Archive for the “San Francisco Bay Area” Category

Weird Fish, San Francisco

[Update 2/2010: Sadly Weird Fish has removed most of these delicious vegan options from their menu... which sucks. I'll leave this up for historical purposes so that we can all recall sadly what we're missing.]

Let’s head back up north to check out another delicious meal I had on my recent visit to San Francisco. I’d heard quite a bit about Weird Fish, a restaurant in the Mission District that along with serving the real deal, also offers a delicious version of vegan fish & chips, along with many other vegan specialties.

I was eager to try this place… I loved fish & chips as a kid so if they could pull off a reasonable vegan facsimile I would be very pleased.

They did, and I was.

Before we get to the fish, let’s have a gander at this gorgeous appetizer I shared with my buddy, The Buffalo Girls: seitan with buffalo sauce & vegan ranch dressing. I wasn’t quite prepared for how awesome these faux-wings turned out to be…

Vegan Buffalo Wings

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Fried Okra at Souley Vegan Soul Food One door closes, another door opens. Here in L.A. I’m still mourning the closure of one our best vegan soul food restaurants, Taste of Life (still serving weekend’s at the Hollywood Farmers Market), but up in Oakland they’re celebrating the re-opening of their best soul food place, Souley Vegan.

Souley’s had been a staple at the Oakland Farmers Market in Lake Merritt and had also opened up a restaurant, but they didn’t stay open for very long. Much to my luck, my recent visit up north coincided with the grand reopening of Souley’s in their new Oakland location in Jack London Square. Even though they’d only just opened their doors to the public, they were more than ready to take care of us, both with very friendly service as well as enormous portions of amazing food. They might have been extra nice to us that day because my friend and I were dressed as superheros (don’t judge) but I’m pretty sure they’re just as nice to everyone. As much as I love Taste of Life, I gotta admit the incredible food at Souley’s really gives them a run for their money. Have a gander…

Fried Okra at Souley Vegan Soul Food

These little bites of ridiculous deliciousness are the Fried Okra. Pretty much just what the sign says… battered up, deep fried, served up hot & crunchy. These are so damn good, my partner in crime Jason & I practically devoured this entire plate in seconds flat.

And that was just for starters…
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Margarita at Chevys Fresh Mex I recently paid the San Francisco Bay Area a long overdue visit, and as you might expect my primary activity while there was eating. In this next series of posts I’ll share with you some of the awesome stuff I got to try. There were so many new and as of yet undiscovered (to me) vegan options to enjoy since my last trip north, I could barely fit all the stuff I wanted to try into my few days there. Not easily deterred, my friend and I were determined to fit as many meals into five days as possible.

Barely off the plane in Oakland and into my host’s snazzy convertible, he quickly whisked me away for my first meal in town. Now, where we went was definitely not on my list of places to go, and frankly, is not the sort of place I’d usually think of or want to eat at. He assured me however that not only would I get a delicious meal where we were headed, but that I’d also really enjoy the scenic location. Ok, I’m good for whatever and I’ll trust a 20 year vegan to show me where to find yummy food while in his own hood. (yeah 20 years- he’s a superhero!)

Where did he take me? Chevys Fresh Mex. Chevys is part of a mega-franchise that also owns El Torito and Acapulco, some of the more popular “casual dining Mexican restaurants” across the country. Walking into Chevys is like walking into Disneyland meets a cantina meets a sports bar. At first I didn’t get where he was coming from telling me this place was scenic, but that all changed when we were taken to our seat on the outside deck, and suddenly I realized we were perched right above the water! I didn’t even know we were near the beach but here I was, magically transported to the water’s edge on a beautiful pier just before sunset. This location truly was lovely and I could see why my friend knew I would like it. This was the Emeryville location by the way, but you’ll find Chevys all over the country. The nearest one down here in L.A. is in Burbank, which for those of you who are geographically impaired, is not near any bodies of water- and therefore probably nowhere near as cool as this one.
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My reports back from my Bay Area visits are usually chock-full of tales about all the fantastic food I’ve had the pleasure to consume. Sadly my most recent visit was marred by the sudden onset of a stomach-flu type dealio which stuck around wrecking havoc with my tummy for about two days… with loss of appetite being the least of my worries (I’ll spare you the gory details). Thankfully I’m feeling much better now, and luckily I was able to get in a few great meals both before and after I got sick.

