October Foodie: Will Holmes

Will Holmes of 10th Street Diner

Tony Valainis

Don’t tell Will Holmes he can’t make something from scratch. The younger half of the mother-son catering duo that opened vegan-friendly 10th Street Diner in May could buy pre-made seitan and dairy-free cheese for the restaurant’s sandwiches, chimichangas, and lasagna. But he prefers making his own. “I just don’t like what’s available,” Holmes says, referring to the meat replacements many eateries use. And he clearly loves playing mad scientist with tofu and cashews. At any time, he’s got 300 pounds of wheat gluten in stock for the protein-packed seitan he marinates to get his sub sandwich, Reuben, and “chicken” salad surprisingly close to the real articles. A humidifier controls the moisture level in his prep room. “Did you check on my jerky?” he asks over the counter to his mom, Karen. Yep—his latest back-of-the-house project is doing just fine.

[pullquote align=”left” caption=”Will Holmes of 10th Street Diner”]“We had thrown around ideas for a restaurant, but it took us three years and a lot of construction delays to open 10th Street.”[/pullquote]An avid cyclist who got his business-management degree from Indiana State, Holmes started making his own grilled cheese sandwiches when he was 5 years old. At 15, he got his first kitchen gig, working alongside his mother, a vegetarian since 1971, in a catering group. But it wasn’t until nearly 18 years later that the pair finally opened their own spot. “We had thrown around ideas for a restaurant,” Holmes says, “but it took us three years and a lot of construction delays to open 10th Street.” A few customers turn around the moment they hear the place is vegan. But, Holmes says, “Once they taste our food, almost everyone leaves happy.”

Click here to get Holmes’s recipe for vegan sloppy Joes.