BOARDMAN — Before Ely and Jim Pugh founded Ely’s To Go, the couple ran a traditional restaurant.
“One day, I realized what I do [cooking traditionally] is sending people straight to the hospital,” Ely Pugh said. “So I decided I'm not going to do that.”
First, they changed that restaurant's menu to all-vegetarian cuisine. Then, the couple eventually opened Ely’s To Go as an all-vegan carry-out inside The Bread Chef.
Today, Ely's to Go has its own storefront and is a vegan carry-out restaurant dedicated to giving customers fresh, locally grown plant-based dishes all while aiming to leave a lighter carbon footprint.
Menu items include, but are not limited to, soups, salads, spring rolls, baked goods, smoothies and sandwiches.
The restaurant, 850 E. Western Reserve Road, starts fresh every day, with an always-changing menu into what Jim Pugh calls the "simple seven," in which the menu only has seven daily items to “keep it simple.”
“At the same time, people can get bored with the same thing. So to be able to keep [the menu] simple you have to keep changing it,” Ely Pugh said. “It makes it interesting for the customers and the kitchen both with so we don't get too bored.”
Ely Pugh, who is originally from Vietnam, uses Asian, French and American influences in her cooking. She described the cooks of Ely’s To Go as artists and said she watches them from a distance as they are given creative freedom while preparing dishes.
According to Ely Pugh, the majority of customers do not adopt a plant-based diet, but are simply looking for fresh foods that make them feel good.
“When you concentrate too much on health, you miss out on a lot of layers of the human being, you know, so I don't push it too much,” she said. “The first layer of course of the body and to satisfy the body, the temple, and then once you feel good about it, it's all about vibration and energy. When you eat good, you feel good.”
When Pugh first moved to America, she realized the abundance that this country had to offer. Because of that, she works with up to 16 local farmers. She said forming relationships with local farmers is beneficial for all parties. It’s a way to give customers fresh foods, save on gasoline transportation and help the farmers sustain an economy.
Ely’s To Go also sells goods and prepackaged items from other plant-based vendors and chefs including Sweet Maresa’s Bakery in New York and The Herbivorous Butcher, a vegan butcher shop in Minnesota.
The restaurant's kitchen composts leftover ingredients and recycles packaging. They even serve smoothies with pasta straws instead of plastic.
Everything sold is conveniently packaged for carry-out, but the store-front also has 15 seats for customers who chose to dine in.