Vegan in Atlanta: Hippie Hibachi captures thrill of the grill, and it’s 100% plant-based

At Hippie Hibachi Vegan Grill, the mains (including tofu and mushrooms) are served with a heaping amount of fried rice, plus sautéed veggies, squiggles of house-made yum yum sauce and a sprinkle of chives and sesame seeds. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
At Hippie Hibachi Vegan Grill, the mains (including tofu and mushrooms) are served with a heaping amount of fried rice, plus sautéed veggies, squiggles of house-made yum yum sauce and a sprinkle of chives and sesame seeds. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

As a kid growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, Josh Brock spent many a birthday in hibachi steakhouses. His preferred dish was shrimp and chicken smothered in white sauce.

This theatrical style of cooking, where teppanyaki chefs wow visitors with volcanic onions and flying shrimp tails, is beloved in the American South, particularly in smaller towns, where special-occasion restaurants can be scarce. For years, Brock’s home state of South Carolina ranked No. 1 in Google searches for “hibachi,” though Arkansas currently claims the honor.

When he adopted a vegan diet four years ago, Brock (no relation to me) missed the thrill of the grill. “I would always crave hibachi, and there was nowhere to find vegan hibachi,” he said. “Hibachi is one of the first things I started cooking, like in high school. We would go to the Japanese steakhouse, hibachi steakhouse, and you could basically see the recipe in front of you, and how to cook it.”

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Josh Brock, owner of Hippie Hibachi Vegan Grill, garnishes a meal for a waiting customer. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Josh Brock, owner of Hippie Hibachi Vegan Grill, garnishes a meal for a waiting customer. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

Out of necessity, Brock — who worked as a dishwasher, line cook, server, caterer and delivery driver before moving to Atlanta in 2017 — came up with Hippie Hibachi Vegan Grill, in the soft-opening stage at Chattahoochee Food Works since July 14.

Brock, 29, is billing his new counter-service spot as the world’s first all-vegan hibachi grill. Working with chef Allan Katzef (Baked Kitchen, a future Food Works tenant), he’s developed a menu that replaces the traditional beef, shrimp and chicken with plant-based proteins. Impossible burger stands in for steak; imitation shrimp are made from konjac root.

In classic hibachi style, the mains (including tofu and mushrooms) are served with a heaping amount of fried rice, plus sautéed veggies, squiggles of house-made yum yum sauce and a sprinkle of chives and sesame seeds.

Brock said the food hall initially passed on his concept. On the second attempt, he cooked for them, and got a big thumbs-up. “They kept asking over and over if it actually was vegan. I was like, ‘Yes, this is 100 percent vegan.’”

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Hippie Hibachi owner Josh Brock and cashier Tatyana Defoor mind the shop at the vegan takeout stall at Chattahoochee Food Works. Wendell Brock for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
Hippie Hibachi owner Josh Brock and cashier Tatyana Defoor mind the shop at the vegan takeout stall at Chattahoochee Food Works. Wendell Brock for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

I had a similar response to the “chik’n.” The “shr’mp” looked like the real thing, and I didn’t mind the texture. I think what really turned me on, though, was the ginormous box of fried rice, veggies, and that yum yum sauce!

One thing you won’t find at Hippie Hibachi is showmanship. “Too busy,” Brock said. Plus, the grill faces the back wall.

1235 Chattahoochee Ave. NW, Atlanta. No phone, hippiehibachi.com

CALLING ALL VEGANS: At the height of the pandemic, Luis Martinez of My Abuelas Food invited Ivonne Lara of vegan Mexican pop-up Veganx to cook at his Puerto Rican restaurant at the Spindle.

Their plant-based collaboration was a hit, so they launched Bien Vegano ATL, an outdoor market for vegan vendors.

ExploreVegan and vegetarian restaurants to try in metro Atlanta
The June installment of Bien Vegano ATL was held at Second Self Beer Co. on the Westside. The next vegan marketplace is July 25, also at Second Self. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
The June installment of Bien Vegano ATL was held at Second Self Beer Co. on the Westside. The next vegan marketplace is July 25, also at Second Self. Wendell Brock for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

At its December kickoff, Bien Vegano drew 27 vendors. At the July 25 event at Second Self Beer Co., they expect 60 — quite a testament to the metro area’s growing plant-based movement.

“What is truly special about Bien Vegano is that many of the people that come out to our markets are actually not vegan,” Lara said. “I love that we have created a space where all people feel comfortable and accepted enough to come out.”

I can vouch for this.

Last month, I popped by for a look-see, grabbed a beer, and hit the pavement. I was blown away by the variety of offerings: banana pudding, pie, flan, doughnuts, tea, coffee, juice, wings, soups, wraps, smoothies, Italian soul food, po’boys, tacos, pizza — you name it. Also on offer were candles, jewelry, beauty products, clothes, crafts, plants to buy and pets to adopt.

My find of the day was Calaveritas, maker of all kinds of tasty-looking Mexican fare, including birria. I only had room for one dish — loaded fries topped with birria. And, I was hooked.

1-5 p.m. July 25, Second Self, 1317 Logan Circle NW, Atlanta. For updates: instagram.com/bienveganoatl

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