First up, vegan Vietnamese food in Alameda. Central Vegetarian Cuisine just recently opened up so I was excited to check them out. They are all vegetarian but not totally vegan, but most everything on the menu looked vegan, and they’ll veganized most things listed if you ask them to.

'Vietnamese Spicy Garlic Green Bean Tofu

I ordered the Spicy Garlic Green Bean Tofu. This was a lot like Thai style Prik King, though not as spicy… I don’t think the sauce was chili based like the Thai dish. Still, the flavor and idea was similar. Very tasty, and a bit milder than it looks.

My non-vegetarian, salmon-loving friend had their Teriyaki veggie-Salmon and he appeared to really like it. I enjoyed it too… amazing how they can capture that fishy taste and texture without involving any real fishies. We had their spring rolls too, which were great as well. There were many more tempting options on the menu. Next time I’m going to have to try the caramelized chicken because it sure sounds like something my mouth would love.

After reading many reviews of the awesome tofu scrambles at Mimosa Cafe I finally had the chance to find out for myself. I’ve tried to eat there on a couple previous occasions but somehow always ended up there when they are closed (don’t go on a Monday or a holiday).

'Tofu Scramble at Mimosa Cafe

The scramble was very tasty. Unfortunately my stomach ailment was moving into full effect at this point and I only had a few bites. Too bad too because it was great and most of it just got wasted. This one came with tomatoes, spinach and mushroom. The mushrooms were supposed to be green onions but I asked for the substitution. They would normally have served this with grilled potatoes, but we got there as they were stopping their breakfast service and the grill was already off, so they let me get the veggie sausages instead. I think they were pretty good too, but by the time I tried them food was making me want to puke, so I’ll need to get you a better review next time I go. The plate also came with a tasty mango muffin. Good stuff… I regret being too ill to eat it at the time.

Next up we have some delicious Ethiopian food from a restaurant that I am ashamed to tell you that I don’t know the name of. See, a bunch of us were supposed to meet up at the Herbivore on Valencia, however, they were way too full at dinner time and we didn’t want to wait. Instead we tried the Ethiopian place about two blocks down and on the opposite side of the street. If I can get you more specific details I promise to pass them along!

'Vegan Ethiopian Food

This was the vegetarian combo for three people. In the middle is a spinach-potato item, surrounding that are the lentils, and on the outskirts of that, a carrot and potato combo. Served with green salad and injera bread. All of what you see here was fantastic. Again I was only able to eat a small amount but I did get to try everything, and it was all good.

Last but certainly not least, what trip up north would be complete without a stop at Herbivore? This went down the next day, and at their location in Berkeley, so there was no wait to contend with.

'Vegan Shawarma

I got the vegan Shawarma (hard to resist getting this every time I come here). This time though I got the soy-chicken version (as opposed to the seitan version with eggplant) which comes with avocado & potatoes, seasoned onions, tomatoes, hummus, hot sauce, pickles & tahini in a wrap, and a green salad. I should have remembered to snap a picture of the inside to share with you all, but after a couple days of eating very little, you can imagine that I was ravenous by the time my appetite came back. When presented with such a delicious hunk of goodness, I was powerless to do anything other than devour it as quickly as possible.

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I’m only now getting around to sharing my bay area food stories with you nearly a month after the fact, but as they say, good things come to those who wait. So without further adieu…

'Thai Corn Cakes

My first stop was Neecha Thai which recently opened in the Grand Lake district of Oakland. They are not an exclusively vegetarian restaurant but they have a plethora of vegetarian/vegan choices. For starters we had their incredible corn cakes. Think of these as an edible orgy of crispy, slightly chewy corn and lime love. Fantastic. [Update: Probably made with egg]

'Neecha Thai Salad

As I’d just stepped off a plane I opted for a lighter meal and went with their salad. Sadly I can’t recall it’s name or all of what was in it, but I do remember it involved apples, crispy yams and a very tasty, citrus dressing.

'Vegan Soul Food

The next day we got to catch up with the folks vending vegan soul food at the Lake Merritt farmers market. Wow… this was so awesome! My plate consisted of spicy greens, stickily-sweet amazing yams and finger-lickin’ good BBQ tofu. They also had a great potato salad as well as a lentil dish. Now that’s some good eating right there.

Next came a special treat as we learned that Herbivore had just opened in their new Berkeley location on Shattuck. Of course I had to go!

