By Angela Muniz | Photography by Mark Lipczynski
Long before vegan and plant-based were common menu phrases, Sasha Raj started serving vegetable-forward juices, snacks and meals out of a tucked-away Tempe restaurant with green walls. Today, 24 Carrots celebrates 12 years of sharing and showing people the difference between diets and lifestyles.
That people now see food choices as lifestyle decisions is a win for Raj, who says one of the biggest challenges when she first opened was that people saw her menu as part of a diet regimen.
“Now they see it as a lifestyle, and one that is supportive of high energy,” she says. “And the food is delicious.”
Raj describes the 24 Carrot menu as botanically inspired. She and her team prepare nearly all of the dishes from scratch—from mock meats to pastries—and put the spotlight on the vegetables for plates that pop with color and flavor. The regular menu changes about twice a year with a specials board of five to six items that changes weekly.
Popular signatures dishes include the Natural Fried Chick-un, a crispy soybean patty topped with homemade pickles and red pepper hot sauce on a Ciabatta bun; and the Breakfast Burrito overflowing with a tofu scramble and 13 different vegetables selected for a balance of spicy and sweet.
The pastry case is also a guest favorite with about a dozen daily “I-can’t-believe-it’s-vegan” treats that many pair with a pressed juice or smoothie.
Raj didn’t always dream of opening a restaurant. She studied biochemistry in school, but while there, realized how much she loved working with people, serving the community, and cooking. She says the inherent trust between people and restaurants is something that inspired her.
“You walk into a restaurant and order from someone you’ve never met, and when it comes out, you put it into your body,” she explains.
That trust has come full circle in the support the restaurant has received over the years from its guests.
“To be celebrating 12 years this May is as much a testament to the community as it is to our team,” Raj says. “We opened in a recession and they have supported us through it all.”
Now that popular culture has caught up to Raj, she looks to help even more people discover and adopt the plant-based lifestyle at their own pace. She will offer cooking demos in the spring and will have a line of packaged spice blends available later this year. The goal is to help people learn ways to prepare their own meals.
“When flavor is punchy, it’s easier for people to see it can be tasty,” she says.
1701 E. Guadalupe Rd., Tempe AZ 85283