Two years after Veggie Heaven’s 2014 closure, owner Stacy Chen was forced to choose between continuing a comfortable retirement and reopening her beloved restaurant. She chose to prioritize the happiness of the Austin community and resurrected Veggie Heaven.
With a new location and a revamped interior, Veggie Heaven returned Wednesday to reclaim its spot as one of Austin’s favorite vegetarian stops.
“We thought we were going to retire, but then so many people reached out to us asking for us to come back and saying they missed Veggie Heaven,” Chen said. “It’s part of the Austin community, so I figured I might as well bring it back and change up everything with a new look.”
Veggie Heaven specializes in all vegetarian Asian food based mostly on Chen’s childhood culinary experiences.
“I grew up in Taiwan so my taste is mostly based on Taiwanese style, but I changed it a little bit so the American audience can be more receptive,” Chen said.
Aside from her own creative process, a lot of inspiration comes from her father and grandmother who were both chefs. She said she also finds inspiration in an unusual place — the Star Wars franchise.
“I’m a big Star Wars fan,” Chen said. “I even created a dish on the menu based on Star Wars called the Protein Vader.”
With Star Wars memorabilia throughout the restaurant and a calming ambiance, Chen said she tries to make her new location feel as homey as possible.
“We’re trying to create a friendly and elegant atmosphere,” Chen said. “I want people to feel like they’re coming into my own kitchen when they come here to eat.”
Although Veggie Heaven has been in limbo for over two years, Chen said her fan base has remained loyally by her side the whole time.
“Once we left, a lot of these customers felt like they lost something precious,” Chen said. “They treat me like they’re family, so I’m glad to be back as a part of their community. This is something I want to keep going for generations.”
Despite the absence and a brand new wait staff, Veggie Heaven hasn’t missed a single beat. The restaurant held two preview dinner events on Monday and Tuesday for a small group of the restaurants most enthusiastic followers. Everything from the service to the food was executed impressively.
The interior of this new location is as relaxing as Chen said, and has a nice modern vibe to it. As for the Star Wars decorations, little things like R2-D2 soy sauce dispensers and a larger Darth Vader doll with a Veggie Heaven t-shirt in the front of the restaurant are endearing without becoming obnoxious.
As for the food, it’s easy to see why it became such a popular spot during its first run on the Drag. Even without meat, the dishes at Veggie Heaven leave nothing to be missed. The Protein Vader made a huge statement with firm fried veggie protein, sauteed string beans and a wonderfully spicy homemade Szechuan sauce will have customers’ noses running in no time.
The protein along with the layer of fried batter actually do a pretty commendable job of imitating meat and the string beans have a nice crunch to them.
Another menu highlight are the buns. These are basically just soft sweet bread buns filled with anything from tofu and curry to kimchi. The curry bun is a great choice, as the kick of the curry compliments the sweetness of the bun magnificently.
With a nice dining room, friendly servers and great vegetarian food, Veggie Heaven is ready to welcome back all of its old customers and attract a new crowd of Austinites.
Address: 1611 W 5th St #135
Hours: Mon-Wed 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm