Hundreds Flock to New Vegan Soul Food Grand Opening in Oakland

The Philly Cheeze Melt is one of the most decadent vegan sandwiches in town.

The Philly Cheeze Melt is one of the most decadent vegan sandwiches in town.



The line to the Veg Hub was out the door and down the street all day at its grand opening on Macarthur Boulevard near Fruitvale Avenue last week.


At least 250 newcomers and regulars came for their sesame kale salads, grilled ‘cheese steak’ and ‘chicken’ sandwiches, quesadillas, nachos and the premiere of their soul food plate—fried ‘chicken,’ yams, and greens with ‘mac-n-cheeze.’


Giving all the glory to the Almighty, Chef G.W. Chew said, “God showed up and showed out.”


Willie Russell III brought his son, Willie IV, and daughter Monronica for their favorites, teriyaki chicken sandwich and the soul food plate.


Being regulars since the hub’s soft opening last month, eating at the Veg Hub is on its way to becoming a family tradition.


“Good environment, good food,” the elder Russell said.


“It’s like a meeting place where we find people from churches we haven’t seen for a while.”


Chef Chew, descended from sharecroppers in Prince Frederick, Md., and a business major at Howard University before traveling the country as a Seventh-day Adventist missionary, began cooking out of necessity.


“We had to cook for ourselves. We taught ourselves by reading cookbooks and experimenting,” he said.


He cooked for friends and family, opened a vegetarian restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio, and another when he married and moved to Fayetteville, Ark.


SDA Northern California Conference Secretary Mark Woodson, met Chew at a convention in Ohio in 2012 where Chew was a food vendor.


A year later, Chew and Woodson met again in Oakland and serious plans for Veg Hub began.


Oakland was chosen in part because the vegetarian lifestyle prescribed by SDA is more common and because the restaurant could further the church mission of healthy living by teaching cooking and nutrition classes to neighborhood youth.


“We have a crisis with our health,” Chew said of African Americans. He wanted to “make food that can remove some of the ills” caused by meat-based diets.


No SDA churches were in District 4, Woodson said, making it a great place for a different kind of public ministry that was largely financed through SDA grants from regional to international levels as a well as $40,000 collected from local congregations.


That the Veg Hub opened a few months after the McDonald’s franchise next door closed down is significant to City Councilwoman Annie Campbell Washington.


“It’s such a wonderful addition to the Dimond,” she said.


Chew approached her three or four months ago about his intent to do community outreach in the form of cooking and other classes for the youth, a large number of whom congregate at the bus stop across Macarthur Boulevard after school.


Finding Chew’s enthusiasm contagious, Campbell Washington is engaged with the Neighbors for Racial Justice, the NCPC and others to help with his vision.


At 6 p.m., Chew locked the doors, leaving potential customers outside.


“We ran out of ‘meat,’” he said.


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