Local entrepreneur Louis Hunter became the owner of the Trio Plant-Based Restaurant in 2019, located near Uptown. At the foundation of Trio Plant-Based runs a racial justice narrative.
“Two and a half years ago I lost my cousin, Philando Castile,” Hunter explained. “After the day he got killed, there was a candlelight [vigil]. At the end of the candlelight, the community had shut down I-94. As a family, we was like, ‘Wow, let’s go see this.’ When we get there, we started chanting.”
The day after the protest, Hunter was unexpectedly stopped by the police and brought into custody. He said he was falsely accused of throwing a “Molotov cocktail” and was facing 20 years behind bars. “I went to jail for two days and I was released to attend my cousin’s funeral.”
“I fought that case for two years,” Hunter said, “with 30 supporters.” Much grassroots organizing went on behind the scenes. Among those 30 supporters, Hunter connected with Sarah and Dan Woodcock.
Hunter endured an unexpected setback upon being arrested. “When they arrested me, they took my vehicle. My vehicle was my landscaping vehicle. When they took my truck, they took my work.”
A week after he got out of jail, Hunter said, he lost his housing, job and vehicle. “Everything I worked hard for was all gone… I persevered only through Christ, through God.”
After the charges were dismissed, Hunter and the Woodcocks worked as a collective to open Trio Plant-Based Restaurant. The initial idea was to launch a food truck, but they chose to open a brick-and-mortar business in 2018.
The Woodcocks and Hunter launched their first pop-up at Breaking Bread Kitchen in North Minneapolis. That event went well, and the second was a major success. Trio Plant-Based experienced rapid success, Hunter said, because he placed an emphasis on creating tasty plant-based soul food. “In four hours we made $6,000.”
After hosting successful pop-ups that drew large crowds, the owners approached NEON and launched a Kickstarter (an online platform for raising project funds) to help bring Trio Plant-Based Restaurant into fruition.
Upon opening the brick-and-mortar restaurant, Hunter said, “Our first month we made $57,000.” Although they experienced immediate success, after several months the Woodcocks chose to bow out of the partnership. Hunter was given 100% control and ownership. He took on the role as sole owner in 2019.
Due to the transfer of ownership, Trio is now recognized as Minnesota’s first Black-owned, plant-based restaurant, known for specializing in 100% plant-based soul food.
“It’s been a road,” Hunter said of the labor required. “I been working 10 am to 10 pm for the last two years, but it’s a happy 10 to 10. It can be stressful, don’t get me wrong, but It feels better and rewarding because I’m helping my community.”
Hunter said, “I do pop-ups, give money back to the community, and I served 220 people at the homeless shelter, all vegan food, all healthy.” He also doesn’t charge artists for displaying artwork in his establishment.
The owner is also passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle and inclusivity. “I try to help people with high blood pressure. I don’t want you to feel uptight when you come in here… You can wear what you want, because it’s a plant-based restaurant.”
He also emphasized that patrons won’t be discriminated against if they wear fur or leather. Everyone is welcome.
Visiting Trio Plant-Based Restaurant can best be described as an upscale experience in an open layout with plentiful lime-green seating. There’s colorful artwork and photography made by local artists on display. New Trio t-shirts and other merchandise are also available for sale.
As for the menu, customers can select a fresh variety of 100% plant-based soul food, appetizers, burgers, macs, wraps and desserts. Various plant-based soul-food options are available, including collard greens, cornbread with maple butter, mac and cheese, jackfruit ribs, southern slaw and yams.
In the future, Hunter aspires to open up Trio Plant-Based space as did Breaking Bread to provide individuals the option to rent out the kitchen so they can prepare and sell their own food. “I’m here to serve the community,” Hunter emphasized.
He shared this advice for youth: “Don’t give up when it gets hard, especially for my African American brothers. I know the streets call us, but it’s a bigger voice that you gotta listen for, that we hear, but we ignore.
“I want my brothers not to ignore that voice,” said Hunter, “because that’s your calling. The prize is later. My queens and kings are all diamonds—some are just in the rough. Continue to do the right thing and never give up. Never give up on what your purpose is.”
Trio Plant-Based Restaurant is located at 610 W. Lake St. in Minneapolis.
UPDATE: Louis Hunter is now the sole owner of Trio. At this time of the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant is offering pick-up and DoorDash orders. The store’s current hours are from 12 to 8 pm. For updates, visit the company’s Facebook page or website www.trioplantbased.com.
Louis Hunter also has a multi-service company he describes as “our community landscaping and maintenance business. We do snow removal, gutters, refurbish furniture, commercial, and residential cleaning.” Contact: 651-968-2131.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.