Former New York City vegan restaurant Pure Food and Wine—which is featured in Netflix’s new docuseries Bad Vegan—is bringing the eatery’s most popular dishes back to NYC fans one last time. Netflix teamed up with delivery app Postmates and two former Pure Food and Wine chefs to offer a three-course meal for free until March 27.
The Netflix pop-up, called “The Bad Vegan Kitchen,” offers three original Pure Food and Wine dishes: the Caesar salad, the Signature Raw Lasagna, and Mallomars for dessert. Pure Food and Wine former head chef Nikki King Bennet and former pastry chef Missy Maidana are cooking the meals in a ghost kitchen in NYC’s Lower East Side all weekend long. NYC locals can place an order through the Postmates delivery app anytime during lunch or dinner for the next three days—for free, including free delivery—while supplies last.
Bad Vegan premiered on Netflix on March 16 as a four-episode documentary that chronicles the downfall of Sarma Melngailis, co-founder of Pure Food and Wine, a famed raw vegan restaurant in NYC that attracted celebrity diners such as Alec Baldwin and Owen Wilson. The restaurant was forced to close in 2015 after Melngailis was caught in a criminal scheme that involved fraud, grand larceny, and violations of labor laws.
Bad Vegan’s shocking story
It all started when Melngailis met and married conman Anthony Strangis (who called himself Shane Fox). She alleged that he coerced her into stealing money from her own restaurant and later going on the run from authorities.
Over the course of two years, Melngailis wired neary $2 million to Strangis, who promised to pay off her debts and make her dog, Leon, immortal. Strangis eventually took control of the restaurant while he and Melngailis traveled around Europe. During this time, Pure Food and Wine stopped paying employees, who walked out in protest. Strangis was found to have spent the restaurant’s money on gambling, traveling, and shopping.
A pizza order placed at Domino’s led federal authorities to a Tennessee hotel room where the duo was ultimately arrested with a litany of charges. It was also later found that Strangis took nearly $450,000 from Melngailis’s mother, a crime he was never charged for. Strangis ultimately spent nearly a year in Rikers Island jail in New York while the legal proceedings took place, and was then placed on probation. For her involvement, Melngailis pled guilty to charges of grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and a scheme to defraud in exchange for five years’ probation. She also served four months behind bars during the summer of 2017.
What happened to Pure Food and Wine’s employees?
While the Netflix documentary portrays the story as one of manipulation, viewers are left wondering what actually happened, and who was at fault. The original Pure Food and Wine restaurant has been sitting empty since it closed in 2015, and its employees were left unpaid and without jobs.
“The good people who’d worked at the business back then were right to be devastated and angry,” Melngailis wrote on her blog. “It was as if I’d abandoned them, which in effect I did. There was no actual gun to my head so it will be said that of course I had a choice. I get that.”
However, Melngailis says she arranged for producers to pay her in exchange for the source materials she provided for the Netflix documentary. She claims that money went straight to her former employees—who sued her for unpaid wages—for the total amount they were owed after she fled in 2015, and that the Netflix producers paid an attorney on her behalf who then wired full payment directly to the attorney representing the employees.
“Of all the harm and the many debts resulting from my downfall, this portion weighed heaviest,” Melngailis wrote. “I was relieved once this payment went through, but that was just a small part of what remains outstanding. I want to be clear that I’ll keep working towards addressing it all—one way or another—eventually.”
For more vegan news in NYC, read:
NYC Joins 40 Cities and States in Adopting Meat-Free Monay
NYC’s Top Restaurant Eleven Madison Park Goes Plant-Based
NYC Public Schools Now Serve Vegan Meals to 930,000 Students Every Friday