In July 2012, after 19 years on Rockville Pike, vegan Chinese restaurant Vegetable Garden packed up shop, leaving its longtime customers to trek farther up the Pike to the similar Yuan Fu Vegetarian. Yesterday, Vegetable Garden owner George Zhong surprised the restaurant's Facebook fans when he announced Vegetable Garden would return in December in Silver Spring. The restaurant will move into a 2,700-square-foot space at 3830 International Drive, in Leisure World Plaza.

Vegetable Garden's popular "Eight-Treasure Eggplant" featured diced eggplant, cashews, tofu, lilly bulb, zucchini and more. (Amy Orndorff/The Washington Post)

Zhong told us today that he plans to open an 80-seat restaurant that will echo the previous restaurant in many ways and maintain its menu of vegetables and mock meats cooked in Hunan, Peking and other Chinese methods. It will continue to prepare foods free of meat, dairy products and MSG, he says. “It will feel very familiar,” says Zhong, who plans to open the restaurant in the days before Christmas.

One thing that will be different: Zhong says he's working on incorporating more vegetables that would be exotic in Chinese cooking, including kale, chard and beets, which he hopes to use not only in the food, but in drinks prepared at a forthcoming juice bar. The restaurant's opening menu will look like its former one, but expect new offerings such as Chinese rice porridge congee in the coming months.

If you've never eaten at Vegetable Garden, check out the restaurant's sprawling menu here.