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Kosher Vegan Food Truck Rolls to a Stop

Cinnamon Snail food truck in happier times. Facebook

Vegans and omnivores alike are in mourning. Cinnamon Snail, the popular kosher, vegan food truck, will no longer roam the streets of New York City.

For five years, the truck, which Yelp named the 4th best eatery in America in 2014, has served up creative, gourmet vegan fare — dishes like pinenut-butter topped fresh fig pancakes, smoked portobello mushroom carpaccio and an addictive line of donuts and cinnamon rolls that has entrapped thousands of hungry New Yorkers, including me.

About a year ago, I was on the hunt for a perfect parve cake for my wedding. I wanted it to be vegan and free of chemicals or additives. I was already a longtime devotee of Cinnamon Snail’s truck, but I discovered online that Cinnamon Snail made wedding cakes, too. I knew I had found my baker.

My husband and I chose a vanilla-bean cake with maple-flavored frosting. (My husband is Canadian; hence, the maple frosting.) It was the most delicious cake I have ever eaten — and our 250 guests agreed. The cake was gone soon after it was served, though my husband and I can’t wait to eat the small piece we saved for our anniversary in a few months.

The truck’s owners will still be making these special-order vegan cakes, even as the rest of the business goes into hibernation. (It’s unclear yet whether we can expect a brick-and-mortar Cinnamon Snail restaurant.)

Cinnamon Snail is shutting down mainly because it couldn’t secure a new permit for its truck, according to chef Adam Sobel, Cinnamon Snail’s founder. Food truck permits are very hard to come by in New York City, and even if you can get one, trucks face a number of high obstacles to financial success — particularly a vegan, mostly organic truck.

In a post on Cinnamon Snail’s Facebook page, Sobel called the experience of running the business “emotionally and physically exhausting,” citing parking problems, police harassment, a fire and high overhead costs, among other challenges. “Any little mechanical problem on our truck can cost us days on the street and sometimes result in us having to throw out or give away thousands of dollars of food.”

Cinnamon Snail’s founders had a larger agenda than just turning a profit — they wanted to bring vegan food to the masses and reduce meat consumption. “The food we created has been designed to shatter the misconceptions people have about vegan food, and to make the mainstream gravitate towards considering a meat free diet,” Sobel wrote on Facebook.

As a kosher food connoisseur in Manhattan’s Financial District, my lunch options have been fairly limited. There are a few kosher restaurants (with pizza, pasta and sandwiches), but nothing too exciting for a moderately priced lunch.

But soon after the food truck craze hit Manhattan, Cinnamon Snail came inching into town and revolutionized my lunch hour. What could be better than a vegan kosher food truck that parked a few blocks from my office once a week? Every Tuesday, my coworkers and I would rush to the truck, trying to avoid the inevitable long lines of hungry diners.

Cinnamon Snail hasn’t only helped satiate my lunchtime cravings at work. They have catered our staff meetings and weekly community snack sessions. When we needed kosher sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) for a Hanukkah party at work, we turned to Cinnamon Snail, which has proven that parve desserts need not taste like sugary cardboard.

Since Cinnamon Snail entered the Financial District food truck scene, other kosher options have followed, including Taim, Shnitzi’s and the Shuka truck. But none offer the unique culinary experience that Cinnamon Snail did. Where else will I be able to find both a vanilla bourbon creme brûlée donut and a smoked chili bourbon BBQ seitan burger?

Jessie Katz is the director of the 2015 New York Bike Ride & Retreat at Hazon.

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