GTPulse: Rad.ish Street Food Finds a Home
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting outside of The Coin Slot when I saw someone walk out carrying a tray of sushi.
“Arcade sushi?!” I said, watching the tray get further away from me. Experiences with sushi from other unexpected places like deli cases, potlucks and gas stations (judge away) haven’t always worked out for me. But, old habits die hard, and I am bound and determined to check arcade sushi off of my list.
I didn’t know that the colorful roll that caught my eye was a vegan one and that the friendly faces behind it were none other than Rad.ish Street Food, an exclusively vegan pop-up that’s been in Traverse City for over a year.
The pop-up has a new home inside of The Coin Slot in downtown Traverse City and they’re having their grand opening today!
Rad.ish began as a grief journey for co-owner Lisa Moberly. She lost her 7-year-old daughter Izabela when a reckless driver struck her vehicle. Coming from a family that has experienced the tragedy of losing a child, there’s no pain greater. There’s no grief heavier to bear. And when it happens, every other part of daily life seems small, trivial, and far away. Her job in marketing, she realized, didn’t make her happy and in the light of her daughter’s death, she wanted to do something that mattered to her.
“At nine years old, I stopped eating meat. And the decision to make it was a big one because when I found out when chicken was on a bone… it just kind of all clicked. I raised my daughter that way too.”
As a woman of Mexican descent, Lisa’s grandmother wasn’t thrilled to hear that her granddaughter was renouncing meat
“She literally was just like, ‘Huh? If you don’t know how to cook meat, you’ll never get married, so get in the kitchen. We’re going to learn, you don’t have to taste it, but I’m going to teach you how to cook it.’ And so from there, I learned how to cook my grandma’s traditional Mexican food and it’s authentic. And then I learned how to put my own twist on it. We don’t just boil chicken and eat it. We put seasonings and flavors on it, and chicken just becomes a texture at that point. So you figure out what the texture is. And then you put those flavors together.”
Her Mexican roots are just one of the many influences on Rad.ish’s cuisine. Ryan Moberly co-owns the restaurant with Lisa, and last October they proved her grandmother wrong by eloping. Though he wasn’t vegan when they first met, his love for meat diminished as his love for Lisa grew. Not only was he a meat eater, but a professional chef who cooked meat for a living too.
“I cooked meat for 15 years. I never thought I would go vegan. Lisa and I started watching documentaries and when I realized how bad these animals were being treated, and then being delivered to our plate, I just started getting grossed out at work. I ended up quitting. There was nothing really in California anymore for us,” he said.
The two were born and raised in California. Ryan had spent some of his culinary career in Grand Rapids and when he went back to visit his friend, he brought Lisa.
They made the move in February 2019 and haven’t looked back.
Rad.ish began as a pop-up back in Los Angeles where food trucks aren’t yet dominating the outdoor event food scene. There are still street food vendors without the mobile convenience of a food truck, using not much more than a folding table and a pop-up tent. When they moved to Traverse City they knew they wanted to continue with their vegan pop-up, and a spot at the Sara Hardy’s Farmers Market gave them the opportunity to.
“We looked so city when we came up here. We popped up our tent and we were asked to cook with 70 percent of the food from local farmers through Taste The Local Difference. So we go up to the first farmers we see, Bailey [Samp] and John [Dindia] and said ‘We don’t know what to do. We need food, we need help!’ She held our hand and was amazing. We didn’t think we were going to be anything,” Lisa said.
Their food was a hit and they began participating in more local food events to the delight of vegan and non-vegan locals. They began thinking about the possibilities that a food truck would bring with events. They’re in a unique situation being Traverse City’s only exclusively vegan restaurant. They approached Dan Clark, owner of Mundo’s. He has two locations, one in Traverse City and the other in Suttons Bay. At the time he also had a mobile cafe that traveled to weddings. When Ryan and Lisa asked him about buying it, he said yes.
“We ended up taking that over and he told us to turn it into something cool. He wanted to see this happen,” Ryan said.
The two spent the better part of a year fixing up the 1966 Airstream to become the official Rad.ish Street Food. They were set for a summer full of events when 2020 took a turn and tested the strength of our hopes and dreams. It tested theirs.
“All of our events got canceled because of COVID. We had just been finishing up the electrical on the truck,” Ryan said.
A moment of grace appeared when Scott Pierson, owner of The Coin Slot, asked if they would like to move into their kitchen.
“I always feel like Izabela is just this little angel looking out after us, like ‘I know this is crazy but here you go.’ Because honestly, that week I felt like I was almost grieving again. Like, oh my gosh what did I do putting my grief journey into a restaurant that could potentially not be, ” Lisa said.
“It goes beyond having making money or having an establishment. This is what we’re meant to do,” Ryan said.
They quietly opened two months ago, and that explains the mesmerizing sushi that I saw. Quiet no longer, however. Today is their grand opening and they’re here to spoil the veggie eaters and pleasantly surprise the meat-eaters. Their menu consists of food that is meant to appeal to everyone, vegan or not. With sushi, burgers, burritos, Dole Whip and so much more, the problem won’t be whether or not you eat meat, but what to pick from the changing menu. They’ve served strict vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, and even a meat-loving food blogger who has come back for their burger three times.
The Moberly’s care deeply about Rad.ish being ethical in all senses and regularly talk about injustice going on in the world. They’re defenders of doing the right thing and advocate for social justice. Today 10% of proceeds are going to a fund that supports Jacob Blake’s family.
Rad.ish Street Food will be open Thursday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday brunch will be served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday will be open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. with Tuesday offering industry night specials for service workers. Wednesday they will be closed.
Rad.ish is a way for Lisa and Ryan to make vegan food accessible to the lovers and the skeptics, to show off their culinary creativity, show kindness, and to bring a little sliver of Izzy’s light to the masses.
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