A large neon sign of a plump pig greets customers as they browse the seitan bacon and cashew mozzarella on display at Real Fake Meats. It’s the new nook for those craving donairs, grilled cheeses and other comfort food classics—minus the whole meat and cheese part. As Halifax’s first plant-based butcher, owner Lauren Marshall wanted to poke fun at the irony of not using animal by-products. A throwback to mid-century butchers, a black rotary phone hangs above the cash ready to take orders for charcuterie trays and food boxes featuring a variety of fake meats and cheeses, but the only chopping block in this butcher shop is the checkout counter made of thick wooden slabs.
Marshall helmed the kitchen at EnVie for two years and worked as a chef for more than a decade before that. After taking a much-needed break to study yoga and teach plant-based cooking classes, she and her friend Brandon Levesque co-founded Real Fake Meats last spring. Originally a vegan meat and cheese subscription service, the inspiration for their food boxes came from crafting binge-worthy fake donairs for Levesque’s birthday, as well as fake fish and chips for one of Marshall’s cooking classes.
The sleek industrial steel kitchen is a sharp contrast to the store’s wooden counters and panelling. A row of stools is lined up against the window-front, inviting people to linger. “We have food and drinks if people want to stay and hang out,” Marshall adds. Alongside lattes and Americanos brewed from Java Blend’s North Ender roast, Real Fake Meats also offers a simple menu of nostalgic meals, such as tomato soup and grilled cheese, donairs and chicken salad sandwiches.
Although a working knowledge of food allergies and dietary restrictions is becoming increasingly popular, it can still be difficult for restaurant-goers to find affordable places that cater to their specific needs.
“When I grew up, almost every night of my childhood we ate donairs or pizza,” Marshall says. “All the stuff we offer here is kind of like that type of