Long-Running Vegan Pop-Up, Foodhisattva, to Open Restaurant in Cleveland Heights

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Frances Cheng and Joshua Sias hosted their first vegan pop-up back in 2014. The monthly events, held at the now-departed No Whey! vegan candy shop in Lyndhurst, quickly caught the attention of both vegan and non-vegan diners.

“We were doing everything from scratch and it really took off,” explains Sias. “We started to get a following.”

Soon, additional pop-ups began popping up and drawing crowds at eastside locations like Bottlehouse Brewery and Poison Berry Bakery. Catering business further extended the reach of the name and brand throughout the community. Before long, the hunt for a suitable location in which to put down roots became a priority.

“We wanted to stay in Cleveland Heights because there are not many vegan options on this side of town,” notes Sias. “They are mostly on the west side, in Lakewood and Rocky River.”

The pair found just what they were searching for at the former Greedy Girl and, briefly, Sangeet space (2158 S. Taylor Rd.) in the Cedar-Taylor District of Cleveland Heights, ironically located next door to Mr. Brisket. Work has commenced on transforming the small, casual storefront into Foodhisattva, a 25-seat vegan eatery that will open in two to four months.

Over the years, Sias and Cheng have enjoyed support not just from the vegan community, but the dining community at large thanks to the creative, satisfying and delicious foods that embody the Foodhisattva brand.

“We try not to just do things because they’re vegan,” explains Sias. “A lot of our clientele are not vegan. Most of the market isn’t really vegan, it’s reducetarians, people who are trying to reduce their use of animal products for health or environmental reasons. So we try and focus on things you don’t really see elsewhere in Cleveland.”

“It’s not the typical standard when you think about vegan food,” adds Cheng. “We have a lot of burgers and hearty sandwiches.”

At its core, the food is vegan-Asian fusion that leans heavily to Korean and Japanese. Popular items that will likely make appearances at Foodhisattva include chickpea burgers with veggie slaw and Sriracha mayo, bulgogi seitan cheesesteak with cashew “cheese” sauce, kimchi waffles with vegan Korean fried chicken, sesame noodles topped with sprouts, cucumber and "omelet" strips, and onigirazu (Japanese rice ball sandwiches) stuffed with vegan tofu omelet, avocado and coconut bacon.

Sias and Cheng will open as a weekend-only operation serving dinner and brunch Friday through Sunday. Down the road, weekday lunches will be added. Sias says that given the type of food being made, the petitely proportioned space suits the business just fine – for now.

“I have this romantic view of the small neighborhood corner space,” he says. “I really like the feel of those sorts of spaces where you have a small community approach. Down the road, I can see expanding the brand to the west side.”

Sias says that despite some fits and starts, Cleveland’s vegan restaurant scene is generally strong, with plenty of room for growth. Cleveland Vegan continues to expand, numerous restaurants offer recurring vegan nights, and more and more vegan pop-ups continue to materialize.

Sias feels that recent restaurant failures often have less to with vegan demand (or the lack thereof) than the usual roster of business challenges such as location, management and finances. Quality vegan food tends to be more expensive than its equivalent owing to elevated food and labor costs.

“It’s just really hard for vegan business owners because they tend to be younger, motivated by an ethic, and they don’t necessarily have that financial support,” Sias explains. “I think if Cleveland’s food scene wants to keep up with other big cities, they really need to get hip to the whole vegan scene. If you look at any other foodie town like your Chicagos, New Yorks and so on, this scene is burgeoning.”

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About The Author

Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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