneath an illustrated hooded ghoul, Seitan’s Helper.
Rush first learned about the New York deli-style vegan sandwiches from a BD article detailing Seitan’s month-long pop-up at Trans-Pecos, an extension of Trans-Am cafe, in the venue space. It was reported that they were looking for a permanent home.
“It’s funny because I already knew Amanda through her mom,” Rush recalled. “But I didn’t know she was Seitan’s Helper.”
Amanda Fox, owner and chef of Seitan’s Helper, co-owns Fanciful Fox with her mom, Kathie Fox, a business venture they started when Fox was in middle school.
Rush visited their Ridgewood pop-up on the last day and instantly knew it was Seitan’s Helper who should take over her kitchen.
During the soft opening, Fox could be seen running back and forth through the service window, keenly focused. She runs the one-and-a-half-year-old vegan venture with her wife Cheyanne. They got their start after a friend of theirs, who used to make seitan for Orchard Grocer, reached out to Fox about taking over. “That’s how it got started. I took her idea and ran with it,” said Fox.
Meeting Fox is special, her energy is contagious, even amidst a busy service night she’s surprisingly calm, and in intoxicatingly high spirits. She’s happy to finally have a retail space, she says, and even happier to have it at Precious Metal.
“It feels so natural,” she says about dinner service at a bar in comparison to brunch, where her staff had to learn to make espresso drinks. “We’re food people. We’re sandwich makers.”
Her new menu is void of the breakfast items Bushwickers came to know at her Trans-Pecos pop-up, and in their place are big savory sandwiches that highlight her flavor-packed seitan, named after famous women like Alyssa Milano, Tina “Tuna” Fey and Bianca Del Rio. Fox said she wants to shed light on prominent New York women, non-binary, and trans folx who are doing great things.
This includes Jenine Gollogly, a plant-based cheese-maker whose cashew cheeses were featured on the complimentary charcuterie boards, making the New York City Veg/Vegan Meetup group (their attendees of the night) swoon. And Kate from Hunted Gathered, who identifies as gender non-conforming, and whose kraut is featured on the Edie Windsor sandwich.
Fox’s sandwiches have a bite. Try the Milano, her favorite and one not to be missed, showcasing mortadella, pepperoni, and salami seitan with bright pepperoncinis and the satisfying crunch of a ciabatta hero. A classic. Or maybe you’re looking for something that melts in your mouth and induces jubilant finger licking: try the Bianca Del Rio. It’s packed with ham, mortadella, pepper bacon, and a warm oozing, bright yellow cheese sauce that boasts the perfect amount of sharpness and tang.
Doing great things herself, Fox just started operating out of a commercial kitchen space she’s sharing with pastry chef Laura Varley, owner of Pisces Rising, whom she met at Vegan Market, a monthly vegan pop-up market showcasing a variety of local crafts and eats. Varley famously veganized over a hundred recipes from the Milk Bar cookbook, dubbing her project Soymilk Bar, and is now renowned for her in-demand floral and goth-like single-tier cakes. You can expect Varley to pop-up when Fox wants a day off, or surprise you with cake slices or cookies at the deli.
The duo are hosting a fundraiser on iFundWomen where they’re looking to raise $16,000 for production equipment. Any donations would greatly help the pair be more available to the public, take on more orders, and for Fox, upgrade the small toaster oven she took from home to grind out sandwiches.
In the crowded, high energy bar, where the tickets are stacking up for Fox, Rush pauses for a moment in reflection and says, “[It was] a gift from ‘seitan’ to find her.”
Seitan’s Helper will start operating at Precious Metal August 1.
Cover image courtesy of JP Bevins, others courtesy of Seitan’s Helper.
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