When Sookie’s owner John McCune became a vegan in college, he soon discovered it was challenging to dine out with his friends. “[They] were going to a lot of casual places and there weren’t options for me,” he says. Determined to “fill that gap” and with concern for the natural environment, McCune launched Sookie’s Veggie Burgers as a food trailer in Milwaukee before moving to Madison and vending at events on the festival circuit. In March 2022, he opened a brick-and-mortar spot on State Street. “I grew up in Stoughton, I know about State Street,” McCune says. “I knew it was ripe for an all-vegan place.”
Sookie’s offers fast-casual dishes like burgers, breakfast sandwiches, hash browns and a hummus plate. It’s quick, tasty and affordable food with a mission. “We are trying to minimize our carbon footprint by moving to plant-based food,” McCune says.
The top seller at Sookie’s, by far, is the vegan “chicken” sandwich. McCune’s version features “chicken” made from seitan, which is a form of wheat gluten, and comes on a bun with vegan mayo, lettuce and pickles. “People have been loving it,” McCune says. “Every time a customer wants to order something else, they always come back to it.” Order it with local Mojo’s Majik spicy barbecue sauce for an extra kick.
Crispy Clean | Tater Tots
Available as a side dish, Sookie’s tots are crisped in commercial air fryers, “which sets them apart,” McCune says. “I think people appreciate having less grease in their diet.”
All Things Green | The Space
Keeping with the plant-based vibes, greenery abounds inside Sookie’s. Plants hang from the ceiling, perch in the sunny windows and even climb the walls. “We [added] a wall that is fully covered in petrified moss,” McCune says. “It’s real — not alive, but it’s petrified.” More plants, including fruits and veggies, can be seen in the restaurant’s rainbow mural, painted by artist and Sookie’s manager Esperanza Tyson.
Supporting Line-Up | Local Products
To complement Sookie’s menu items, the restaurant also offers a variety of products from local vendors. “We have a number of local businesses that we support because we want to spread the love and support people who are here,” McCune says. Drink choices include Wisco Pop craft sodas, Honey Bee Cannabis CBD seltzers, Karben4 draft beer and Rude Brew Kombucha on tap. For a sweet treat there is vegan ice cream from Fifth Scoop — the cookie jar flavor features coconut vanilla ice cream with cookies mashed into it — and vegan cupcakes from East Side Cakes.
Pro-Planet | Intentional Details
“The impetus for starting Sookie’s was to do something more sustainable for the planet,” McCune says. In addition to serving 100% plant-based food, Sookie’s uses compostable packaging for all its products. “The world doesn’t need any more plastic out there,” McCune says. Upcycled materials can also be found throughout the restaurant, including bottles that are used as containers for plants and large wooden spools that have been repurposed as tables.
Disclaimer: Sookie Is Not A Vegan
Sookie’s Veggie Burgers is named for McCune’s partner’s family dog — although the namesake does not follow a plant-based diet. Spot Sookie the mutt in the rainbow mural, conspicuously side-eyeing the avocados and radishes.