Finding restaurants that cater exclusively to the vegan diet, while simultaneously pleasing a non-vegan crowd, is a challenge. But HeyO! Eats in downtown Mountain View increases the number of dependable vegan restaurants by one.

Co-founders Courtney McCoy and Zachary Anderson have set up their shop at a deli counter inside of Ava’s Downtown Market. There’s no sidewalk signage on Castro Street indicating it’s located inside, but it’s there. Just walk past the market’s checkout registers and the poke bar. HeyO! Eats is on the right, beyond a closely bunched group of tables. Look for the vitrine filled with cookies and scones on top of the counter and a refrigerator stocked with cans of IGZU—a sustainable “brew” made from bamboo leaves and dried botanicals.

On a recent visit, McCoy was behind the counter taking orders. Anderson was there, too, preparing dishes alongside another cook. Before starting HeyO! together, McCoy and Anderson launched IGZU. After getting the beverage company off the ground, they decided to further their culinary collaboration. Anderson devised the menu, which is divided into four main categories: small bites, greens, sandwiches and sides. They’re also in the beta phase of testing out a brunch menu.

The ginger Thai veg balls ($10) are a standalone starter, but we had them with the lime-ginger crunch salad ($13.50 + $3 to add veg balls)—adding a side of French fries ($5). There’s another winner called Fried & Gone to Heaven ($12) that sounds like the vegan equivalent of poutine. It’s fries topped with a creamy beer cheese, a shiitake onion jam, crispy onions, tomatoes and a “not so secret sauce.” But the fries were that perfect combination of golden and crispy, as nature intended them to be. Absolutely un-greasy, too.

Tossed in a ginger peanut sauce, the vegetable pad thai ($13.50) substitutes spiralized zucchini and carrots for noodles. I had a hard time distinguishing between it and the lime-ginger crunch salad, but I liked the tanginess of both vinaigrettes because they enhanced, rather than disguised, the flavors of each dish. In choosing from a range of vegetables, the chef avoids a frequent pitfall of vegan cuisine—monotony. The unexpected addition of grilled avocado was a thoughtful touch and made the salad memorable. Anderson isn’t reinventing the idea of what a salad is, but he’s combining interesting ingredients and fusing culinary influences.

The most surprising and splendid dish was the chickpea sandwich ($13)—roasted chickpeas perched atop a bed of kale and diced tomatoes. The texture of the sauce on the bread was silken, a nice contrast to the chickpeas and lentils. It could have been a cousin of the Indian dish chole bhature. The couple at the table next to us tried two other sandwiches: the roasted cauliflower and one with veggie balls as the main filling. Those concerned about vegan cuisine’s power to fully satiate, know this: Both of their sandwiches looked as heavy as footlong hoagies from Subway.

Under the greens section of the menu, the owners have added a note, “Look at you… being responsible.” Even after splitting one of HeyO!’s chocolate chip cookies (and regretting we didn’t try one of the blueberry scones), we walked away feeling like we’d eaten a great meal that happened to be vegan. Being responsible by contributing to a more sustainable food economy was simply an added benefit.

HeyO! Eats
340 Castro Street, Mountain View