Tastemakers 2021: Chad Goodwin & Sebastian Kovach, Founders of Eden Burger
At their vegan restaurants, Chad Goodwin and Sebastian Kovach have made it a mission to introduce guests to plant-based versions of favorite comfort foods. Eden Burger, which the duo runs together, is fashioned after a burger shack: giant burgers, fries, shakes, chicken sandwiches, mozzarella sticks. Goodwin also runs 4th & State with his family; it models the neighborhood diner with vegan BLTs, burgers and pizzas, plus pancakes and omelets at brunch.
Making Veganism Mainstream
Friends since middle school, Goodwin and Kovach have always had an eye toward entrepreneurship. When the two went vegan in 2016, they immediately turned their attention to a business modeled around the lifestyle. “We wanted to build a big company and use all the money to do all the big stuff,” Goodwin says. “Sebastian had watched a documentary about veganism. We decided if we can’t save the world with our business, we can at least change what we eat. Our entrepreneurial inclinations met with wanting to help make veganism mainstream.”
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Their goal has been to show what you can eat on a vegan diet, not what you can’t. “People think of veganism as a reduction diet,” Goodwin says. “We wanted to fill the market with things people think they have to give up.”
A New Spin on Diner Fare
Goodwin and Kovach started hosting burger nights at their home for a few years before doing pop-ups in the community. They proved popular enough that Scott McCrary, owner of Village Idiot bar near Ohio State’s campus, offered them the restaurant space next door in 2017. Eden Burger immediately took off, and after two years, Goodwin looked into opening another eatery. “The original concept was an ode to a breakfast diner my grandmother owned in Terre Haute called Toasty Shop,” he says. He stumbled upon the corner café at Fourth and State streets Downtown in 2019, and now operates it with his parents and sister.
Over summer 2021, both restaurants made national top 10 lists in VegOut Magazine: Eden Burger placed fifth for Best Burger, and 4th & State ranked No. 10 in the Top 10 Vegan Brunches. “It’s cool to see customers bring in their non-vegan friends and family,” Goodwin says. “I’m not a big preacher; I’m just putting food on their plates and letting them decide.”
Find more of Columbus' Rising Culinary Stars:Tastemakers Class of 2021
Hometown: Terre Haute, Indiana
What did you learn during the pandemic? “The pandemic was a huge test and lesson of resilience. After COVID had wrecked our sales, and the Downtown protests smashed our [4th & State] windows and shut us down for three months, it was tempting to give up. … Life is always going to try and hit you with the knockout punch, but you have to be willing to keep getting back up, no matter how long it takes to catch your breath.”
What’s something you are excited about right now? “Just doing a lot of fun recipe development right now at home, and also working on a third restaurant concept that will hopefully be getting launched late 2021/early 2022.”
Podcast recommendation: The Food That Built America
This story is from the December 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.