An award-winning vegan Mexican street food vendor has set up shop in Camden’s Buck Street Market.

Established in Edinburgh just under two years ago, Antojitos was founded by chef John Kelly, dissatisfied with vegan options at his favourite Mexican and south American restaurants.

Having been a chef for 15 years, John, 33, decided to go vegan three years ago. It was at this stage that he started to realise the potential for a new vegan Mexican option.

He said: “My favourite food always been Mexican food and south American food, and I realised that at all of my favourite Mexican restaurants, the vegan options and vegetarian options were pretty much just mince, rice, beans and mushrooms if you were lucky. And I hate mushrooms.

“So, I shopped around, realised there were no real options, and decided to do it myself.”

%image(15146872, type="article-full", alt="Antojitos owner John Kelly said he set up the company after struggling to find many good vegan Mexican and south American food options")

Rather than relying on popular meat alternatives and “overused staples” typically found in vegan and vegetarian Mexican food, John says that his aim with Antojitos is to avoid doing what everyone else is doing, while retaining a focus on the basics.

Unlike most similar restaurants, for example, you will not find rice, beans, mushrooms or cauliflower in anything on Antojitos’ menu.

Instead, you will discover options such as nachos with jackfruit, tinga sauce and tomatillos, or a seitan barbacoa quesadilla, which won the 2021 Scottish Street Food Award.

While you may come across the inclusion of peat protein fake chicken, John says that the intention is not to hide behind meat-alternative brand names, but to cook food that is exactly what it says on the tin.

And it seems to be working. Despite its short lifespan, John says that Antojitos has already been “a lot more successful than I thought it would be”.

As well as winning the Scottish Street Food Awards, which he says he lifted above his head “like I’d just won the Champions League” at the ceremony in Edinburgh, the restaurant has been nominated for the British Street Food Awards, and is due to open another site, in Glasgow, on Valentine's Day.

%image(15146873, type="article-full", alt="Antojitos' food avoids "overused" vegan staples such as beans, rice and cauliflower")

In Camden, which John describes as the “street food Mecca”, he said the first week or so has good.

"We’ve had really good feedback on the food that we’ve been serving, a lot of people are really excited about it," he said.