Inaugural event in June brought 1,000 people to sample vegan foods and products.
Riley Elizabeth Brown, El Inde Arizona
Vegan Night Market on June 3, courtesy of Martin Madero.
Organizers of the inaugural Vegan Night Market in early June were shocked when more than 1,000 people showed up to the downtown Owls Club.
“I had no idea it was going to be so packed that night,” said Hannah Hernandez, best known to her 12,400 Instagram followers as @deathfreefoodie. “I thought you know some people will stroll through, no big deal, but it ended up being wild.”
The market returns on Saturday, Sept. 16, but this time, vendors will not only set up at the Owls Club, 236 S Scott Ave, but on the lawn of the neighboring Children’s Museum Tucson.
“This one will be a bigger venue (so) hopefully it will be a little less cramped for people,” said Hernandez, who is collaborating with Tucson Foodie on the event.
The Vegan Night Market will run from 7 to 11 p.m. with 26 vendors selling goods ranging from Japanese and Mexican fusion foods to monster tamales.
The first Vegan Night Market at Owls Club downtown featured 17 vendors, most of which sold out. The event is family-friendly except in the bar, which is 21 and older. Pets also are welcome in the outside areas.
For those who don’t know, @deathfreefoodie is Hernandez’s Instagram where she posts pictures and reviews of vegan food from restaurants all over Tucson.
Hernandez went vegan about 6½ years ago. Her number one of endless reasons is that she is “a huge softie.”
“I look into a cow’s eyes, I just want to cry immediately,” she said.
“When I went vegan I was so amazed as to how many vegan options there were and how good they were,” said Hernandez, who posted many of these finds to her personal Instagram before launching @deathfreefoodie. “I felt like I was annoying my friends on my Instagram so I was like, I’m going to make a separate little Instagram page that is just food and that was that.”
For the past year Hernandez also has been the social media director and content creator for Tucson Foodie, which has more than 83,000 followers.
At the inaugural market in June, Herminia Serino was expecting to see a handful of people visit her Del Cielo Tamal stand.
“It was by 5:45 and I see only a few people walking by, a few people saying ‘We don’t think it will be like that busy.’ Twenty minutes after, I don’t know where these people came from, but all of Tucson was there,” she said. “I called my son and I say, ‘You know what, go to the restaurant and bring me all the vegan meat, all the calabacitas, everything’ and he was like, ‘What mom?’ and I say, ‘Yes we don’t have anything so please hurry up!’ ”
The event started at 6 p.m. and Del Cielo Tamal was sold out sometime around 7:30 or 8. Serino said she plans to come better prepared for Saturday now that she knows what to expect.
Del Cielo Tamal, 3073 N. Campbell Ave, is going to have some surprise menu items along with vegan chilaquiles or as they call them “veganquiles” and their “monster tamale” — a green corn tamale with vegan meat and topped with the same chilaquile sauce. The restaurant also will have burritos, quesadillas and an assortment of agua frescas.
“Veganquiles” that will be available at the Vegan Night Market, courtesy of Del Cielo Tamal.
Serino went vegan for four years after being diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2009. The diet change inspired her to start selling vegan tamales along with her other tamales at the farmers market and when she opened her namesake restaurant on Campbell and Fort Lowell a few years ago, she made about half the menu vegan.
Nowadays she eats a meat-free and dairy-free diet, but will sometimes eat free-range eggs and high quality fish.
Samurai Sombrero, a Mexican-Japanese fusion food truck at The Pit on East 22nd Street, will bring several of their specialty rolls to the market.
Gabriela Delgadillo and Jesus Oleta opened the food truck less than a year ago. They will offer their Death Free Foodie, famous fried avocado, sweet potato, cucumber, asparagus and ultimate veggie rolls.
The Death Free Foodie roll was inspired by Hernandez, who visited Samurai Sombrero and tried the fried avocado roll (now named the “famous fried avocado”), the only vegan roll they had at the time. Hernandez posted the roll to her Instagram, which Delgadillo said boosted demand for the roll. That also inspired her and her husband to expand their vegan menu.
The Death Free Foodie Roll, a collaboration between Hernandez and Delgadillo, has avocado and cucumber and is topped with lightly fried tempura jalapenos, chef’s special sauce and vegan eel sauce.
After Hernandez told Delgadillo what ingredients she wanted in the roll, Delgadillo spent weeks perfecting it. The sauces took the longest.
“I would say it is the sauce that brings it all together,” said Delgadillo.
All of the sauces at Samurai Sombrero are made from scratch.
Delgadillo said that after Hernandez tried it, she asked her, “What are you going to name it?”
“I said ‘Hannah, your name because that’s your roll’,” Delgadillo said.
Sushi rolls that will be available at Vegan Night Market, courtesy of Samurai Sombrero.
Hernandez’s goal is to start having the Vegan Night Markets quarterly with less vendors, but more food and in a bigger space.
Vendors at this Saturday’s Vegan Night Market will include Samurai Sombrero, The Vegan Joint AZ, Lovin’ Spoonfuls , Del Cielo Tamal, Churros Inzunza, The Serene Kitchen, Okashi, Penca, Fungirl’s Fungi, Eatgypt, Espressoul Cafe, Everbowl, Tortilleria Arevalo, 1220 Bakery, 5th Dimension Foods, Ate Keli’s Filipino Treats, Cal’s Bakeshop, Ducky’s Pineapple Banana Bread, Green Heart Bakery, Sweet Revenge Baking Co., Whysked Bakery, Zen Notions , Lala Links Permanent Jewelry, Di Luna Candles, Cero Zero Waste and Mr. Lewk Tattoos.