Veggie Heaven

1914-A Guadalupe, 457-1013
Daily, 11am-9pm

Veggie Heaven

photograph by John Anderson

Restaurants on the Drag come and go, but those with a gimmick -- Philly steak sandwiches, big bowls of noodles for next to nothing, pizza by the slice -- have staying power. One of the newer arrivals along this collegiate strip, Veggie Heaven, certainly fits the gimmick bill and fills an often overlooked dining niche as well, offering vegetarian and vegan meals at student prices.

The restaurant is tiny, with a handful of brightly clothed tables clustered under an oversized portrait of a wise-looking woman. All are surrounded by greenery, both real and silk. The menu is surprisingly extensive, encompassing salads, sandwiches (including one featuring vegetarian ham), wraps, and pastas that the menu boasts are fresh made daily. But Asian-inspired dishes dominate the mix and made up my recent lunch there.

I kicked off the meal with a vegetable-filled Steamed Bun Appetizer ($1.75). The bun was translucent and chewy, and exited the kitchen still warm and moist. It was more bread than vegetable, although the carrot-based filling perfumed the entire bun. Next up was the Path of Phoenix ($5.25), a vegan tribute to Kung Pao chicken, made with firm chunks of wheat gluten accented by crisp cubes of bell pepper and onion, and sprinkled liberally with peanuts, all of it swimming in a slightly spicy glaze. Served with a bowl of earthy brown rice, this dish could stand up to the popular Kung Pao lunch specials served elsewhere around town. The best part of my meal, however, happened to be the most expensive entrée on the menu, the Seventh Heaven ($6.95). The dish, ordered by a meat-loving friend, was both original and bold, a huge plate of roasted mushroom caps cloaked in a dark, aromatic basil sauce and also served with rice. The mushrooms, we agreed, were the perfect meat replacement -- dense, chewy, and filling, bringing me to the conclusion that Veggie Heaven isn't a spot solely for those who shun meat, but also an inviting place for carnivores taking the day off flesh, if you will.

-- Rebecca Chastenet de Géry

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