The walls of Chrissie Hynde's restaurant the VegiTerranean are lined with portraits of famous vegetarians: Tobey Maguire, Shania Twain
, Paul McCartney. "These are all the great vegetarians who have really gone out on a limb," she explains.
Hynde can count herself among them. Last year the London-based lead singer of the Pretenders, 57, opened the vegan restaurant in an unlikely place: her hometown of Akron, Ohio, which she bemoaned in "My City Was Gone" and other songs. "I've made it up to [the locals] now," she says. In fact, she was driven by three goals: to help revitalize the city's downtown, to have a place to eat while visiting her parents and to further her longtime passion of animal protection. "This restaurant is full almost every night," she says proudly. And it isn't just fans—or vegetarians—filling the seats in the loftlike eatery. "What's important is not to attract the brown-rice hippies like myself," she says, "but to attract the meat-and-potatoes Americans who want to save their health." Chef J. Scot Jones' crowd-pleasers include $19 chicken piccata (made with a grain- and vegetable-based product), $8 New York-style cheesecake (made with tofu) and $8.50 veggie burgers served with "Chrissie fries." "Every time I go back to England, I'm about 10 lbs. heavier," she jokes.
Hynde has plenty of hopes for the future, like winning the top prize in Akron's annual National Hamburger Festival and expanding "wherever we're needed," she says. "I have people in Brazil, London and Paris saying, 'Come here!'"