Popular Planted Plate Vegan Restaurant Is a Big Success Story on Spring Street
PLANT-BASED: “The vegan diet is plant-based with no meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products. Interest is growing, and I thought there was a need for it in Princeton. There is really nothing like our restaurant, a full-scale vegan restaurant, in the area.” Chef Omer Basetemur, owner of Planted Plate, is shown in front of the restaurant’s colorful full-size mural, featuring a rain forest/jungle background and the Princeton tiger looking on.
By Jean Stratton
If dining out is on your menu, and you are ready to experience a variety of new tastes, the Planted Plate restaurant can become your new “go to” eatery.
Located at 15 Spring Street, this vegan restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and takeout with wide-ranging culinary choices. it was opened in 2021 by owner/chef Omer Basetemur, and it has consistently increased its customer base as more and more people are enjoying its intriguing variety of plant-based options.
Basetemur is especially happy to have opened Planted Plate in his hometown. “I grew up in Princeton, and I really liked the idea of having a restaurant here. Princeton is a good match for a vegan restaurant,” he says.
Bastemur’s culinary history has an interesting origin and evolution. After graduating from Princeton High School, he headed to the Jersey Shore, where he worked in a vegetarian restaurant. Not a practicing vegetarian at the time, he began to appreciate its benefits. “I saw its healthy aspects, and it became part of my diet,” he explains.
TO YOUR TASTE: Two popular dishes at the Planted Plate restaurant include Tofu Kabobs, left, with chimichurri sauce, skewered peppers and onions; and the Palm Tree featuring grilled jerk tofu, bell peppers, onions, pineapple, broccoli, kale, black beans, brown rice, and mango-coconut drizzle, with avocado.
As time went on, and Basetemur investigated culinary and animal rights issues more thoroughly, he turned to a vegan diet that is plant-based, with no meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products. Many consider this to be a very healthy diet, as well as a way of protecting animal rights and the environment.
“I also always wanted to be my own boss, and have my own business,” he says, with a smile.
In 2005, he opened Kaya’s Kitchen, a vegan restaurant, in Belmar, which he still owns. When he decided to branch out in Princeton, he wanted to offer a more informal setting. Planted Plate has a friendly, casual vibe, with a relaxed atmosphere.
“We can seat 30, and people come in and out all day,” reports Basetemur. “Everything is popular, and people start coming in for breakfast and continue for lunch and dinner. Takeout is also very big.”
What customers will find is an abundance of choices. Sandwiches, wraps, platters, soups, hot bowls, salads, kabobs, tacos, burritos, and Munchie Meals are all available.
Favorites include Avocado Toast; Planted Salad with field greens, grape tomatoes, cucumber, red cabbage, and broccoli florets; and a variety of kabobs. Also every week there are specials, such as Roasted Squash Soup, Oyster Po’ Boy, and Korean Cauliflower Tacos.
Pleasure and Challenge
The menu is displayed on a large chalk board, and choices are listed with fun and whimsical names: Soul Rebel, Humble Hippie, Un-Tuna Melt, and “Chick-Un Salad,” among others.
Originating these dishes — with ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, tofu, tempeh, herbs and spices that can replicate traditional meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products (and naming them too!) — is Basetemur’s pleasure and challenge. “I learned about creating vegan dishes by studying, traveling, and constantly working at it,” he says. “I love creating the dishes, seeing what works well together, and finding new tastes and new flavors. We have special recipes, fresh ingredients, and great presentation.”
The customers are all ages, he reports, including families and people from all over the area. “We have regulars who come once a week or more as well as new people all the time.
“Also, many people who come in are not vegans, but are curious and want to try it. I like to let them discover it. I believe that when they do try it, they will like it.”
Two regulars from Hamilton, Morgan Meara and Monse Acosta, have tried it and definitely like it! “We are very enthusiastic about it, and we love Planted Plate,” they say. “The food has been excellent. We are completely satisfied. The staff is very helpful, and it’s a very friendly atmosphere. We will definitely keep coming!”
Indeed, the virtues of a plant-based diet are becoming more apparent to many people. A recent convert to the diet reported improved health, more energy, and fewer digestive issues.
Studies have indicated that a plant-based diet can have beneficial effects for the environment. According to The New York Times, a study from Oxford University “found that plant-based diets accounted for 75 percent less in greenhouse gas emissions than diets that include 3.5 ounces of meat a day. The world’s food system is responsible for one-third of greenhouse gases, with beef, lamb, and cheese the most polluting.”
In addition, the Times continues, the New York Health + Hospitals, the country’s largest municipal health system, has focused on plant-based food for patients during the past year. According to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ office, the hospital system has reduced food-related carbon dioxide emissions by 36 percent.
Basetemur has much to look forward to as Planted Plate becomes increasingly popular, and he is very enthusiastic about participating in the Vegan Chef Challenge this month. Many area restaurants are competing by creating three vegan dishes. Diners can sample the creations, and then vote for their favorites. The event is under the auspices of Vegan Outreach, NJ Veg, and Vegan in NJ.
“I’m very excited that Vegan Outreach is doing this, as it will bring awareness to plant-based food,” says
Basetemur. “Hopefully it will show a lot of people that vegan food can be delicious.”
He is very happy to have the opportunity to provide a quality plant-based menu in his hometown. “It is special for me to have Planted Plate in Princeton,” he says. “I look forward to growing the business even more and being a part of this town, this community.
“It means a lot to me to wake up every morning and have work that I enjoy and do something I believe it. I am feeding people healthy food, and I look forward to continuing to do that.”
Planted Plate is open Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call (609) 356-0845 or visit plantedplatevegan.com.