Growth Spurt: The Expansion Of Three Carrots

Vegan guru Ian Phillips of Three Carrots whips up creative comfort food, and even the carnivores are ravenous.
Most restaurateurs would kill to have the “problems” that have befallen Three Carrots owner Ian Phillips. When he opened his first vegetarian food stand at City Market in 2014, customers formed a line before he even started taking orders. When he added a second location in November, a sit-down restaurant in Fountain Square, he had to turn away customers two days after the soft opening. He simply didn’t have enough food to serve the vegan hordes.

A former special-education teacher (and committed vegan since age 16), Phillips is a bit of a cult figure in the local vegetarian community. He is known for his creative takes on seitan, a vegetarian protein that mimics the look and texture of meat when it’s cooked. Menu items like the Seitan BLT and Seitan Trojan Horse (a vegan gyro) regularly attract carnivores. “We make food easy for omnivores to take on because it’s flavorful, looks familiar, and just happens to be vegetarian,” says Phillips. He has a few more culinary tools to work with at the new location. The addition of a fryer and smoker give him and sous chef Heather Miller room to play with plated dishes and bowls. Consider smoked tofu on mac and cheese with braised greens, caramelized onions, and roasted cauliflower pickles, or chicken-fried seitan and waffles. “Ten years ago, I never would have imagined this being a possibility,” he says. “It really shows that people are getting out of their comfort zones to try new things.”