'Vegan Soft Tacos

First came our appetizer of soft tacos: “two soft taco shells with beans, guacamole, vegan sour cream and salsa”. Yum!

'Vegan Lemongrass Noodles

My entree was the Lemongrass Noodles: “Char-broiled vegetables garnished with fresh cilantro and crushed peanuts in a lemongrass-ginger dressing over rice noodles with tofu”. It was delicious with the strong and pungent flavor of the lemongrass and the spiciness of the ginger. Berkeley just got even that much cooler.

'Vegan brunch at Fellini

I’d heard tell that the vegan brunch at Fellini (also in Berkeley) is something else. I can now attest to the fact that these rumours are all true, it was excellent. I had the tofu scramble with vegan sausage, which came with grilled potatoes & vegan sour cream, wheat biscuit, jam and vegan butter.

Yet another breakfast spread, this time on another visit back to Herbivore.

'Vegan cornbread

I tell you, I can’t get enough of their blueberry cornbread. It’s the best thing on earth!

'Southwestern tofu scramble

I had already starting moving stuff around on the plate before remembering to take a picture, which is why it looks a bit of a mess. Anyhow, this was their Southwestern style tofu scramble which comes with potatoes, black beans, guacamole, vegan sour cream and spicy cornbread. All of it rocked. Talk about being in multi-flavored cornbread heaven! I actually only tasted some of this savory-spicy version, which was great, but at that point I’d really had my fill and needed to go catch my plane.

Here’s to another delicious time well spent eating and cavorting up north. I highly recommend it.

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My latest visit to the Bay Area involved a whole lot of fun, and a whole lot of eating. Here are some of the highlights:

'Indian Food Aloo Gobi

This was the Aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) from India Palace restaurant in Oakland. It was really good, as was the garlic naan, rice and yummy chutney. In retrospect this was probably not vegan, I always forget that most Indian food is cooked with ghee (clarified butter), which no doubt went a long way in making it taste as good as it did.

'Vegan Corn Tamale

This tasty vegan sweet corn tamale with vegetables and black beans came from the Grand Lake Oakland Farmers’ Market.

'Zante's Indian Pizza

Ah, now we’re getting to the seriously good stuff! After my failed attempt at having Zante’s pizza the last time I was in San Francisco (they are closed on Sundays despite the 7 days a week sign!), the efforts of my trusty pizza pals and I finally paid off.

Zante’s is an Indian restaurant with a twist… they also serve pizza… vegan Indian food pizza! I know it might sound weird at first, but trust me, it’s the most brilliant thing ever. We ordered the “Best Indian Pizza” (that’s really what it’s called, and it’s true), vegan style. They use crispy, thin crust, a very special green onion based sauce (and you know I don’t like onions, so that should tell you just how good this is if I love it) and top it with spinach, eggplant, cauliflower, ginger, garlic (a whole hell of a lot of garlic!), green onions and cilantro.

'Zante's Indian Pizza

Mere words cannot describe how amazing this pizza is. If you live in the San Francisco area or plan to visit, you absolutely must try it!

'Jamaican Food at Vital Ital Calabash

Another very satisfying discovery for us… vegan Jamaican and African food at Vital Ital Calabash in Berkeley (there is also one in Oakland). Everything on the menu here was healthy and sounded amazing. I had the “Negril Jerk Bliss”, homemade jerk sauce on a tofu-veggie patty with lettuce and sprouts on a cracked wheat bun. I got it with all the fixin’s, all of which I don’t remember, but in looking at the picture, obviously one was vegan cheese. As the menu says: “from Negril to the Bay, this burger screams Reggae!”. It was really good, the sauce was slightly sweet with a hint of spicy. If I lived up there I’d probably eat at this groovy little place all the time.

'Fried Plantains at Vital Ital Calabash

These were the super good fried plantains with jerk sauce. Though they were fried, they weren’t at all greasy.

'Ginger Beer

Here’s the cool and spicy ginger beer (non-alcoholic). It tasted freshly made, not something they just poured out of a bottle. Delicious and refreshing.

'Eggplant and Red Pepper Sandwich

This was the eggplant and roasted red pepper sandwich at what I think was called the Lakeshore Cafe in Oakland. Everything about it was great, though I also realized about halfway into it that the pesto on the sandwich probably wasn’t vegan as it had probably been made with parmesan cheese. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. The salad was good too (I was quite in need of fresh vegetables at this point), as was the strawberry mimosa.

