Featured photo: The “Wherefore Art Thou Romeo” burger at Romeo’s Vegan Burgers in Greensboro N.C., on July 19, 2022. (photo by Juliet Coen)
Monty “Tigo B” Faulkner and Lamont Heath are Geminis. That means when businesses shut down and the world receded in on itself during the pandemic, the two entrepreneurs found themselves itching for a creative outlet.
“We were all quarantined in the house,” Heath says. “We started playing around with recipes and dipping sauces. We had family members try the food out. That’s how we came up with the idea.”
Faulkner, who goes by “Tigo B” on stage, and Heath, are the two co-owners of Romeo’s Vegan Burgers, an all-plant-based fast food enterprise that opened up its Greensboro location a few weeks ago on Tate Street near UNCG.
As music partners, the two have toured across the country and witnessed the food scenes in other cities. And being vegan, they noticed that whenever they would come back to North Carolina, they would miss the myriad of options they had elsewhere.
“We’re constantly traveling as music partners and are always looking for vegan options to eat,” Faulkner says. “On the west coast, there’s a lot of vegan options but in the South, there aren’t that many options.”
In 2020, while, the two friends decided to put their efforts into starting a vegan business out of Charlotte while they were stuck at home.
“The original plans were to do a brick-and-mortar, but in the midst of trying to find a location and buying restaurant equipment, the pandemic hit,” Heath says. “They shut all the restaurants down, but being as how food trucks were still out and people still wanted to eat out, we decided to do a food truck centralized in Charlotte.”
The response was incredible, so in December 2021 the two opened up their first permanent location, complete with a drive-thru, in the Queen City.
“From the first day we opened there were lines,” Faulkner says. “People received us really well. Although there are vegan options in Charlotte, there still aren’t a ton. We had 120 people waiting outside that first day.”
Now, just seven months later, the duo have opened up a location in Greensboro, a city that’s close to both of them. Heath, who owns multiple businesses in Greensboro, told Triad City Beat that he grew up in the city.
“Greensboro is more of our home base than Charlotte is,” he says. “I felt like when an opportunity presented itself, I felt like it would be a good idea to bring it to our home.”
Since opening a few weeks ago, the business has garnered a lot of attention from local eaters both vegan and nonvegan. The draw, Faulkner and Heath say, is that the food is accessible.
“We wanted to introduce more people to vegan food,” Faulkner says. “We wanted to create a space that was transitional, something that would be easy to transition to.”
The move comes as other vegan businesses have found success in the Triad as well.
In January, Brian Ricciardi of Dom’s in Winston-Salem — formerly known as Mozzarella Fellas — opened Radici, Greensboro’s first all-vegan restaurant, in downtown Greensboro. A few years before that in April 2020, Mike’s Vegan Cookout began making its rounds in the Triad, with a semi-permanent stop in Greensboro. The business, owned by Mike Roach, offers vegan burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches and BBQ sandwiches. Since their opening more than two years ago, the business has catapulted and gathered a strong following locally. So much so that Roach is looking to open a brick and mortar in Greensboro by the end of the year.
“We’ve been looking for places for a while now,” Roach told TCB. “We found a couple of great spots and we’re in the process of getting a contractor and making sure everything scales out in terms of our customers.”
So far he’s looked at locations on Gate City Boulevard, Battleground Avenue, Lawndale Drive and Pyramid Village off of Wendover.
While they don’t have a solid date for their opening yet, Roach says that opening their first brick-and-mortar in Greensboro is a natural progression of their business.
“We started in Greensboro two-and-a-half years ago and now we’re there four days a week,” Roach says. “I pretty much know all my customers by name and they’ve supported us even through gas prices and inflation.”
When asked about the Romeo’s location in Greensboro, Roach says he’s happy to see more vegan options in the area.
“I’m thankful to see businesses like that come into play,” he says. “I feel like it’s a beautiful time and it’s going to keep growing. I’ve even thought of a vegan breakfast spot and also a fully vegan pizza place or vegan fried chicken. The options are unlimited.”
As for Romeo’s, they looked to other popular fast food chains like McDonald’s for both their menu and their aesthetic. They offer a number of different burgers — which use Beyond Meat or Impossible Burgers — including a Romeo Mac Burger which the two say is directly inspired by the classic chain. They’ve also got salads and vegan milkshakes. Their marketing is also inspired by old-school fast-food chains.
“Being that we are in the music industry, we understand the importance of branding,” Faulkner says. “A lot of times when you go to a vegan restaurant, you have more of a hippy, rustic feel to it. It doesn’t have a commercialized feel to it. We wanted to bring it more mainstream, so we thought of more mainstream places like McDonalds.”
Like the iconic cartoon characters like Ronald McDonald and Grimace, Faulkner and Heath say they wanted to create a mascot for Romeo’s that was fun and inviting for customers of all ages. In the end, they landed on a Bugs Bunny-esque rabbit decked out in a black jacket and jeans. The colors for the restaurant are bright, with shades of neon orange and green.
“We want people to ride by and say, ‘That’s inviting to the eye,’” Heath says.
And that goes for the food, too. As two Black men who have been embracing the plant-based lifestyle for years, Faulkner says that they wanted to make sure to make veganism accessible and interesting for their community.
“Within the conscious Black community, veganism has been a thing for a very long time,” he says. “Before the death with Nipsey Hussle, he was about to do a vegan documentary. So it has been popular, but in mainstream Black communities, maybe not so much. So we were wanting that you’re not going to miss out on flavor because it’s plant-based.”
For now, the business is focusing on burgers but they have plans to start a Buffalo chicken burger soon too. Plus, they can’t say where, but they’re already working on a third location of their business, Heath says.
“The sky is the limit,” Faulkner says. “We’ve been able to see businesses grow within veganism, like with Slutty Vegan in Atlanta. It’s inspiring. So, for us, there’s no limit on this. We would love to see Romeo’s Vegan Burgers on different continents. We don’t want to just keep it local; we want to spread the good vegan food all around.”
Learn more about Romeo’s at romeosveganburgers.com. Orders must be placed in store for the Greensboro location. Follow Mike’s Vegan Cookout for updates on their Instagram at @mikesvegancookout.
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