Original Family Smokehouse sells vegan soul food inside Fortune Teller Bar on Cherokee Street in St. Louis

Original Family Smokehouse, born out of chef-owner Brandon Gilliam’s home kitchen, debuted at The Fortune Teller Bar at 2635 Cherokee St. earlier this fall. Visit the space to try their innovative vegan soul food from 3 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday each week.

The team cleverly transforms plant-based ingredients into simple, but high-quality products that resemble meat dishes “geared toward the plant-based-curious consumer,” Gilliam said. He is most proud of Thee BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich, with smoked jackfruit, similar to a classic pulled chicken sandwich. His personal favorite menu item is his C-Food Gumbo, a vegan twist on a recipe he learned from his grandmother that is “very authentic and very much from the soul of my family,” said Gilliam. But the smokehouse’s most popular item is the Chris Burger, a smoked barbecue Beyond burger named after a close friend of Gilliam’s.

The origin of the smokehouse is deeply connected to Gilliam’s personal experience as a vegan. When he first decided to change his diet in 2004, Gilliam struggled finding the right foods to eat. “It took a lot of educating myself and having a different perspective about plant-based ingredients” to find his way, he said. Now, his mission is to similarly change perspectives on plant-based eating for others. “People who just want to eat more plants because they want to incorporate more into their lives are the people I’m seeking,” Gilliam said. He calls his food “healthy-ish” in hopes of inspiring a more balanced and sustainable way of eating and living in his community. 

Gilliam launchd his smokehouse in 2017 at a Black culture festival called Conscious Fest as a passion project. Now that it has grown into a more permanent physical location, he is looking forward to the opportunity to expand the menu, especially focusing on adding more sides such as vegan candied yams, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese. Eventually, Gilliam’s dream would be to build a stronger presence in the Cherokee neighborhood with his own brick-and-mortar for the smokehouse, although he plans on staying at Fortune Teller for at least a year.