The Red Fern
The Red Fern; situated unassumingly on the corner of Oxford and Park Avenue has become Rochester’s premiere all-vegan eatery. Its runaway success is in no uncertain terms due to the grit, tenacity, and finesse of Red Ferns’ audacious owner Andrea Parros. Petite in stature but bold and daring in vision; Parros along with a team of 40 hospitality professionals have the Midas touch; growing the eatery from humble beginnings to one of Rochester’s leading gluten-free and vegan restaurants.
Andrea’s Origin Story
We can’t dive into the story of Red Fern without starting at the source; the story of the owner and founder Andrea Parros. Parros grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Northeastern University in 2004. Like many new college grads, she had no idea what she wanted to do with or life or career after college. What she knew is that she loved a good challenge, wanted to work with people, and was ready to take a risk.
She was smitten by a small cafe located in Boston’s posh Newbury Street district that according to Parros had a “cool, misfit, punk, vibe” that brought together people of all different backgrounds but didn’t take itself too seriously. Throwing fear to the wayside one day she stepped into the establishment and asked the then-owner if she could take a job as a dishwasher. Initially incredulous, the owner soon realized that Paros doesn’t take no for an answer. She was hired on the spot and within a week landed herself a promotion to brunch cook. Thrust into a trial-by-fire situation Parros used this opportunity as a stepping stone to learn and perform almost every role in the establishment giving her vital on-the-job experience that would serve her well for her next big role; manager of a newly hired prep crew. All this experience prepared Parros for the next big opportunity…
A Move to Rochester
In 2009 Andrea moved to Rochester to embark on her first entrepreneurial endeavor; the opening of Owl House Rochester with restaurateurs Jeff Ching and Brian Van Etten. Opening Owl House was a big next step and this leap of faith gave Parros the confidence and experience that would eventually lead to her opening The Red Fern in 2013. Together both in business and romantically Parros and Ching managed and guided Owl House to much success. Owl House became known for its local, fresh, and farm-to-table take on American classics which included a bevy of delectable vegan dishes. This attention to the details of vegan cuisine came naturally for Parros who had transitioned several years prior. Initially vegetarian, she became fully vegan (and gluten-free) after experiencing chronic bouts of psoriasis rashes during a six month stint in Hawaii. Managing the menu at Owl House gave her more experience as a vegan and gluten-free recipe developer. Andrea was enthralled by the challenge and eagerly began crafting acclaimed gluten-free and vegan menu items. Eventually, Parros and Ching mutually agreed to end their romantic and business partnership and Andrea took the respite (18 months total) to think long and hard about her next steps. This transition gave her even more gumption and confidence to set out on her own and Red Fern opened its doors to the public in 2013.
Gluten-Free at Red Fern
Having lived gluten-free for many years Andrea intimately understands the nuances of what it means to live gluten-free. Even though the restaurant serves both gluten-free and glutinous meals they have created meticulous celiac protocols and procedures. One example of this is their dedicated prep boards (red = celiac, yellow = nut) and extensive training for all staff. They are very responsive to feedback and are constantly honing in their procedures, practices, and implementation. They are no strangers to dealing with other food allergies. They once had an epi-pen incident and this led to the development of more stringent procedures and better procedures for handling tree nut allergies. For now, 95% of Red Fern’s menu can be prepared gluten-free including their scratch-made desserts, in-house baked bread, takeout, and catering.
Some of the most popular dishes include the loaded mac & cheese nachos and quesadilla with buffalo tempeh. Just writing about the quesadillas makes my mouth water so I highly recommend this on your first visit. In addition to the staple menu items, they offer weekly specials that are 90% gluten-free and include Thursday fry cakes and donuts every Friday.
In addition to serving great gluten-free and vegan food, Andrea has created a culture of care for the Red Fern team. There is a zero tolerance policy for harassment and misogyny, all employees receive a shift meal and shift drink every time they work, and wages start at $15 per hour no matter the position. Employees receive two weeks of paid vacation and 40 hours of sick leave. Red Fern is a must visit if you are looking for a celiac-safe date night or a quick takeout on a Wednesday. It’s also great if you live vegan or just want to eat less meat. And when you visit be sure to try the quesadillas.
If you go
Address: 283 Oxford St, Rochester, NY 14607
Hours: Tuesday – Wednesday 11 AM – 9 PM, Thursday – Friday 11 AM – 9:30 PM | Closed Sunday and Monday
Accessibility: No wheelchair access, outside seating when weather permits, curbside pick, and delivery
Available for: Takeout, catering, and dine in
For your first visit try:
Fun Fact: Redfern is on the garden level of a three-story apartment building and has expanded three times since 2013 in the same building.