Vegan eating finally arrives in The Heights with newly opened restaurant

Culture Map Houston

Heights residents, rejoice! The neighborhood's year-and-a-half long wait for a dedicated vegan restaurant has come to an end.

Verdine has begun a quiet soft opening in the Heights Waterworks development. The first restaurant from chef-owner Stephanie Hoban, Verdine evolved out of Hoban's popular Ripe Cuisine food truck. 

While the restaurant may primarily appeal to vegans, it's been designed for all but the most carnivorous Houstonians. That starts with the design by Amanda Gorski of Gimme Shelter Designs. With its white, shiplap walls, high ceilings, and light blue banquettes, the room has a serene, almost beachy vibe. Hoban tells CultureMap that her customers have described it as "chill," which suits her just fine. Inside, the restaurant seats about 65, while an adjacent patio provides room for another 35 or so.

A limited menu and limited hours — currently 11 am to 3 pm, with dinner to follow soon — are the clearest signs the restaurant just opened this week, but diners should still find appealing choices. Overall, the dishes are designed to appeal both to dedicated vegans and people who eat vegetarian as part of their overall diet.

Moving to a brick and mortar space provides Hoban with the opportunity to give a permanent place on the menu to dishes that were only available occasionally on her truck. For example, the krabby patty sandwich, which utilizes jackfruit and artichoke to mimic the texture of a crab cake, is now available daily. The bistro burger, an organic lentil-walnut-mushroom patty with roasted red pepper aioli and cashew chevre, will be familiar to fans of the truck, but the spinach dosa (tumeric potato, green lentils, cilantro-peanut chutney) is a brand new addition.

Starters include mac 'n' cheese made with a "nut and soy free vegetable-based cheese sauce" and gluten-free pasta, orange cauliflower that mimics the look and flavors of sesame chicken, and tortilla chips with creamy salsa verde. Sides include french fries, sweet potato fries, and kale salad.

Still, don't think this restaurant is only for the virtuous. Dishes may be paired with local craft beers from breweries like Saint Arnold, 8th Wonder, and Eureka Heights or a selection of white, red, and sparkling wines that are available by the glass or bottle. Non-drinkers will appreciate the lavender lemonade and locally-brewed Kickin' Kombucha. 

Hoban says the reaction has been positive so far. Once the staff starts to get comfortable, she'll expand beyond the four starters and seven salads and entrees. Dinner will begin in a week or two, followed by brunch after a couple of months. She says she's particularly excited about introducing a cheese tray that will highlight the various cheeses that are an essential part of several dishes on the menu. 

Verdine's opening means half of the restaurants planned for the Braun Enterprises development are now operational. Hopdoddy opened in January, and crews could be seen working on both Jinya Ramen and Common Bond. Expect them to arrive this summer.

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