'Golden Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant

Last but defintely not least, a fabulous way to end a fabulous weekend, a fine meal at Golden Lotus vegetarian restaurant in Oakland. Golden Lotus is one of those awesome veggie restaurants known for their fake meat dishes, and they specialize in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. And boy do they!

'Vietnamese Spring Rolls at Golden Lotus

First up we had the Vietnamese style spring rolls. These were really good and I regret not taking a picture of the inside to share with you. They were stuffed with basil and mint and nuts and I don’t even know what else. The sauce was tasty and mild and heaped with peanuts.

'Spicy Lemongrass Mock-Chicken at Golden Lotus

This was the delicious Spicy Lemongrass Chicken. I’m not sure what the fake chicken is made of but given the texture I assumed it was seitan. The flavor of the sauce was just perfect.

'Tamarind Mock-Beef at Golden Lotus

This dish, the Tamarind Beef, was out of this world good. The sauce was thick, almost gravy like, with a sweet-spicy tamarind tang. The faux-beef was covered in heaping mound of mint leaves and peanuts, and served with puffy rice crackers. Like the chicken, I think this beef was also made of seitan.

'Tamarind Mock-Beef at Golden Lotus

Not the best photo, but here’s a close-up to give you a better look under all the toppings. Like Zante’s, take my word for it and consider Golden Lotus in Oakland a must stop for amazing vegan food that even your meat-loving friends will be able to enjoy.

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My eating frenzy this weekend while in San Francisco began appropriately enough at Herbivore, a vegan restaurant with two locations… I visited the one in the Mission district on Valencia. I think it’s safe to say that this place is any vegetarians dream eatery, with an extensive and affordable selection of items ranging from American style burgers and sandwiches, to Asian noodle and curry dishes, through to Middle Eastern and Italian style fare. Seriously, they’ve got anything you could possibly want.

'Herbivore vegetarian restaurant

I ordered the shawarma wrap which is made with grilled seitan, seasoned onions (and I didn’t even hate them), tomatoes, hummus, hot sauce, pickles and tahini, and served with a green salad. For a bit extra they’ll also stuff it full of potatoes and eggplant. Who was I to say no to that?

'Herbivore vegetarian restaurant

It was so totally yummy! I can’t really say that it tasted anything like real shawarma, but that hardly seemed to matter considering just how delicious it was on it’s own merit. As you can see, it’s gigantic and could easily feed two or three people. And no, I didn’t share.

'Herbivore vegetarian restaurant

On my second visit to Herbivore I got their veggie shish kabob. This was basically grilled tofu and vegetables on skewers (corn, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms) served over brown rice and with two different sauces (lemon-garlic & peanut orange-miso). Simple yet delicious.

'Herbivore vegetarian restaurant

And how could I pass up dessert? We’re talking a vegan carrot cake the size of a small island in the Pacific. Truly delicious, and so big that even with four of us digging into it, there was nearly a third of it left over when we were all stuffed. How is it that some people still think that vegan food is boring?

'Herbivore vegetarian restaurant

Last but certainly not least, I had breakfast at Herbivore on my last day there. I got the scrambled tofu with with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes (and a lot of garlic) with house potatoes.

'Herbivore vegetarian restaurant

As you see it comes with yummy whole grain toast, but I passed that up in favor of a sideorder of the blueberry cornbread. Words really cannot convey how amazing this bread is…cornbread has always been one of my favorite foods on earth, and the addition of delicious blueberries along with vegan buttery spread just took it over the top. All this along with the double soy-latte that I ordered had me in a sufficent enough breakfast food coma just in time for my flight back home to L.A.

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Ok, Party Sushi isn’t really in S.F., it’s in Berkeley. While it’s not exclusively a vegetarian restaurant, they’ve got an entire section of their menu dedicated to vegetarian and vegan sushi options. Cool!

'Vegan Sushi

I got the Vegetable Sushi Combo which consists of veggie rolls (mixed), spinach rolls, avocado and asaparagus “sashimi”, seaweed rolls, shitake mushroom rolls and inari. Each and everyone of these little delicacies were super tasty, and as you can see, it’s ton of food.

'Soba noodles with Tofu

Along with the sushi platter I was also served a bowl of soba noodles with tofu. Bring it on.

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