Callicoon Kitchen, plant-based restaurant from TV’s “Hunky Husband,” will soon open in Virginia Beach

The Hilltop neighborhood of Virginia Beach will soon be home to a vegan restaurant from a chef whose recipes have appeared on former ABC afternoon show “The Chew.”

The restaurant will join a number of newer spots devoted to plant-based cooking, from the Caribbean food at Desmond’s Island Soul Grill in Virginia Beach to the burger-and-wrap comfort fare at Healthy Eatz in Newport News.

Callicoon Kitchen, named after Ron and Elizabeth Badach’s former farmhouse home along the banks of the Delaware River in New York, will serve only plant-based food: a seasoned “crab cake” made with artichokes and chickpeas, tacos made with black beans and grilled cauliflower, and a black-bean burger that landed Ron Badach on television seven years ago in a “Hunky Husband” cooking segment.

“I was chosen to be on ‘The Chew,‘” Badach remembered. “I won a cooking contest with a black-bean burger, and after the show people started contacting me from all over the country. I had a huge audience.”

The Badachs started a blog, in part detailing their transition from vegetarian to vegan. Their focus, he said, hasn’t been on trying to shame people into going vegan, but to help them incorporate more healthful, plant-based foods into their diet — and to start thinking of veggies and legumes as a main course and not just a side.

“People would write and they said, ‘I’m eating meat five days. How do I cut that back?” he said. “We started to do tangible ideas: how to use chickpeas, or black beans. It became really popular, really fun. We did some catering, and then we got to the point where we thought we should make this a physical location.”

Finally, this year, Badach made the jump to restaurateur from his former career as a financial analyst; he’d already moved to Virginia Beach in 2014. He hopes to open Callicoon Kitchen Aug. 15 at the Hilltop North Shopping Center.

The restaurant’s menu splits time among salads, soups, sandwiches and wraps. The small restaurant will not be open for indoor as it opens, though a 14-seat patio will be available for diners who’d like to eat at the restaurant.

But the restaruant’s main focus be on food to go. Callicoon will offer menu items both as fast-casual counter-service, and in a grab-and-go section where those in a lunchtime rush can come in and pick up ready-made food.

Their kitchen, Badach says, will eschew the newly burgeoning fake meat industry.

“Beyond, Impossible — we don’t serve that stuff,” he said. “We make our own. We think they’re better. We’re not fake meat fans. They’re good; they don’t harm animals. But nutritionally, they’re not superior to meat. … We try to use real food. That’s our thing: stuff that grows out of the ground.”

Instead, he focuses on healthful substitutions, such as making croutons in a Caesar salad out of toasted chickpeas instead of fried bread.

The decor at Callicoon will be simple, Badach said. But it will also bring a little bit of their farmhouse’s rustic vibe along for the ride — including a door from their old New York barn on the wall.

“We miss our old place a lot, and so we’ve incorporated things into the restaurant,” Badach said. But that’s not the only barn salvaged to decorate the space.

“The ceiling tiles in our space are recycled from an old barn in South Dakota,” he said. “They took the tin off the roof and we had them cut it into little squares.”

Badach knows he’s chosen an interesting moment to open a restaurant, as a pandemic threatens the bottom line of even long-established restaurants. But he hopes his restaurant’s focus on take-home and healthy options will make Callicoon appropriate to the local mood.

“It’s a weird time,” said Badach, “but we’re excited. The pandemic is terrible, but it’s a great time for what we’re doing. Now more than ever, people are focused on their health.”

Callicoon Kitchen plans to open Aug. 15 at 1601 Hilltop North Shopping Center, Opening hours 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday.


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