The Durham Location of Earth to Us | Photo by Lena Geller

Earth To Us, a vegan restaurant known for transforming meat substitutes like tempeh, seitan, and soy protein into robust, Puerto Rican-inspired comfort foods, has permanently closed its Durham location, owner Yanitza Pubill announced yesterday in a Facebook post.

The restaurant’s Raleigh location, off Jones Franklin Road, will remain open.

Pubill did not immediately respond to the INDY’s request for comment but, in a Facebook post, attributed the Durham closure to an unspecified illness affecting both herself and her sister, who will soon receive a lung transplant.

“This journey to recovery requires our family’s utmost attention and support, and since both of our restaurant locations have family members as employees, we have made the difficult decision to close our Durham location so that we can assist [my sister] in a high capacity,” Pubill wrote. Pubill is not “seriously ill,” like her sister is, she added, but has been advised to reduce her workload.

Earth To Us started as a pop-up and operated briefly as a food truck before launching its Durham brick-and-mortar at the shopping center across from Northgate Mall in 2019. 

The closure marks a significant loss, not just for vegan Durhamites, but for residents in surrounding neighborhoods like Walltown and Northgate Park, whose walkable restaurant options have dwindled in recent years. The food court inside Northgate Mall shuttered, as the rest of the mall did, in 2020; and C&H Cafeteria, a beloved buffet-style restaurant that occupied the space next to Earth To Us, closed abruptly in January.

Earth To Us was hit with a number of setbacks during its brief tenure in Durham. Shortly after the restaurant opened, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down its dining room; and in March of this year, Pubill and her staff endured a torrent of vitriolic messages and death threats after a social media influencer posted a review that criticized the attentiveness of a cashier.

The restaurant persevered thanks to an outpouring of community support, Pubill wrote on Facebook.

“Your kind words, prayers, and well wishes have uplifted our spirits during the most challenging times,” she wrote, “and we cannot thank you enough.” 

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