CHELSEA — An organic restaurant trying to go completely vegan got fierce backlash from angry "CrossFit people" upset about the transition to a meatless menu.
GustOrganics, a Sixth Avenue restaurant popular with local models and athletes, started phasing out meat from its menu late last year.
Since then, revenue has dropped as the restaurant's meat-eating clientele revolted.
“I was receiving hate emails from the [meat-loving] CrossFit people, we were their go-to spot," said manager Kiki Adami. "I must have gotten 50 hate mails.”
The restaurant still reluctantly dishes out turkey meatballs, rotisserie chicken and filet mignon, which help bring in about 20 percent of the eatery's income, Adami said, adding that it has not turned a profit since going mostly vegan in November.
“We’ve been in the red since November,” Adami said.
Adami, 27, and her chef husband, Paul Chang — who co-owns the restaurant — decided they wanted GustOrganics to go vegan after watching documentaries about the meat industry. The restaurant has a "green mission" and the couple was concerned about global warming, animal treatment and world hunger.
“There was a huge disconnect, because even organic farming is one of the main reasons for deforestation and [agriculture] also produces more methane emissions from all the cow-farting than all the cars in the world combined,” Adami told DNAinfo New York over five-time filtered water at the West 14th Street spot.
“It’s a totally messed-up system and we don’t want anything to do with it,” she said.
The couple decided that the restaurant being organic wasn't enough.
Last year, they began to phase in more veggies and train the restaurant staff on vegan techniques. On Nov. 3, the menu went from being roughly half vegetarian and half meat to almost entirely vegan, except for three meat dishes that Adami said the restaurant needs to offer to stay afloat.
Entrees like homemade lemon seitan, mushroom risotto and kale pizza with a chickpea crust contain no dairy and mostly local ingredients from within 200 miles.
But business dropped off as regulars, especially those who had grown accustomed to the restaurant’s Paleo diet-oriented offerings, were enraged by the change.
In one text message, an angry customer decried the fact that the sizzling fajitas would no longer come with chicken or beef.
“Is something wrong with you?" the customer asked in a text to Adami.
Adami and Chang cut their salaries in half to accommodate the financial strain, but are continuing to phase the last of the meat off their menus. They expect to be fully vegan in the next three to six months, Adami said, "probably after March when we get busy."
Despite the initial negative reaction, the pair is optimistic about the change.
As time goes on, the cooks in the kitchen, at first skeptical, are embracing vegan cooking, they said. The veggie lasagna and the veggie burger are surpassing former meat top-sellers.
“We’re getting a different clientele,” Adami said. “And I’ve noticed the energy is different. The people that come in here at night, they’re not hostile, they’re super gentle.”