A "chicken" sandwich at Rock n Roots in Williston Park.

A "chicken" sandwich at Rock n Roots in Williston Park. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

January and February always bring new customers to Rock n Roots Plant-Based Eatery. Since Dina and Samuel Martinez opened the cafe in 2021, they said they've benefited from the common New Year’s resolution to abstain from meat and animal-based products.

The Martinezes both follow a vegan diet, but Rock n Roots serves the part-time vegan, the vegan-curious and even meat eaters who just want a good, healthy meal.

“When we opened this place, we decided not to focus on dinner,” Dina Martinez said. (Rock n Roots closes at 6 p.m. on weekdays.) “People who are not vegan are more willing to give it a try at lunch.” At a recent lunch service, the steady stream of customers included full-on vegans (longtime and novices), vegetarians and pescatarians, and at least one customer who was looking for a meat-free lunch in between two steak dinners.

They had a lot to chose from. Rock n Roots' menu offers dozens of vegan dishes such as avocado toast, vegetable-packed salads, soups, sandwiches and wraps, plus smoothies and cold-pressed juices. There are five “sushi” items, wrapped in nori and a wild-rice mixture, such as the “smokey rainbow roll” (smoked shiitakes, avocado, kimchi, shredded carrots and beets with cashew sauce), the “sweet ’n’ spicy BBQ roll” (barbecued jackfruit with tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, sweet chili sauce and chipotle aioli) and the “lobster roll” (hearts of palm with avocado, kimchi, carrots, cucumbers and teriyaki sauce).

The hearts of palm are not going to fool anyone into thinking they're lobster, Dina said. Still, the couple gravitates toward natural whole foods and not processed meat substitutes. Even within the vegan community, “some people miss that feeling of meat while others don’t even like the visual of a crabcake,” she added.

Burgers here are neither Impossible nor Beyond: You have your choice of a portobello cap, a housemade patty made with mixed mushrooms and beans or a housemade patty made with sweet potato, beans and quinoa.

Customers looking for a more conventionally meaty experience can order the “deli sandwich” (with sliced Tofurkey), the “Chick’n sandwich” (vegan cutlets) or the very convincing grilled cheese sandwich or mac-and-cheese balls made with dairy-free cheese.

Samuel and Dina Martinez own Rock n Roots, a plant-based...

Samuel and Dina Martinez own Rock n Roots, a plant-based cafe in Williston Park. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

A longtime vegetarian, Dina made the decision to go vegan eight years ago. She recommended the Netflix documentary “The Game Changers” to those curious about veganism.

Samuel Martinez has more than 15 years experience cooking in conventional restaurants. “He’s got real cooking chops,” his wife said. “And because of his palate, he can ‘veganize’ pretty much anything.”

The two met when he was a cook and she was a server at Wild Honey in Oyster Bay and soon began to dream about a business they could run together. “The vegans found us” from the start, Dina said. “We've got people coming from Suffolk, from Queens. Now, it's the non-vegans we want to reach.” 

Rock n Roots, 469 Willis Ave., Williston Park, 516-385-4889, rocknrootseatery.com. Open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 11:30 to 3:30 p.m.

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