Bay Area vegetarians and vegans are lucky. A lot of restaurants in the Bay Area have vegetarian or vegan options. You might not get a wide selection, but at least there's an option.
Travel outside the Bay Area and ask the waiter about vegetarian options, and he will tell you all about their delicious chicken dish. When you explain that chicken is meat, the waiter will probably recommend a salad or some boring pasta dish (that probably has secret meat in it).
All vegans and vegetarians know about Greens and Millennium in San Francisco, so here's a list of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in San Francisco and the East Bay you may not know about. You can eat at these establishments and not worry about your dish having secret, hidden meat, and you won't get stuck just having a salad (unless that's what you want, of course).
Oakland, CA 94607
This funky joint in Oakland's Jack London neighborhood serves up vegan soul food. You read that right: Vegan soul food! My favorite is the southern-fried tofu with its well-spiced and crispy "skin." It tastes amazing with Souley Vegan's hot sauce.
I have eaten at Souley Vegan several times, and I have never had a mediocre dish. Other favorites include the mac and cheese, BBQ tofu and the collard greens. And make sure to get a glass of the cayenne lemonade! I must warn you about this place: Once you eat there, you will start to crave it … all the time.
11 Division St
San Francisco, CA 94107
Located in San Francisco's SOMA neighborhood, Source's menu is like a variety pack of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Pizza? Check. Burgers? Of course. Hot dogs? Yep. Sandwiches? Duh. Dosas? Why not?
Source has all kinds of meat substitutes, including cluck (chicken), moo (beef), quack (duck), oink (pork) and bow wows (hot dogs). For example, I love the Cluck Parmesan with roasted red peppers. And I can't wait to go back and try the Taco Pizza with spiced moo, cheddar cheese, black bean puree, cilantro salsa, guacamole with both mozzarella and nacho cheese.
They also serve a first-rate burger made with beets, celery, carrots, lentils, mushrooms, bulgar, fresh herbs, soy protein, onions and garlic. The avocado oink bits mozzarella burger is the most popular of all the burgers on the menu. And if you don't want a meat substitute dish, they are plenty of veggie and tofu items on the menu, too.
Important: Don't forget to leave room for dessert. You must try Source's house-made vegan Twinkee. You won't regret it.
2175 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
Located near the UC California at Berkeley campus, Saturn Cafe has a fun, diner décor and a vegetarian/vegan menu so packed that you won't know what to try first. Brunch, appetizers, burgers, entrees and dessert: There's a lot to choose from.
I always like to start with an order of sweet potato fries with a wasabi sauce and jalapeno poppers with vegan ranch for the table to share. Saturn Café also offers a plethora of veggie burgers to choose from, including the griller patty, which tastes like meat; the house-made Saturn patty, made with organic nuts, grains, cheese and vegetables; a faux-chicken patty; and a mesquite "chicken" cutlet. If you can't choose between them, Saturn Cafe occasionally offers all four patties as sliders that you can order together on their Specials menu.
Two personal favorites of mine are the FLT (fakin' bacon, lettuce and tomato) and the jalapeno burger, served with a Griller patty, jack cheese, spicy chipotle and buffalo sauce, beer-battered jalapeño bottle caps, lettuce, tomato, and red onion with your choice of side.
If you are looking for something other than a veggie burger, you can't go wrong with the Peanut Royale, which includes vegetables, crispy tofu, green onions and bean sprouts with a spicy peanut sauce served over brown rice.
For dessert (if you have room), I highly recommend the vegan chocolate milkshake. It's so rich and chocolatey you wouldn't guess it was vegan.
762 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
1668 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709
Here are two words I never thought I'd put together: Vegan sushi.
I know, right? Not a single fish loses its life at Cha-Ya, where you can get miso soup made with Wakame Sea vegetable, tofu and scallions and all the "sushi" is made with tofu and veggies.
Cha-Ya boasts a creative menu. The Nigiri Sushi features eggplant, tofu, mushroom, broccolini or avocado. The Hosomaki Rolls include seasoned gourd, cucumber or pickled daikon. You can't go wrong with Moon Garden, a steamed tofu custard with broccoli, carrots, shimeji mushrooms, kabocha, atsuage tofu, snow peas, asparagus, zucchini, broccolini, soybeans and gingko nuts. And if you are aching for some noodle soup (and who isn't during San Francisco's "summer" season?), the vege-tofu curry is a crowd pleaser.
Shangri-La Vegan Restaurant
4001 Linden Street
Oakland, CA 94608
This organic vegan macrobiotic restaurant is a hidden gem in Oakland. I really mean that. There's no big sign. It's in a residential neighborhood, and it's shrouded in trees and vines. You have to pay attention or you will walk right by it.
The menu of six dishes is preset, so all you can control is the portion size. You can get a moderate size meal for $10.95 or a full meal for $12.95. Trust me, the moderate size is plenty.
The menu changes daily and is posted on the restaurant's website twice a day. On a recent trip to Shangri-La our lunch consisted of a veggie, beans and miso soup — anasazi beans with onion and garlic; a sauté of daikon, carrots and golden beets; a mixed rice burger with basil, tofu with a yummy coconut milk sauce; steamed greens with homemade pickle garnish; and a mixed green salad with vinaigrette.
If you are not near a computer to find out what the menu is no need to worry. Whatever you get at Shangri-La is going to be good as well as good for you.
3031 Adeline Street
Berkeley, CA 94703
It's hard to think of Mexican food without cheese, but Flacos makes it work. This tiny Berkeley spot dishes out delicious vegan Mexican fare, including soy, gluten-free tamales and even pozole, made with organic corn hominy in a chili-based broth.
I'm a big fan of the soft tacos (soy protein cooked in their special mole sauce on their hand-made corn tortillas), which are served with brown rice, a side of beans and Flacos' delicious avocado salsa; however, the crispy taquitos (soy protein rolled in a corn tortilla) are what they are known for. You can get a full plate for $9, or mix and match taquitos and tacos for $2 and $3 a piece, respectively.
Pier 3, The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111
101 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
3352 Steiner Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
Technically, Plant Organic shouldn't be on this list, because it has meat on the menu. Sure, it's organic meat, but it's still meat. I included Plant Organic on the list because, in my humble opinion, it has the best veggie burger in the Bay Area. It's a huge bummer when you go to a restaurant and order a veggie burger, only to be served a Boca burger that you could have made at home. Made with lentils, mushrooms, cashews, beets and bulghar, the Plant Organic burger doesn't even bother trying to taste like meat. It tastes better!
Of course, if you're not craving a veggie burger, there are plenty of other tasty vegan and vegetarian options, including Shiitake spring rolls and a Tempeh Reuben on Plant Organic's menu.
Sonia Mansfield works as a content editor for a website and lives in San Francisco with her husband and her wiener dog, Homer. She enjoys writing, eating and making nerdy "Simpsons" and "Star Wars" references, and she is expecting another little nerd in October. You can read her blog at www.thesoniashow.com or follow her on Twitter @thesoniashow.
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