Meatless Doesn’t Mean Tasteless: A Look at Harrisburg’s House of Vegans

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Courtesy Photo

Rachel Fleagle, Staff Writer

House of Vegan co-owners LaQuana Barber and fiancé Stefan D. Hawkins are passionate about providing their local community with burgers and soul food that both vegans and non-vegans will enjoy.

“Most people think veganism is bland food or just grass burgers. It doesn’t have to be that way,” Barber said. About half of their customers are non-vegan, and the restaurant’s busiest day is Sunday – Burger Day. One of their regular customers often spends over $200 buying burgers for her family.

Barber is the self-taught head cook, and Hawkins created their special Slap Sauce for the Slap Burgers. “We’re urban, of course,” Barber laughed. “We’re from the inner city. So we were trying to think of names – everything we do is…we’re trying to think of stuff that relates to where we’re from.” 

She added, “When something is good and…we think it’s really good, we say it slaps.” Other burgers include the Big Zaddy, the Mac n Slap, and the Jacko Burger, named after their fifteen-year old burger maker.

Barber had been a vegan for one year, Hawkins two months, when they started dating. It was difficult to find local vegan restaurants, and they often cooked for themselves instead. Hawkins wanted to open a vegan restaurant after the couple visited several that impressed them in Atlanta, Georgia. 

They began selling vegan burgers out of their house in November of 2019. Barber’s sister helped them deliver the food to customers. They closed in January after discovering it was illegal to sell food made out of the house. Hawkins, a Pepsi employee, noticed an empty location one week later while delivering sodas. He made a successful pitch, but the opening was postponed due to COVID-19. 

The couple knew they needed to open in July because of financial struggles. “We had just enough money to buy all the food to open for that one day,” Barber said. The line of customers was two blocks long on opening day, and lines over a block long continued that week. At one point there was a forty-five-minute halt because customers had bought all of the prepared food.

Most people think veganism is bland food or just grass burgers. It doesn’t have to be that way”

— Barber

All of the House of Vegan’s recipes are animal-product free and plant-based. Barber buys most of their ingredients from Restaurant Depot, and uses several online vendors to purchase items like jackfruit. Her greens and macaroni and cheese sides are customers’ favorite side dishes. They currently have about 12 employees, and two are family members. It is the first restaurant the couple has owned.

Barber and Hawkins have seen their vision through its early days of selling burgers from their house. “I look back and laugh now, but it was…it made us who we are now,” she said. 

They are currently located at 1426 N. Third St. in Harrisburg, open for takeout Wednesday to Friday from 3:30 – 9:00 p.m., Saturday 12:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., and Sundays 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.